Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Your Toddler

An average of 7 out of 10 mothers worry about their children’s eating habits.  Most complain that their child won’t eat anything, are surviving on milk alone, and refuse anything else that is offered to them. I, myself, have been through this phase for quite some time with my first born and totally understand the immense toll this no-eating phase takes on parents, especially a mother. After extensive reading on the issue, observing and experimenting different eating patterns and routines, I have been able to address the issue to quite an extent. While many parents might find some luck after implementing these tips, others may not. I will just suggest the latter not to stress out themselves too much as long as their kids are physically, emotionally and mentally active and healthy.

Make a Schedule
Making a time table and sticking to it is the most important aspect of developing healthy eating patterns. Offer meals on time. Nothing beats a punctual eating pattern that adjusts and tunes up your child’s digestive clock.
Offer Everything
Babies should be exclusively breastfed or formula-fed for the first 4-6 months of their lives but after that they should be introduced to solid food (depending on the ability to sit and hold the head up and close the mouth around the spoon and ‘move’ the food to the back of the mouth). Starting from rice, cereals, pureed vegies and fruits, try to ensure that your baby consumes all the nutrients like carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, etc., from vegetables and fruits. It will prove helpful as babies develop a taste of most of the things from early on. However, this should be done very patiently (one food at a time). Honey and nuts should be avoided in the first year as they have botulism and choking hazards. It is also advised to watch out for any food allergies.
As babies/kids are naturally fond of sweet food more than salty or plain flavours, one may serve vegetables before fruits to ensure vegetables intake.
Meal quality and quantity child nutritionists suggest an average of three proper meals, snacks twice a day and plenty of fluids to be offered throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables may be served as snacks. Junk and processed foods are unhealthy options. Give fresh fruit juices and shakes instead of sweetened and soda drinks.

Serve Small Portions
This serves a dual purpose: first, children might be overwhelmed by a large portion of food. Second, you will waste less food. You may add up on quantity as you look for cues if your child is still hungry.

Repeat Offerings 
Just because a child refuses a food once, don’t give up. Research says that it takes kids up to eleven tries to decide they like a new food. So keep on offering those vegetables and eggs and they will develop the taste one day.

Offer Condiments
Sometimes, all your kid needs to eat banana is a chocolate syrup topping, an apple with maple syrup or a sweet potato with some dressing. Offer condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, etc., alongside food.

No Short Orders and Major Alternatives
You should include a food in the meal that you know your child will eat. However, if they reject the original meal then preparing a separate might promote picky eating. Let your child stay at the table for the designated mealtime even if he or she doesn’t eat. It’s a good idea to tell them that meat and green vegetables develop their muscles like those of the Hulk while citruses can make them glow and nuts make them intelligent.

Physical Activity
I cannot emphasize enough about the importance of physical activity. The use of tablets, social media and video games have taken over physical activity. We must ensure outdoor activities for our children which make them run around to help them grow. Cycling, swimming, some sports activity or even something as simple as chasing around pets in one’s yard are all healthy activities for sound mental and physical growth. The benefits are countless. They will burn calories, squeeze out toxins, get hungry, eat their meals well, tire themselves and have sound sleep. What else would we parents want more, right?

Let Your Child Help Himself to Eat
This is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and your child. Start practising this with your child as soon as he or she is 7 to 10 months or whenever they can sit by themselves. Let them heartily enjoy their meal, however they like. Again, don’t force them to eat or eat more. Don’t interrupt in between. Avoid distractions. I specifically recommend avoiding screen time during meals early on so they develop a habit of eating while focusing on food only. Meanwhile, politely and patiently introduce them to table manners. Let them wipe their face while they eat.

Shop and Cook with Kids
Let your child pick food for dinner or during visits to the grocery store. Read kids friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes. Let them help you in cooking with tasks as small as stirring, sifting, counting ingredients or picking fresh herbs from the garden.
Make food fun and interesting for them. Allow them to garnish the servings so they can express their creativity, hence, making eating an overall exciting and enjoyable experience.

Make Meal Time Family Time 
Make meal time, family time and eat your way to joy and happiness. It is a symbol of shared family life so try to make mealtimes pleasant with conversation and sharing. Avoid scolding, criticizing or arguing during mealtime. Serve yourself and your child the same meal. While they eat savour on food and entice them to eat as well. 
Remember, kids imitate their parents. Yes, even in eating habits. So be a good role model. Encourage balanced eating patterns and a healthy and inclusive diet. HH

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