Toddlers are not known for being easy to feed. They are often fussy with food, they fidget in their chair or run away from the table and they sure do make a mess! But you can make mealtimes easy and promote healthy eating at the same time.
Sound too good to be true? Here’s five simple steps for making mealtimes with your toddler easy:
1. Stock a healthy fridge and pantry
If everything in the fridge and pantry is healthy then when little hands open those doors you can let your toddler enjoy making her own food choices. If you want to keep treats in the house then hide them well away from little eyes until it is treat time.
2. Eat healthy yourself and always offer your toddler some of whatever you are eating
This is the easiest way to give your toddler the opportunity to taste a range of varied, healthy foods. When dishing up dinner, put a little bit of everything on your toddler’s plate or within her reach. Remember, this is about offering only. It is fine for your toddler to say ‘no’.
3. Experiment with toddler-friendly healthy food
There are lots of recipes for toddler-friendly food out there so experiment and discover what your toddler likes. Fruit smoothies are often popular. Meals where vegetables are unrecognisably cooked into the sauce also work well. And of course, there are also easy snacks like pieces of cheese, sultanas, watermelon and natural yogurt.
4. Let your child decide when to eat, how much to eat and what exactly to eat off her plate
Yes, that’s right, no more finishing the plate. No more begging her to eat a vegetable. Just serve the meal and clean up the leftovers at the end. Sound too easy? It is actually healthier. Children who are allowed to regulate their own eating are less likely to develop unhealthy eating habits later on. They’ve been allowed to develop an important life-long skill: the ability to eat when hungry and stop when full. If you are wondering how you’ll ensure that your child is getting a healthy diet in the meantime, remember that you’ll do this by stocking a healthy fridge and pantry and experimenting with toddler-friendly healthy food. There may be days when she eats no fruit or vegetables at all. But don’t panic. She’ll probably make up for it the next day by eating a bowlful of pumpkin soup, a fruit smoothie and half a watermelon.
5. If necessary, let your child graze.
Some toddlers, usually the ones who are more interested in food, will happily sit at the table at mealtimes. But others fidget and throw food or even run away from the table. It is not easy to get a finicky eater to show good table manners. If getting your toddler to sit at the table has become a nightly chore then why not avoid the agony and eat picnic style? If your toddler is able to graze, eating a little of her meal, then playing, and then returning to her meal she may end up eating more. There will be plenty of time for learning table manners later on.