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Explaining Unhealthy Foods to Toddlers

Instilling healthy eating habits in your toddler may seem like a monumental task during the terrible-twos, but it's important for early childhood development and life-long health. Teaching by example and with creative playtime can help explain unhealthy foods to toddlers.

Healthy Alternatives

Finger foods such as french fries are generally enjoyed by toddlers because they taste good and are easy to eat. Explain to your toddler that these types of foods are only for special occasions such as going out for dinner or a birthday party and are not healthy to eat every day. Don't eat fries and other fried foods in front of your toddler; instead let him see you eating a healthy alternative such as a baked potato, and also feed him some.

Food By Color

Teach your child that vegetables and fruits are healthy by letting him choose the color he wants to eat. For example if your child wants red foods, serve apple slices with peanut butter or bell pepper strips. This will help your toddler to learn colors and is an easy way to explain that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good to eat.

Picture Books

North Dakota State University notes that children need to see or try new foods about seven to nine times before they may be willing to eat it. Teach your toddler about unhealthy foods and healthy foods by using a picture book. Point to the healthy foods and tell him why they are healthy. For example, point to the milk and tell your toddler it makes his bones strong. If he is aware of what a food is and why it is healthy, he will be more likely to try it and become accustomed to the taste.

Healthy Drinks

Sugary drinks are a favorite for toddlers and young children and they can easily get hooked. HealthLinkBC advises limiting sweet drinks to no more than one small cup of fruit juice a day and encouraging your child to drink water during the day by letting him see you drink and enjoy water. Sodas contain high amounts of sugar and artificial flavors and colors and should not be given to toddlers. Explain that too much juice is unhealthy because it has sugars that can damage his teeth and cause holes. This can be done while you are helping him brush his teeth.


Replace unhealthy sweets and candies in your kitchen with healthier snack alternatives. For example give your toddler dried fruits, fruit bars and oatmeal bars instead of candy and cookies. Explain to him that these foods are good for him, so that he learns that healthy foods taste good too. Additionally, avoid rewarding your toddler with sweets and other unhealthy foods; instead reward him with a hug, words of praise or by playing a fun game with him.

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