One of the hardest things with having a toddler – well, with having a child of any age, probably – is teaching them to be healthy eaters. It’s a big topic in our house right now, mostly because becoming a fully-fledged toddler means my baby boy is making more of his food decisions for himself. So, how do I have a child who eats lots of fruits and veggies, lots of “different” foods (like hummus and bbq ribs) and will always try whatever’s on mama’s plate? Well, let me give you my tricks of the trade. Not that they’re miracle workers. But they do help.
1. We eat healthy ourselves. We don’t keep much in the way of junk food in our house. The worst snack you’ll find in my pantry is Pirate Booty and maybe some oatmeal cookies (they’re the hubby’s fave). We have lots of fresh fruits and veggies in the fridge. And we let Ricky see us eat the same healthy foods that he eats. This is one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, why he’ll eat as well as he does.
2. I’m not a short order cook. Sure, there are random nights when Rick and I are running late and I’ll make something different for Ricky and we’ll eat later. But for the most part, we all eat the same thing for dinner. I don’t have time to cook multiple meals. If we’re having fajitas, Ricky’s having fajitas. If we’re having chili, Ricky’s having chili. Of course, he gets some of his favorite sides with it (like grapes or Greek yogurt), but we set the expectation that he’s having what we have. And that usually works pretty well.
3. I buy what he likes. Every kid is going to have foods that they don’t like – just like every adult does. For my baby, he prefers blueberries, grapes, bananas and cooked carrots over any other fruit and veggie. So that’s what I buy. I try to sneak in something new every so often – but I don’t force it. He knows what he likes and we stick to it. OH: and when it comes to fruit, I don’t add sugar. Fruits are sweet enough – and adding sugar is a weird adult taste thing that I’ve never understood. I’ve found that when kids are taught to eat fruit as it’s made to be eaten (off the tree, if you will), they actually eat more of it. What a concept.
4. I don’t push it. He’s such a good eater, if he doesn’t like something (or if he’s full), then we’re done. I don’t expect him to eat everything on his plate. I let him try things from my plate if I’m not sure he’ll like it, and then I’ll get him a full helping if he does.
Bottom line, you have to listen (or watch?) your own child’s mannerisms. Figure out what they’re showing you. Make trying new foods fun. And make sure that you’re modeling the behavior you want them to emulate.
It’s not a be all, end all state of toddler eating perfection…but it works for us.
Tell me in the comments: what are your tips for teaching toddlers to eat healthy?