Teaching Healthy Eating Habits to Toddlers

If there is one thing that doesn’t come to mind when you think about toddlers, it’s healthy eating. Toddlers are well known for being picky eaters, and even those who ate whatever you put in front of them as babies have a habit of turning on you when the toddler years start. The healthy eating cause is not lost; there is hope for even the pickiest toddler. It takes a real commitment to healthy eating as a parent, and a little extra patience, but you can teach your toddler healthy eating habits.

Just Keep Trying

The biggest mistake parents make is to give up and simply not offer the healthy foods anymore because their child doesn’t like it or won’t eat it. By removing the vegetables from your toddler’s dinner plate, you send the message that it’s ok to skip them. As frustrating as it might be to see those healthy foods simply left on the plate meal after meal, day after day, consistency and perseverance are vital to getting your toddler to eat better.

Make sure that every meal includes a serving of fruit or vegetables, even if your toddler immediately announces that he doesn’t like what is on his plate. Although you can’t make him eat it, you can make sure he gets the message that these foods are a part of the diet in your house, and they aren’t going away.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Toddlers are famous imitators, and they want to be just like mom and dad. So it stands to reason that the number one way you can teach your child healthy eating habits is to adopt them yourself. Your toddler needs to see that you are eating the same healthy foods you have piled on his plate. The more often he sees you eating your vegetables, the more likely he is to emulate you.

Even if you don’t particularly like a certain vegetable or fruit, don’t let your toddler in on the secret, or soon you will hear from him that he doesn’t like it either. The best lesson in healthy eating is the one you don’t try to teach directly; instead it is found in the day to day habit of watching you eat healthy foods. You not only need to eat the right foods, but avoid the unhealthy ones. You can’t very well tell your toddler he can’t have potato chips before dinner if he sees you snacking on them.

Don’t Offer Bribes

While the habit of offering a sweet treat after dinner in return for eating her peas might work in the short-term, in the long run you will find this backfires. Eventually, she will stop falling for the bribe. Or worse, she will come to expect that there will always be a treat in return for eating what is on her plate. This doesn’t teach your toddler healthy eating, it merely teaches her to expect a reward for what should be a normal behavior. This can translate into other aspects of life, and before you know it you will find yourself bribing her to do everything from take a nap to put on her shoes.

If you really want your toddler to make the choice to eat healthy foods, you will have to do it the long way, with patience and determination. Stick to serving healthy foods, eat them yourself and eventually your toddler will get on board too.

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