Toddlers can be picky with new or healthy foods. Young children should be offered a variety of healthy foods at meals and snacks to aid brain development, optimize growth and improve overall health. Here are some tips to increase your toddler’s consumption of healthy foods.
• Trust your child’s appetite. A child’s appetite can change from day to day. Offer the same foods that the rest of the family is eating for snacks and meals and let your child decide what and how much they eat.
• Offer half of the grains as whole grains to promote healthy weight and digestion. These can include whole grain bread, crackers, cereal, pasta or tortillas.
• Healthy protein foods help promote growth and development. This includes shredded chicken, cut up turkey lunch meats, yogurt, beans, peanut butter, tofu, well-cooked or canned fish, and well-cooked eggs.
• Try one new food at a time. Serve the new food with other familiar foods to make meals less intimidating.
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• Cut foods into kid friendly sizes to help prevent choking. Cut soft foods into chunks that toddlers can mash with their fingers or cut the food into thin strips about the size of their pinky finger. Cutting new and healthy foods into finger foods is only safer for toddlers to eat and, but it is easier for them to pick up and self-feed.
• Try to have meals together as a family and be a role model for your child. Let your toddler see you tasting and enjoying new foods. Young children may be more willing to eat new foods at meals when they see you and other family members eating the same foods.
• Keep trying new foods. Continuing offering new and healthy foods even if your child has said no before. It can take over ten times of trying a new food before a child approves and likes it.
Involve kids in meal planning and cooking. Engaging children with meal planning and preparation can help them be more adventurous eaters and more open to new and healthy foods. Ask your child what vegetables or fruits he wants to eat. Have your child help with washing produce, sprinkling cheese or granola on foods, stirring or mixing foods together, put things in the trash, or wiping counters off after cooking.
Stick to mealtime routines and serve three meals and two or three snacks at the same time each day. Use snack times to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and try to add a fruit or vegetable to each meal and snack time. Keep healthy snacks readily available for children to grab such as washed and cut up fruit. Ideas for healthy snacks can include cooked carrots and hard-cooked eggs, toast with avocado, yogurt topped with mandarin oranges, or cheese with strawberries.
The best foods to offer your toddler includes a variety of all the food groups including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy and healthy fats. Try to limit milk intake to 16 ounces a day old and juice to 4 ounces a day for toddlers. If you offer juice, make sure it is 100% juice. Have water readily available throughout the day and in between meals. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you can practice eating the rainbow. Offer and encourage your toddler to try a variety of different colors of fruits and vegetables to promote eating different vitamins and minerals.
By choosing and offering healthy options, you can help your child establish healthy nutritional habits and promote a healthy relationship between your toddler and food that can last a lifetime.
Amanda Zimmerman is a nutrition educator with RiverStone Health WIC (Women, Infants and Children), which serves families in Yellowstone, Carbon, Stillwater and Musselshell Counties. Call WIC at 406-247-3370 or email to [email protected] to learn if you may be eligible for nutrition services.