Promoting healthy eating in picky toddlers
Feature writer Sara shares her tips to promote healthy eating in picky toddlers.
After losing eighty pounds almost fifteen years ago, I still struggle to keep my weight down. Since having my own child, I have made exercise and good nutrition a priority for both of us. On the nutrition end, we focus on real, whole foods.
When I introduced my son to solid food, I only provided organic, homemade baby food. With my son being a picky eater and me going back to work, we weren’t able to stick to homemade or organic.
I know that I am not perfect in how I feed my son; there are days when he is served macaroni and cheese or french fries. Instead of trying to be perfect, I try to stick to certain food principles in my household in the hope of raising a healthy eater.
Avoid fake foods
I grew up in a generation where so many diet and fake foods were available. I have decided to take a real food approach with my son whenever possible. I don’t stock fake foods like margarine (butter and olive oil instead), processed cheese or artificial sweeteners.
For example, grilled cheese sandwiches are one of my son’s favorite foods. Growing up, I made them with white bread, margarine spread on the outside of the bread and processed cheese in between. For my son, I make them with whole wheat bread, sliced or grated cheddar cheese and a little olive oil in the pan.
Look at the whole day
You don’t have to wrestle with trying to have the perfect balance at every single meal. There are many times when my son refuses a portion of his meal or the entire thing. I have a hard time getting mad at him for not eating given my weight struggles and society’s current focus on childhood obesity.
Instead of getting upset with him, I look at what he has eaten over the entire day. If he is struggling to eat breakfast, I let it go and give him the opportunity to have more of a variety at snack time or lunch. We mix and match his daily requirements over the course of the day instead of pressuring him to accomplish it at every meal.
Build on ‘real food’ successes
If a food is healthy and my son likes it, it is gold in our house! If he wants cherry tomatoes for breakfast – he gets them. We all have certain preferences and I am okay with the fact that he may never like cauliflower.
Many moms (and even dads) love to brag about the trendy or unique foods that their child enjoys. If your child is a picky eater, then hearing comments like “my child loves sushi” can seem daunting.
I will admit that my two and a half year old son will only eat raw tomatoes, cucumbers, cooked mushrooms and broccoli, potatoes (a recent addition), most berries, apples, bananas (sometimes), kiwifruits and mangoes. It’s not a spectacular list, but it is a basis and we are able to mix and match these “success foods” each day. We offer new foods to test them from time to time as well. Most times the test foods are unsuccessful, but sometime we get a hit!
Instead of trying to be all or nothing in the healthy food department, simply pick a few key principles of healthy eating that you can stick to and your whole family will benefit.
Photography: CarbonNYC @Flickr