Due to our fast-paced lifestyles and the convenience of fast and processed foods, setting up our toddlers for good eating habits is becoming increasingly difficult. In order to provide our toddlers with all of the nutrients they need for development and set them up for a healthy life, we need to really think about our strategy and approach!
Here are our 10 favourite tips!
1. You Are Your Childs Role Model
When it comes to eating your kids are watching you. Eat good, healthy food which you enjoy – your kids will notice! If you have a couple of not so great habits that you are still working on, try to refrain from indulging in them until you have put your toddler to bed 🙂
2. Feed Your Toddler Only When They Are Hungry
Nobody likes to eat when they are not hungry, that goes for infants, toddlers, teenagers and adults. In this culture where we generally over eat, don’t worry if your child doesn’t want a meal straight away – sooner or later they will. Don’t make eating or finishing a whole plate of food a demand (with negative/ positive consequences!) as this can result in disordered eating later on in life. Just don’t make processed food available after eating, when or if they are hungry offer them their dinner or something savoury.
3. Go At Your Toddlers Pace
Don’t expect your toddler to be ready for whole foods 100% of the time if they have previously been eating crackers, chocolates, cakes, biscuits or other empty calorie foods. Small steps result in big changes so take on this new lifestyle change slowly and as positively as possible! A great tip is to slowly decrease the amount of processed foods you bring into the house so they’re out of sight and out of mind!
4. For Those Toddlers Who Like Grazing…
Some kids like grazing, so set up platter food such as chopped up veg, nuts, dips, sauerkraut, olives (take out the pips if they are too young), fruit, patties, steamed veg etc. Allow them to come and go from this food at their leisure. When it’s family meal time ensure you haven’t fed them too many snacks just before eating, unless of course they tell you they are hungry!
5. Reconsider Fruit Juice and the fruit trap
Avoid starting your infant/toddler on fruit juices. Fruit juice is a high quantity of fruit sugar without the fiber – effecting blood sugar responses. Keep drinks to water, milk of choice, green smoothies (leafy greens, water, ice, 1 piece of fruit with the fiber) and broths.
When your infant starts on solids, don’t fall into the trap of adding fruit to every meal. Fruit is a healthy addition to your toddlers diet but allow them to learn how to enjoy vegetables just as they are – not everything has to be sweet!
6. Eat As A Family
From very early on (age 1 on) aim for at least one meal a day to be eaten as a family, this allows your toddler to watch their parents eating, kids will learn so much about food this way and will mimic you and will be more likely to eat good wholefoods with the family. At this age you want them to start to be eating foods as and with the family.
7. Keep Your Own Likes And Dislikes At Bay
As your child starts to learn new flavours and tastes be mindful not to add your own food bias’s. Let your toddler develop their own likes and dislikes through getting them to try a range of different foods.
8. Avoid The White Refined Stuff
Avoid starting baby’s and toddlers on white refined stuff such as white pasta, white bread, pastries, cakes, biscuits, additives, sugary foods etc. These are low in nutrients and contain very little fiber. Consider making your favourite foods out of whole food sources, such as: wholegrain pasta, pulse pasta, sprouted or sourdough wholegrain breads, buckwheat breads, quinoa crackers etc. There are so many great options out there!
9. Be Prepared
If you leave your kids with others and you don’t like the food they have on offer, you have two options, either be prepared to make their food in advance or let it go. For those with children who have food intolerances it is important to sort your child’s food out. If this is not an issue let go and allowing the love and care given to your child by loving grandparents or carers might just over ride the not-so-fantastic food!
10. Teach The Important Life Lessons
Finally, we live in a culture that spends so much money on our kids in a way our ancestors could never have imagined – toys, electronics, clothes, shoes, setting up their rooms, education etc. Although this is great, our investment in teaching our children how to live healthy is often lacking. Let’s teach our children the important life lessons only we, as parents, can! This includes: How to eat, how to cook, what to eat, how to be active, how to be kind, how to share, how to love ourselves, how to be independent and how to be confident. This is and always will be the stuff that counts!