How to Teach Toddlers Healthy Eating Habits
Healthy eating habits are learned early in childhood. Although toddlers tend to be finicky at the dinner table, it's still important to provide healthy foods to encourage your toddler to acquire a taste for them. By teaching your little one to enjoy nutritious foods from the start of life, you lay the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating.
Model Healthy Habits
Children are greatly influenced in their food choices by parental modeling. Telling your toddler to eat his vegetables will have little to no effect if he is watching you eat donuts and pizza. That type of modeling will only entice your toddler into eating the same junk foods. Serve the whole family the same healthy meal and announce how delicious everything is as you gently encourage your toddler to eat.
Provide Nutritious Foods
Limit the amount of high-calorie foods you bring into the house. Instead, keep healthy options available including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and lean meats. Make snack choices easily accessible; for example, keep a bowl of fruit on the counter or a bag of carrots with hummus at eye level in the refrigerator. Children are not yet mature enough to understand that junk food is unhealthy. Teach them the difference by providing the foods that nourish their bodies.
Play With Your Food
Some toddlers are just not interested in food at all. Other times they may experience food jags in which they will prefer to eat one food every day. To teach the healthy habit of consuming a variety of nutritious foods, make meal times a fun experience. Engage your children in activities designed to introduce new foods, such as making faces with foods of different shapes and colors. Most toddlers are more willing to try new foods if they are introduced through an entertaining activity.
Involve Your Child
Another way to teach healthy eating habits is to involve your child in the preparation of foods. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, children are less likely to reject foods that they helped to make. By training your children in meal preparation, you also give them the tools required to consume healthy home-cooked meals over pre-packaged, processed foods. Even the youngest of toddlers can help in the kitchen, from pouring ingredients to tearing lettuce.
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