Get your Toddler to Eat Healthy Foods!

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We all know healthy eating habits matter, but can you really get a finicky, picky toddler to eat healthy foods? Well, with a little patience, and a few tips and tricks, what once seemed impossible may just become the norm!

Keep encouraging a variety of nutritious foods and you may soon find your child enjoying foods he/she once refused! Scroll down to check out the tips below

Not-So-Sneaky Tips and Tricks:

It’s best to help your child eat healthy foods without having to disguise the food or hide it in other food! Here are some ideas to help toddlers eat nutritious foods on purpose:

Add healthy foods in with their favorites: Ex: Add beans or peas (which are both simultaneously part of the vegetable group and protein group) in with mac & cheese/ add tomatoes, grated carrots, broccoli. or mushrooms in with scrambled eggs, top pancakes with applesauce, yogurt, or fruit, top home-made pizzas with chopped veggies,

Change foods to healthier versions: Ex: Make sandwiches with 100% whole wheat bread, replace sugary apple sauce or yogurt with less sugary varieties, replace sugary drink with milk or water, switch out crackers made from enriched ingredients to ones made with whole grains, find a healthy cereal your child will eat to replace the sugary one or at least mix the cereals together, replace regular fries with oven-baked sweet potato fries, use lard-free refried-beans, buy whole grain tortillas, use whole grain pastas, make home-made sweet potato pancakes or blueberry pancakes using fresh ingredients and some whole grain flour.

Don’t let children fill up on less nutritious foods: If children want to snack throughout the day, don’t let them continually eat foods that won’t nourish their bodies. It can be hard to get a child to eat something healthy if s/he knows s/he can easily get a treat instead.

Give healthy snacks when your child is hungry before a meal: When a child is feeling somewhat hungry s/he is more likely to eat what is given. Aside from normal snack times, if your tot is hungry before dinner this is a great opportunity to give chopped veggies or fruit to eat.

Give sample-size servings of foods: Don’t overwhelm your child with large serving sizes of a type of food your child has never seen or one that is currently not liked. Give just a little sample to try. You want your tot to feel like s/he can actually eat what you are giving. You can always give more once the food is accepted.

Choose likeable  and healthy foods: Ex: If you want your toddler to eat more vegetables, don’t start out giving spinach and turnips. Try vegetables with a more mild flavor like carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, peas, etc. Don’t be afraid to give your tot a little something to dip vegetables in. Also if you want your child to eat more fruit, offer yogurt to use as a dip for sliced fruit.

Make a game of eating healthy: This is really about the art of distraction. You get your toddler focused on the game and your child soon forgets s/he’s eating foods s/he thinks s/he hates! Maybe try to eat a bite at the same time as your toddler by saying “Ready, Set Go”. Or pretend every time you finish your veggies you gain a super power. You could also take turns: You take a bite, then s/he takes a bite. The sky is the limit, and young children are eager to play (and win) games with mom or dad.

Compliment your toddler: Keep it positive. Every time your child eats well, let him/her  know you notice!

Avoid Power Struggles: Do not turn mealtime into a power struggle or everyone loses. You want to create good feelings while eating.

Eat together: Toddlers are social beings. Your child will probably eat better if he/she doesn’t have to eat alone. Take the time to sit down and eat with your child.

Eat without distractions: Turn the TV off, avoid being on your phone, etc. Make meal time a time of being together and it will be a time your toddler looks forward to. When toddlers comes to the table with a positive attitude they may actually try things they would otherwise avoid. Also, less distractions will help your toddler learn to listen to hunger cues when eating.

Be a stellar example: Imitating others is a developmental milestone of the toddler years. If you really want to get your toddler to eat healthy foods, show him/her that you like to eat those same healthy foods!

Share what’s on YOUR plate: Have you ever noticed that children seems to pay more attention to your food than their food? Why not use this to your advantage by offering them something healthy off of your plate! Even if your child already has that same food on his/her plate, it just may taste better coming from you.

Let a favorite person offer the food: Your toddler won’t eat a certain healthy food for you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t eat it for grandma, or a favorite aunt or a friend’s mom. Try it, it just may work!

Rename it: Ex: Lasagna could be noodle cake, peas could be bubbles, broccoli pieces could be little trees, etc. Or you can pretend a certain TV character loves to eat that healthy food.

Grow your own: Start a vegetable garden with your toddler. When your toddler is involved in the process of growing the food, he/she is more likely to eat it!

Tell your toddler it’s healthy: A toddler doesn’t inherently know, for example, that eating a banana is more beneficial to the body than eating a processed, refined snack. Point out which foods are healthy to eat. This may not change your toddler’s mind on really tricky foods, but it can help your toddler eat foods s/he wouldn’t necessarily try.

“Your body likes it even if your tongue doesn’t”: Your toddler may not like the taste or the texture of many healthy foods. Talk to your toddler about the benefits of certain foods. For example, carrots are good for the eyes, and milk is good for the bones. Talk about how your toddler’s tongue may not like the food, but rest of his body loves that food! The rest of his body wants your toddler to eat the healthy food. Some picky eaters will eat healthy foods when they know it’s helping their body!

Sneaky Tips and Tricks To Help Your Toddler Eat Healthy Foods:

When you want your toddler to eat healthy foods but s/he fights you at the sight of anything nutritious you may have to get sneaky. Just remember that you do eventually want your toddler to willfully eat healthy foods, so continue to also offer them in their not-so-sneaky form!

Jazz up home-made baked goods your toddler will eat: Examples:Use whole wheat flour when baking, add in a little milled flaxseed, buy eggs containing omega 3 fatty acids, use applesauce instead of oil, bake in some shredded zucchini or yellow squash, add a cup of cooked sweet potatoes to your recipes, add in some chopped dried fruit. Any of these will enhance the nutritional value of what you’re making and your toddler will probably not even notice the healthy additions!

Add in some fruit: Smoothies are a great way to sneak in some fruit into your toddler’s diet. Grab the blender, throw in some fruit, add some milk or yogurt, maybe even some juice and milled flaxseed. Soon you’ve got a healthy snack most toddlers can’t resist!

Add in some vegetables: Puree squash and add into casseroles and chilis. Cook cauliflower with your potatoes when making mashed potatoes, add finely shredded carrots into spaghetti sauce, add sweet potatoes to pancakes. It’s easy to add pureed zuccini or squash in many of your favorite recipes because these vegetables will take on the flavors of the other foods they are cooked with. Watch your toddler eat a variety of healthy vegetables without even noticing!

Don’t Give Up… You Can Get Your Toddler To Eat Healthy Foods!

It may take a little while, but if you continually give your toddler healthy food options he/she will eat some of them. Keep the long-term in mind and remember that if you can get your toddler to eat healthy foods now you are doing your toddler a huge favor in the future. You are giving him/her the chance to enjoy a lifetime of healthy eating!

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