So I have to share a little secret with you. Teaching my toddler to love healthy eating is actually something I am struggling with right now as a mom. Maybe you are a mom, just like me, looking to instill the value of healthy eating into your young child, but you aren’t sure where to start.
Guess that makes two of us.
Good news is that I’ve been doing some research and I discovered a few ideas that sound pretty promising. I’ve been trying them out over the past few months and have definitely seen an improvement. So, if you are looking to join me in this toddler healthy eating adventure, here are a few things I learned about teaching your toddler to love healthy eating:
Offer at least 2 different fruits or vegetables at every meal.
This might sound like a bit of work, but I think you can simplify it to make it easy on yourself. When you head to the store, try to buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, but a smaller amount of each. That way you don’t risk everything rotting before you get around to eating it.
After stocking up, try offering different fruits and vegetables throughout the day. The more variety toddlers are exposed to the more likely they will discover something they love. When I tried this with my son, I learned that he doesn’t care for kiwi, but will gobble cherry tomatoes like candy.
Even if they don’t like it, keep trying.
It can take up to 10 times of trying a food before acquiring a taste for it. So even if your toddler doesn’t like a food, keep it in the rotation anyway and see what happens. My son is like this with any green vegetable. He is very suspicious of them. I’m not sure if it is the color or texture, but he simply doesn’t care for them. I keep trying anyway. Some days he likes them; others, not so much.
It’s okay not to offer dessert.
We are pretty healthy overall in our house, so I don’t know why I always feel compelled to offer my toddler a treat after meals. What is it about food that makes us want to use it as a reward? So I’m still working on this one myself, but you don’t have to offer dessert after a meal. Actually, you don’t have to offer it at all, ever. I’m working on this one.
Prepare foods different ways.
Sometimes it’s really just a texture issue, rather than a flavor issue. My toddler doesn’t like baked fish, but he loves fish cakes. Similarly with potatoes, he won’t eat them mashed, but he will enjoy them roasted.
Offer a healthy dipping sauce.
Meals are sometimes more fun if toddlers have something to dip food into. Maybe it helps them feel more independent? Or maybe they like it because it’s easy to master? Either way, you can create a healthy dipping sauce by combining super easy homemade Greek yogurt with some seasonings or by making a homemade ketchup or mayonnaise. Store bought is 100 percent fine too!
Blend it in.
Okay, this isn’t my favorite option because I want to encourage my toddler to eat the vegetable and fruit in its natural form, sans puree. However if you are really having issues, you can try to steam and puree the vegetable, followed by mixing it into your dish. I do this from time to time just to get more greens in my son, since that is the area of most resistance.
Save the drinks for later in the meal.
Sometimes in order to get a toddler to enjoy healthy foods they have to be fairly hungry. If you offer milk at the beginning of the meal, it can quell the hunger enough to allow them to turn good food away. We try our hardest to save milk for the middle or end of the meal. It’s not always possible, but it is another option to try.
Know they won’t starve.
It’s easy to feel compelled to offer a default favorite food after your toddler rejects healthy foods. If your child is healthy and developing well, then he won’t innately starve himself. Eventually toddlers will get hungry enough and eat what is offered if you are being reasonable. This simply means if you are offering your toddler a good variety of healthy foods that taste good, you should feel confident not offering crackers and juice if he rejects a meal.
Be patient, flexible, and just keep trying.
Getting a toddler to love healthy eating doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of work. We’ve made some progress over the past few months, but I would love to see even more progress in the coming months. So we hope to keep plugging along with this plan, and see what happens! I’d love to hear if this works for you or if anything has really helped you in the past too!
Want more on toddlers?
- How to Stop Toddler Biting in its Tracks
- 10 Empowering Ways to Improve Toddler Listing
- What and How Much Do Toddlers Need to Eat
What are your favorite ways to teach toddlers to love healthy eating? I’d love to learn more and chat in the comments!
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