10 Tips to Help You Feed Your Toddler a Healthy Diet
It can be difficult for parents. Faced with these very determined little people, we try hard to give them a healthy diet. More often than not we see our nice green broccoli flying through the air. Count yourself luck if you have a dog to help you clear up.
One of the things that parents really struggle with is introducing new foods to young children, especially toddlers. Here’s my top tips to make it easier for you:
1. Be Patient. I can’t say this enough. Toddlers can be difficult. The behaviour described above is perfectly normal for toddlers. It’s frustrating yes, but hang in there.
2. Keep presenting new and healthy food. It takes time for children to accept a new food. The first time they see it, they probably won’t like it. You just need to keep presenting it. (The norm is 10-15 times but some children take longer.)
3. Toddlers' tastes can change. My oldest used to love bananas. He’s nearly 7 now and won’t touch them. He can smell them in anything. He truly doesn’t like them now.
4. Let them feed themselves. I know it’s frustrating and messy but exploring food is a great way for them to learn about the food and to learn how to feed themselves. (If they ask for a bit of help from time to time that’s fine too.)
5. Don’t pressure them. Toddlers, like most people, don’t like to be told what to do. It will only serve to make them more stubborn. (There is lots of evidence that pressurising children to eat has adverse affects.)
6. Don’t bribe them. You can have pudding when you’ve eaten your peas? Let’s face it, it’s just pressurising them in disguise.
7. Learn to trust them. You choose what to offer them. They choose what to eat. When you trust them it’s much easier.
8. Remember that toddlers' appetites can be erratic. 4 weetabix for breakfast one day, 1 strawberry the next. Or only veggies one day and carbs and protein the next. As long as you offer them healthy food it doesn’t matter.
9. Offer variety. Research shows that the more variety you offer, the more variety they’ll eat.
10. Get them used to the idea of strange foods before they are presented with them. Seeing them in books, playing with toy vegetables or the actual food (not at the dinner table) are all great ways to introduce them to foods so that when they see them on the plate they won’t be so strange.
Feeding toddlers is a challenge. Getting them used to a healthy diet and into healthy habits is an amazing gift that will give them great health benefits later in life. The keys are patience and persistence. (And perhaps some ear plugs!)
I’m Dr Orlena Kerek. I’m a paediatric doctor and mother of four young children and author of the book Crunch! Put a Stop to Picky Eating and Get Your Kids to Love Veggies. I used to think that healthy eating was easy, until I had children. Then I realised it’s easier said than done. Over the last few years I’ve been researching and practising on my own children to ensure that they develop healthy eating habits.