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Isn’t it crazy how quickly our sweet little babies turn into demanding and opinionated toddlers. It’s like overnight a switch just flips. Just like that.
If you’re like me you might have decided when you had a baby that you would ONLY EVER feed them organic, sugar-free, whole foods and would never feed them anything out of a package. Oh how I laugh at my pre-children parenting judgements and commitments!
Life happens. We get tired. We have more kids. We get overwhelmed. We need things to be quicker and easier.
Who knew those adorable little children could have such strong opinions? That they would be willing to battle over eating broccoli before they can even say their own name?
Teaching young children healthy eating habits is HARD and also WORTH IT!
I would be lying if I said my kids never eat junk food. I would also be lying if I said that my child would willingly choose grilled chicken over pizza. Um. No.
BUT. I fight the battle.
1. Start Young. Yes I know that Puffs are super adorable and convenient. So are goldfish. Somehow we’ve been schooled into thinking that these are “healthier” options. They’re not. Offer as much whole food as possible during the first year of eating. I’m a huge fan of baby-led weaning which means that there were no purees and very few spoons. I started with mashed avocado, sweet potato and banana on a tray and just let them explore. Fingers are great for feeding!
2. Encourage Variety. There is no reason why a 2 year old can’t eat stir-fried vegetables and shrimp for dinner. There need not be “kid-food”. You are not a short order cook. Small portions of the same thing Mom and Dad eat for dinner are perfect for toddlers. It takes up to 10 times trying a new food for the pallet to adapt. Don’t give up on trying new things over and over again. If they don’t like it, sorry. If this makes you feel really badly then offer another healthy option (not chicken nuggets) as an alternative.
3. Let Them Get Hungry. We are raising a generation of chronic snackers. There are snacks in the morning, before nap, after nap, before activities, after activities, before dinner, after dinner….. It’s like life revolves around snacking. I’m not saying that snacks are bad. They are 100% necessary. The problem is that we offer snacks constantly and most are really just glorified sugar. All of the snacking means they aren’t hungry for meals so they don’t really explore. Instead they’ll just hold out for a better tasting snack that might come around in an hour. It’s a tough balance, but something to be aware of for sure.
4. Introduce New Foods At Snack Time. We put a lot of pressure around meals to make sure everyone eats and isn’t hungry (see #3). Snack time is a great time to introduce new healthy options, especially vegetables. Offer veggies and a dip (hummus is a great one) at snack time. If they don’t eat much you won’t be stressed out that they aren’t eating their dinner.
5. Keep Quick Options On Hand. It’s super easy to cave to junk food because it’s everywhere. Convenience food is rarely healthy so it’s important that we prepare and make sure to have a few things on hand. When we are running late in the morning I love to whip up some Mom Fuel shakes for my boys. A tasty source of dairy-free protein free of artificial junk, it’s a great option for the whole family. Recently they are loving my peaches and cream smoothie. You can find our FREE Mom Fuel Recipes HERE. bit.ly/momfuelrecipes
We also keep single serving packs of nuts, whole fruit, berries, cut veggies with hummus, and Dale’s Protein bars on hand.
6. Stick to It. Toddlers are picky and demanding, but you’re still the parent. There will be battles and sometimes it will feel like war. My boys have both gone to bed having eaten just a few bites because they refused dinner and I didn’t offer an alternative. If your kids are throwing fits for frozen pizza or the drive through, the best thing you can do is RESIST the urge to cave. You can do this. Be the example. Establish balance. Eat “junk” food only away from home. Keep the food that triggers fits or refusal to eat anything else out of your home.
I would love to hear from you! What are your best tips for establishing healthy eating habits in your toddlers?