Feeding a toddler requires a great amount of patience and creativity.
They can be fussy or picky eaters, often throwing tantrums about food they ate yesterday but wont touch today.
Toddlers also have no regard for nutrition and left to their own devices would live on cupcakes and peanut butter for breakfast.
Because of this, parents often fall into a few bad habits when coaxing their litle one to eat.
So, how do you avoid making mistakes, not give into bad habits , satisfy your fussy eater and encourage life long healthy eating habits?
I’ve compiled a list of common mistakes we make when feeding our toddlers and how to change your behaviour and approach to encourage healthy eating.
Feeding Inappropriate Snacks
Snacks should contain nourishment needed for proper growth and development. Serving your toddler snacks like chocolates, chips, sweets or biscuits regularly will get them used to eating high-fat and high-calorie foods.
Instead offer your toddler balanced snacks that include fruit, vegetables, protein, whole grains, or dairy products.
I’m particularly fond of the following brands as I know I can trust their snacks to be nutritious and good for Hamish.
- Safari fruit and nuts
- Gordon Ramseys Oh so goodness range
- Happy Baby
For a few ideas you can read https://funmammasa.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/bears-top-10-toddler-snacks/
Never force your toddler to eat a food they don’t want.
Not only will this develop an unhealthy long term relationship with food but by doing this, both of you will end up upset and frustrated.
Instead of forcing a food, rather don’t make a big fuss when your toddler refuses to eat a particular food. Wait and try again on another occassion. Many times what a toddler doesn’t eat today they will tomorow.
You could also include your toddler in the cooking process, building up their enthusiasm to eat what they have made or get creative with their food.
You can try :
Cooking on demand
Avoid cooking on demand to prevent sending the wrong message. It’s exhausting and will lead your toddler to be even fussier at meal time if you are constantly trying to please them by making a different meal.
Instead when planning your meals include at least one item you know the child enjoys. For example, Hamish loves pasta but does not like bolognaise sauce so it’s easy for me to dish him his pasta with a little cheese iinstead of cooking an entirely new meal.
I also try to choose child friendly foods like these shape noodles from Pick n pay.
Finishing Their Plates
Avoid giving larger portions than necessary or serve snacks and juice too close to meal time.
Most parents serve a portion larger than a toddler can eat and over crowd the plate making the choice seem too large.
Instead when dishing up use the rule of thumb of 1 tablespoon per age of your child for each meal.
( * a guide but please always trust your own instincts. No one knows your child and how much they eat better than you do. For daily dietary requirements please refer to the dietary chart above)
Serve any snacks about 1½ to 2 hours before mealtime.
I have always worked on a semi flexible feeding schedule of :
Instead of focusing on a clean plate, encourage eating until they’re full.
Ignoring Food Preferences
Toddlers have many more taste buds than adults and so are much more sensitive to the various taste sensations they experience. When eating a food that may not be spicy or salty to you remember it may actually be too much for your child.
Instead try to be considerate when they tell you they don’t like a food. Toddlers are pretty good judges of what they like and don’t like.
When cooking, try to cook with less salts and spices as these may be over powering for your toddlers taste buds.
I always added my salt after cooking or offered an alternative meal if I made a curry or spicy dish.
Giving Up Too Soon
Don’t assume that if a toddler rejected a food once, that he or she will never like it again. It takes about 20 times of exposing the child to a food for them to accept it.
Instead present the food to your toddler often and allow them to play with it. This will include touching the food, putting it in their mouth and spitting it out. Over time they will accept it.
Using Food as a Reward
When food is offered as a reward it is typically a high-fat, sugary food like biscuits, cakes or sweets.
This may seem like the easy way out now, but it’s sending the toddler down the wrong path by encouraging not-so-healthy eating habits. It also gives the toddler the impression that sweet food is desirable, where as other healthier options are not.
Instead reward your toddler for good behavior with non-food items like a trip to the beach, a special bubble bath or extra play time.
Not Regulating Sugary Fluids
It is recommended that toddlers drink a maximum of a ½ cup of 100% fruit juice a day. Any more than that only adds sugar and may result in your child not actually being hungry for their scheduled meal times.
Instead introduce water onto their diet from early on. Or consider diluting any fruit juices by mixing ½ water ½ juice.
Another way to introduce water to your child is to set the example and let them see you drinking water.
Hamish thankfully asks for water before a juice, because we do the same.
Healthy eating patterns are very much determined by a toddlers examples set by role models , habits instilled at meal times and exposure to a variety of foods.