How to Educate a Toddler on Healthy Eating
You can begin educating your child on healthy eating even if she is still in the toddler years. Introduce healthy, whole foods early in life to teach her good habits that will benefit her for life. Giving your toddler balanced nutrition and eliminating unhealthy junk food from her daily diet is also important for growth and development, bone and dental health, behavior and learning.
Educate your toddler by example. Eat healthy foods in front of her and let her try what you are eating. Let her see you enjoy eating your balanced meals and healthy snacks.
Eliminate unhealthy foods such as packaged cookies, sweets, chips and fries from your kitchen and replace them with healthy alternatives. For example make baked fries, instead of frying them. Purchase or bake oatmeal and raisin cookies instead of other sugary cream-filled cookies. This teaches your toddler that healthy foods are delicious too.
Give your toddler all her meals and snacks sitting down at the table, away from distractions such as toys and TV. This will teach her to focus on her food and eat until she is full. Be a good role model by having family meals together at the dinner table as well.
Play pretend tea and lunch parties that include healthy foods such as fruit and cucumber sandwiches. Tell your toddler what you want her to serve you and why. For example tell her to put milk in your tea because it helps to make your bones and teeth strong.
Play a game called "Who's Your Mama?" This involves choosing a food and asking where it came from. For example an apple is from a tree, a carrot is from the ground and milk comes from cows. Packaged foods such as cookies and chips are from a factory, and the aim of the game is to teach your toddler that "factory foods" are not healthy.
- Prepare whole foods simply so that your child can identify them. For example serve fish with yams and whole peas. Don't try to disguise healthy foods or trick your toddler into eating them as this will not educate her about what is healthy.
- Most toddlers need three meals and two snacks a day, but your toddler's appetite may vary. Let her tell you when she is hungry or full with words and signs.
- Be patient with your toddler and introduce new foods slowly. Don't be discouraged if she initially refuses to eat a new food; it can take 10 to 15 tries before a toddler will agree to eat a new food.
- Emphasize healthy eating without being preoccupied by it. Don't discuss weight or calories in front of your child. This can lead to unhealthy body image and self-esteem issues later in life.
- Do not reward or punish your child with food. This can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food later in life.
- If you are concerned about your toddler's eating habits, appetite, behavior or growth, talk to her pediatrician. Consult a nutritionist if you are unsure of the best nutrition for a toddler.
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