Toddlers are learning to navigate their world, communicate, and
control some parts of their lives. They don't actually have control over
much, but eating is one of the first areas they will master.
Parents can help them enjoy their limited power by giving them
appropriate amounts of freedom when it comes to choosing foods and
That's not to say toddlers are deciding what to have for dinner.
Parents have the important job of providing the kinds of foods that an
active toddler needs. A parent's role is to present healthy foods and
let a child decide which ones to eat - or whether to eat at all. Savvy
parents can steer a toddler toward healthy eating, but might have to do
it in a crafty way.
By anticipating problems and offering choices, parents teach kids
which behaviors will yield positive results and which ones won't.
Here's how to turn common concerns into opportunities to teach healthy eating habits.
Most Toddlers Are Picky Eaters
Many toddlers express their budding independence through eating - or
not eating, as the case may be. So nearly all toddlers could be
described as picky eaters. If kids don't like a food, they won't eat it -
no rocket science there.
Does your toddler want to eat only macaroni and cheese? When a child
is stuck on one food, a parent might feel forced to serve that food
every day so the child eats something. But eventually the child may tire
of that food - and then what?
You choose the foods on your toddler's plate - and you don't have to
serve macaroni and cheese daily. If you do, you miss an opportunity to
introduce new foods and increase the number of those your child is
willing to eat. Most "food jags," as they're often called, won't last
long if parents don't accommodate them.
Kids won't starve and they will learn to be more flexible rather than
go hungry. Present a variety of healthy foods - including established
favorites and some new foods - to make up the menu. Your toddler may
surprise you one day by eating all of them.
Your toddler doesn't like green beans the first time around? Don't
stop serving them. Kids are naturally slow to accept new tastes and
textures, so keep reintroducing the beans. Serve a small portion and
encourage your child to try a bite without nagging or forcing.
And be sure you're setting a good example! Serve nutritious foods
that you like or eat something new so your kids see you enjoying what
you're asking them to eat.
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