The best time to promote healthy eating habits for your little one is now. A nutritious diet and good eating habits are essential for toddlers' health, growth and development.
Be aware a healthy diet for a toddler is different to that for an older child or an adult because toddlers need a more nutrient rich diet as they are growing rapidly. Here are a few tips to encourage good eating habits in your child.
Toddlers will eat best when they have a routine of three meals and two to three planned snacks per day organised around their sleeping pattern.
Mealtimes should be scheduled at the table with other family members, in a relaxed environment to promote slower eating.
A decrease in appetite can be common in children, depending on their stage of growth and development. Don't force a meal or bribe your child to finish their meal as it will only ignite a power struggle over food. Emotional scenes can be avoided by putting food in front of your child and removing it after 20 to 30 minutes without commenting on it.
Ask your child be the little helper and help you select healthy foods when you go shopping. At home, encourage your child to help you with the cooking or to set the table.
Serve veggies cut into various shapes with cookie cutters to make it a little more appealing for your little one.
To introduce new foods to picky eaters, try adding chopped green vegetables to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated carrots into casseroles and soups.
Provide a variety of healthy foods for your child to choose from.
Bake, grill and steam foods rather than frying them. Opt for low-fat dairy and meat products and fibre-rich snacks rather than sweets.
Keep salty foods to a minimum. This includes crisps and other salty snacks.
Limit any sugary food and drinks to avoid the risk of dental decay i.e. limit your child’s intake of fruit juices that are high in sugar.
Do not give raw eggs or raw shellfish to toddlers as they may cause food poisoning. Make sure eggs are well cooked right through.
Do not give shark, swordfish and marlin to toddlers, as they may contain high levels of mercury.
Limit smaller oily fish to twice a week for girls and four times a week for boys. e.g. sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout, eel.
Set a good example to your little one. If you eat healthily, your child will be more likely to follow suit.