Super Mommy Club
How to Help Your Picky Toddler Eat a Healthy Diet
The words “picky” and “toddler” go hand in hand. I wonder whether there’s such a thing as a toddler “who happily eats healthy food without any fuss”. If so, they haven’t passed this way recently. Toddlers have a natural tendency to like “soft and sweet” (cookies) and refuse “green and healthy” (fruit and vegetables). However, it is possible to teach them healthy eating habits in a stress free and fun way.
This morning for breakfast, we had porridge. We eat porridge frequently. With honey and raisins. Just like the 3 bears. My kids love it, even though they frequently deny the fact and complain that they don’t like porridge.
Today, I placed a blue bowl of porridge, with some plump juicy raisins by the side. (Yes, by the side, not on top.) I added a blue spoon.
Just as my son had requested.
I thought I had followed his wishes precisely.
Something was wrong.
The howls, the screams, the anguish.
Life with toddlers is tough. It is exhausting just listening to those tantrums, never mind having to actually address them. I have three year old twins and on some days it feels like they don’t stop screaming. On some days it feels as if they scream from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to sleep.
Being the parent of a toddler is hard work.
It can also be frustrating to feed your toddler a healthy diet. When my son asks for biscuits, it’s easy to just give in and do what he wants.
But I don’t.
At least not all the time.
How to Feed Your Toddler A Healthy Diet
- Routine. Stick to a meal-time routine. We have breakfast, snack, lunch, snack and then dinner. (But whatever works for you.)
- Healthy Foods. During those feeding times, offer healthy food options.
- Let them Choose. They can choose from amongst the food that you offer. (Allowing your kids to choices doesn’t mean they get to eat chocolate cookies the whole time. You are in charge of what is on offer, they get to choose from what you offer.)
- Don’t Pressure them. As tempting as it is to encourage them to eat, research shows that pressuring children to eat has negative consequences. Just learn to trust them.
- Don’t Be Pressured yourself. You choose the menu, don’t let them push you into cookies, sweets and treats. (Not even “Just One Bite”!)
- Treats in Moderation. It’s fine to eat treats, just make sure it’s in small amounts rather than all the time.
- Offer Variety. The more variety you offer, the more variety your kids will eat.
- Keep Offering New Foods. Don’t expect them to eat the new food, it takes time to get used to new food. They probably won’t even try it but just keep going.
- Be Patient. Toddlers are especially challenging. Most toddlers feeding habits change from “easy going baby” to “picky toddler”. Just keep presenting the healthy food and allow them to eat the bits they like.
- Be persistent. If your child doesn’t like something, just keep presenting it. Allow them to not eat it. My favourite phrase is “you don’t have to eat it”. But if you stop presenting everything that your children claim not to like, you’ll be living off pasta, pasta and pasta.
This morning, my son screamed for some reason I have yet to fathom. He screamed, he screamed and he screamed louder. He didn’t want a cuddle, he didn’t want to be left alone.
Then as suddenly and inexplicably as he started.
He forgot his upset.
He sat on his chair.
He held my hand for a few minutes, settled down and tucked into his porridge, talking cheerfully as if the tantrum had never happened.
In fact, he had 2 bowls of delicious porridge with juicy raisins.
I know that it’s tough being patient with toddlers. No, really I do. I find it a daily challenge to feed my toddlers a healthy diet.
I find it a daily challenge to get them dressed every morning. But we still do it.
I find it a daily challenge to get them in and out of the bath every day. But we still do it.
I find it a daily challenge to establish healthy eating habits in my children. But I know how important it is so I still do it.
Dr Orlena Kerek
Dr Orlena Kerek is a paediatric doctor and mother of four young children. Her blog, “Snotty Noses” is about parenting and developing healthy habits from an early age, especially healthy eating habits. She believes in fun family life the stress free way.
If you would like to know more about feeding your toddler a healthy diet, sign up for her guide on how to feed your toddler a healthy diet.