Healthy Food Routines for a Toddler
Toddlers thrive on routine. A structured day lets your toddler know what to expect and helps prepare her to transition between activities. Food routines are particularly important because they help establish healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. A consistent eating plan might also encourage your toddler to eat more nutritious and well-balanced meals.
Scheduled Eating Times
Establish a set eating routine for your toddler. Feed her breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner at roughly the same times every day. A consistent routine helps your toddler feel more secure and helps her make sense of the world around her. A set meal and snack routine is a healthy way to ensure that your toddler eats regularly, which can decrease crankiness and behavior problems that are often associated with hunger.
Sit at the Table
Have your toddler sit at the table to eat her snacks and meals. Requiring her to eat at the table is another way to build consistency and lets your toddler know what to expect. Regularly eat meals at the table together as a family. Eating together helps teach your toddler healthy eating habits because she watches you filling up on nutritious foods, which makes it more likely that she'll follow suit. Having family meals is a good opportunity to model appropriate table manners as well.
Include transition activities before and after meals and snacks. Consistent transition activities help your toddler feel more secure because she knows what is waiting for her and what she is expected to do. It also prepares her to eat, which can cut down on battles about coming to the table. Ask your toddler to put napkins on the table before meals, which indicates that a meal will be served shortly. Read a short story together while dinner cooks as another way to let your toddler know that a meal is coming. Sing a song after you eat, or ask your child to put spoons and forks into the dishwasher. Once you choose a transition activity, do it before or after each meal and snack.
Serve well-balanced meals that include a variety of foods. Many toddlers can fall into a routine of eating the same foods for days in a row, but this makes it more difficult to build a healthy food routine. Serve your toddler her favorite foods, but also include a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein foods and milk. Even if she doesn't always eat the foods, seeing them on her plate lets her know that you expect her to eat what everyone else is eating. Over time, she'll start trying the foods, which will expand her palate and help you create a well-balanced eating plan for your child that includes a wide variety of nutritious foods.
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