Toddlers tend to be notoriously finicky eaters. If they do not like the look, smell, or texture of a particular food, they will often turn up their noses and refuse to eat it. This can be especially frustrating to parents who know the value of healthy food in the formative years.
If you are a parent of a food-finicky toddler, don’t fret. You are not alone and there are ways to ensure your child is still getting the right nutrition, even if it seems like he will only be eating cheese sticks and animal crackers into adulthood. Take a look at 10 suggestions for ensuring your toddler is eating right and creating a healthy palate:
- Set the example. It sounds so simple but makes such an impact. If you want your children to eat healthy foods, you must do it first. Avoid mentioning foods that you do not like to eat and focus on the healthy options that you most enjoy. If you ask your toddler to eat a piece of broccoli, then you need to have broccoli on your own plate too. The same is true of drinks. While no one would deny a parent that glorious morning cup of coffee, make sure your kids see you drinking plenty of water as well.
- Start small. Parents will have better results if they start to think like a child when it comes to portion size. A toddler will eat about one-fourth the amount of an adult in a typical setting, so parents should not expect much more. Small portions are also less intimidating to children and are more likely to elicit a welcoming response upfront.
- Limit snacks. A toddler’s metabolism does call for more than three square meals each day, but snacks should have limits. Try to schedule snacks at a specific time each day and stick with it. When your toddler complains five minutes after breakfast that she is already hungry, remind her of when snack time will take place. She cannot read time, of course, but once she realizes that she cannot request food around the clock, she will become more interested in scheduled meal and snack times.
- Slow down. Allow toddlers the time that they need to eat enough, and try healthy foods on their plates. If a meal is rushed, there is less of a chance that children will consume the foods you place in front of them. Make meal time a separate entity from the rest of the day by turning off background noise like televisions and keeping cell phones away from the table. Make eating the focus of meal time and allow your toddler the time needed to consume healthy choices.
- Plant a garden. Even if you only have a small space for a container garden, take advantage of it by growing a tomato or basil plant. Have your toddler help you plant the seeds, water the plants and harvest the fruit, vegetables, or herbs. When you present the items later on your toddler’s plate, remind him that he helped create them through hard work. This will enhance his connection to the food in front of him and make him more interested in trying it himself.
SPARK is a research-based organization that provides award-winning, evidence-based programs for Physical Education (K-12), After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum, training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders worldwide. Visit www.sparkpe.org to download sample lesson plans, find grant opportunities, and register for free educational webinars and monthly eNewsletters.