Toddlers and preschoolers do not have the self control that adults have. When given a selection of foods, they don’t think “Hmmm…which is the healthiest option?” No.
If anything snack-ish and sugary is within reach, the healthy choices don’t stand a chance. That’s why it’s important to limit visual options.
For most of the day, try to keep your toddler busy and occupied, in a separate area from where any food is located. When he is good and hungry (usually about every three hours, with no eating in between), offer a fresh cut fruit or vegetable as a snack.
This can be followed by a carbohydrate like pasta, bread, or crackers, or a healthy protein like chicken, meat, nuts, and cheeses.
But remember: keep other foods out of sight while your child is consuming his veggies! Once his eyes fall on the preferred food choice, it’s an uphill battle to get him to eat his fruits and vegetables.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are attractive to children, and high color is great because it is usually indicative of high levels of nutritional value.
Be aware of skins and peels that can be a choking hazard, and cut foods into appropriately sized pieces for your child. Take the time to enjoy a healthy snack along with your child-Moms and Dads need healthy cells, too!
Many parents give their children frequent drinks of juice. This is a big mistake. Firstly, juice is not the “healthy” drink many people take it for: it is high in sugars, and often contains added high-fructose corn syrup.
In addition, the sugar and citric acid in juice drinks give the child’s stomach a full feeling, and the child is less likely to feel hungry for his or her healthy snack.
The perpetual sippy cup of juice that kids lug around all day is an unhealthy habit. Allow them to drink water between meals, and juice only once or twice a day; after a meal and not before it.
Ask your pediatrician how much milk is right for your child. Milk contains nutrients and calories that are important; but don’t overdo it! If your child fills up on milk, he’ll have no room for other foods vital to his nutrition. Too much milk can lead to obesity, and can contribute to constipation; and everyone knows that’s no party.
Remember, when it comes to food choices, you’re the boss! You decide what foods to purchase, prepare, and serve to your child. Better nutrition usually begins at the supermarket, where you can leave some of the expensive junk food behind, and stock up on attractive fruits and vegetables.
Small changes over time can lead to a much healthier lifestyle in the long run.