Whatever you can remember from being a kid, you can almost certainly remember having attitudes towards food that seem odd now. Most of us, given the choice, would probably have eaten candy and potato chips for dinner instead of the more sensible plates we’ll go for now. It falls to a parent to ensure that their little ones eat the things they should eat, the way they should eat them. And, of course, that isn’t always easy.
As parents, one of our primary goals is to ensure that our children grow up healthy and happy. One way to achieve this is by fostering a positive relationship with food from an early age. In this post, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for raising healthy eaters and creating a positive food environment at home. We appreciate that it isn’t easy for any parent to do this, as there is often so much else to do, but the following tips and tricks on meals and snacks for toddlers will hopefully help.
How to model a healthy eating environment
Kids learn by routine; what they see, day after day, will be what they consider the way things are done. So it is important to try and ensure that the relationship a child has with food is stable. Evening meals should, as far as possible, be eaten at the same time each day and should ideally be eaten as a family. Children model their behavior on that of their nearest examples, which is you and your older kids. Importantly, food should not be used as a reward or a punishment; there is no surer way to guarantee a troubled relationship with food than by turning it into a weapon, no matter how innocently you do it.
What to do with a fussy eater?
Many parents find themselves asking the same question about different foods. “How do I get them to eat broccoli/peppers/onions?”, and so on. Here’s the thing: you can’t make a child eat a food they don’t want to, and you can’t reason with them if they are adamant. You may be correct that a certain food will help them grow up big and strong, but a child of 5 has very little concept of what growing up entails, so they won’t care: the broccoli is there now and rhey don’t want it to be. If they won’t eat it, it may be because the taste is genuinely unpleasant to them – studies have shown that different people taste the samefoods in different ways. Find other sources of beneficial nutrients rather than insisting on one.
Make healthy eating feel like fun
As adults, we have become used to the idea that some of the foods that are best for us are ones we don’t enjoy. That’s why there is a multimillion dollar industry dedicated to making things like kale chips and tofurkey. This can work for your kids too: cutting food into fun shapes and topping it with a food that they do like are two ways of persuading them to give it a try. Also, get them involved in the prep of a meal. If they feel like they’ve contributed to making a meal, they’ll be more likely to eat what’s on their plate.