Most parents want to feed their children a healthy diet but when it comes to toddlers, it can be difficult to balance their somewhat uncivilized behavior with healthy food. With a little patience you can teach even your toddlers to eat healthily, dare I even suggest in a stress free way?
Toddlers are amazing in their capacity to eat their way through an entire packet of biscuits and then refuse their dinner. Given that a packet of biscuits is probably a week’s worth of calories, I guess it’s not much of a surprise.
What may surprise you is that one biscuit a day is closer to sensible than one packet.
All children need food from each food group (carbohydrates normally in the form of grains, proteins, fats, fruit and vegetables and dairy or a dairy alternative). Half of what we eat should be fruit and vegetables. A little more vegetables than fruit. If your toddler doesn’t eat that, don’t worry but that’s your long term goal.
How much food a child needs depends on lots of things including their sex, height, weight and activity levels.
What an average 2 year old needs
These quantities are taken from MyPlate.
3 oz of grains (1 oz is a slice of regular bread, or half a cup of cooked pasta). 3 oz could be a slice of bread, half a cup of cooked pasta and 1 biscuit.
1 cup of vegetables (or 2 if it’s lettuce or leafy greens)
1 cup of fruit (or half a cup of dried fruit)
2 oz of protein (1 oz is an egg or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
2 cups of dairy or soy.
Don’t restrict food
It’s important not to restrict food for children. I’m not sharing these figures so that you can measure how much you give your children. It’s simply interesting to be aware of as most parents think that their children don’t eat enough when in reality they’re getting more than the recommended amount of food.
It’s important to develop healthy eating habits
It’s far more important to teach our children healthy eating habits by offering them healthy food and allowing them to eat what they want without pressuring them into eating food they don’t want. When we pressure children to eat we are teaching them to eat when they aren’t hungry. We’re teaching them to ignore the “I’m full up signals” and to overeat.
Toddlers can be tricky
Toddlers can be tricky to feed. When you first introduce solids they are normally keen to try everything. Toddlers like to exert their control over things and often get frustrated when things are not exactly right. Their feeding habits change and it can be a really challenging time for parents.
Keep presenting them with new and interesting foods, even if they don’t like them. It’s important not to let them get stuck on a diet of bread, bread and more bread.
You need to keep presenting those vegetables.
Try presenting them before you let them have bread.
Try presenting fruit and vegetable at every meal and snack time.
Try giving them a choice of several vegetables because they aren’t going to try all of them but they may try one.
Patience and persistence are the keys. Plus a dollop of your super parent powers!
More way to help toddlers stay healthy
Orlena is a paediatric doctor, mother of four young children and founder of the Healthy Eating for Children Course. She writes about developing healthy habits in children and has recently published her debut book ‘Crunch! Put a Stop to Picky Eating and Teach Your Kids to Love Veggies’ which outlines the stress free way to teaching your children to eat healthily.
Want more on toddlers?
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- 5 Sample Daily Toddler Schedules from Real Moms
- One Simple Trick to Help Kids Fall Asleep Fast
What’s your best tip to help toddlers eat healthy? Let’s chat in the comments!
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