The food habits of toddlers are greatly influenced by parents, caregivers, family members and friends.
Parents can foster healthy eating habits by:
- Offering nutritious foods and keeping portion sizes small
- Setting regular meal and snack times, approximately every 2-3 hours
- Serving food that looks appealing
A parent's responsibility is to buy the right foods, prepare them nutritiously, and serve them creatively. Leave the rest up to the kids. Respect your children's ability to determine how much food to eat.
Parents should encourage their toddlers to eat well and develop healthy eating habits.
It's important to make mealtimes pleasant and reduce distractions. Your child needs to be calm, well rested, and hungry to eat well. Always offer food in a calm, neutral way and don't pressure your toddler to eat. Children who are forced to eat may lose touch with their body's natural appetite control system. This can lead to overeating and possible weight problems or eating disorders.
Your toddler needs consistency. Plan meals and snacks at the same time each day. As much as you possibly can, let your child - and his appetite - set the pace for meals. But if you want your child to eat dinner at the same time you do, try to time his snack so that it is at least two hours before dinner.
- Set a good example - your child will follow your lead. Your child is more likely to eat her carrots if you do too!
- Involve children in planning menus, shopping or cooking.
- Remember that all foods can fit into healthy eating. There are no 'good' or 'bad' foods.
- Do not use food as reward or punishment. Consider using verbal praise as rewards instead of food.
- Make mealtimes fun - try different shapes, colors, flavors, textures and finger foods.
- Allow children to take their time, but set a reasonable time limit.
- Serve small portions and allow children to have second portions if desired. Children are intimidated by large amounts of food.
- Offer children plenty of choices and let them make decisions. For example, let her choose between carrots or broccoli.
- Encourage independence. Allow children to serve and feed themselves as much as they can. Toddlers need to practice new skills, like using utensils. When they succeed, they'll feel good about themselves.
- Family mealtimes should be encouraged as often as possible. Children who eat meals regularly with their family have healthier eating habits.
- Encouraging toddlers to stay active is also very important to help them grow and develop properly and maintain a healthy weight.