There is truth in that old saying, “You are what you eat.” Sometimes toddlers can be picky eaters. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting your child to eat healthily, but not having the patience after a long day to feed them those nutrients they need but hate. Here are some tips to get that daily dose of dense nutrition with your toddler every day.
Frequent Healthy Snacks
Young children are going to need to eat every few hours. Having healthy snacks available is one way to make sure they are getting those vitamins, minerals, and fibers in on a daily basis. Try cut up watermelons or peanut butter and jam on whole wheat crackers. Or how about a mid day fruit smoothie? Buy and have available lots of healthy options in your refrigerator and pantry.
Let Them Help You Prepare
A toddler in the kitchen may sound like a recipe for disaster. But by letting them help with even simple parts of the meal or snack preparation, you will help them to be invested in the process. Let them help you stir up the fruit salad, or measure out a cup of granola into a bowl. These tasks will not only help them harness their fine and gross motor skills, but they will be more likely to want to eat what they had a part in preparing.
One of the fun things my daughter and I do is put healthy items in a blender and drink it. Experiment with yogurt, bananas, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and the list goes on. Find out together what are your favorites. Maybe have your child score each shake using the 0-10 scale with ten being a favorite and 0 being a never again attempt. Have fun with this. All the while your child will be drinking down items that you hoped he or she would eat.
This is one of the favorites in our household. I take 1 cup of minimally processed healthy peanut butter (Look at the ingredient list. If it only says “peanuts” you are good to go) and 1 cup of raw honey and gently warm them together in a pan. (Cast iron is the only kind I cook with because you are getting iron in with your foods). Take off the heat and add a cup of rolled oats and some cocoa powder. Then roll into balls. You have yourself a healthy snack or healthy breakfast for those busy days. I keep a container of these in our fridge at all times. Pediatricians recommend waiting until your child is at least 12 months old before consuming honey. Honey contains bacteria that is harmless to children over one year of age, so best to be safe and wait.
Go to the Source
Visit a farmer’s market or a farm to find out where your foods come from. Visit a vineyard or strawberry patch and do your own picking. If you have a dairy farm nearby, ask if they do tours. If you have space, plant your own garden. By going directly to the source you are not only educating your child on where foods come from, but you are also keeping it interesting and fun. A child who picked their own blueberries will enjoy eating them even more if it means they get to show off what they gathered to others. A feeling of accomplishment can go a long way towards helping you reach other goals, like healthy eating.
Dipping is Fun
Toddlers like to have fun. Plain and simple. If getting them to eat carrots means letting them dip them in ranch dressing then I’d take that trade off as a good move. Anytime they can dip their food; it’s going to be a rewarding and fun experience with them. Even more fun is when mom dips with them.
Hide the Healthy Foods
If your child doesn’t eat anything green, then hide the veggies in foods that they already like. A blender is a great tool to use when trying to hide foods. Add a handful of blended spinach to spaghetti sauce, or yogurt in that milk shake. Most children will never notice any taste difference. Most vegetables are bland in taste, so this makes hiding veggies that much easier to go unnoticed. Also, always, make the healthiest version that you can of each popular item. For example, if you use pancake mix then make sure to add an egg and milk to the mix, even if the recipe says just add water. Also, real maple syrup will have some better nutrition than imitation maple syrup made from high fructose corn syrup.
Keep It Fun
There are so many cute ideas you can try to make food more fun and exciting for your child. Cut sandwiches into different shapes, arrange sliced fruits to look like a flower or a bug. Peanut butter makes a good building material. Raisins stick to peanut butter wonderfully. A fun idea is to have all kinds of healthy foods in bowls and build a creation together and then eat it.
By making eating a social time, your child may just eat more of those healthy choices. If your child sees mom smiling and counting up how many apple slices she’s eating, he or she will want to join along. Make eating a fun time. Make it a game if necessary.
I hope these simple tips and ideas will help you get your toddler eating even better.