Living with my younger nieces and nephews has proved eye-opening on the topic of toddler feeding habits. Some of them are okay with a broccoli and cauliflower flower side with rice and peas. Others want fries and burgers and they pick on the veggies and legumes for hours. They end up barely touching their food while the cauliflower lovers even ask for seconds.
It is hard to get some toddlers to eat. They can be picky eaters and sometimes want ice cream for dinner or nothing at all. However, all is not lost. There are ways, tried and tested and guaranteed to improve your toddler’s eating habits gradually.
1. Keep calm
I have learnt that screaming at them or forcing food down their throat will only cause resistance. This will also agitate you. It is better and less frustrating to be calm and relaxed about it. This will help you relate better with your child and concentrate more on making meal time less of a battleground that leaves the child crying and you frustrated and smeared with food. Patience is a virtue best exercised here.
2. Make a feeding schedule
Children need to eat at least four times a day. Three meals and a snack. They also need lots of fluid. A schedule ensures they do not miss a meal and therefore are hydrated and have enough energy for growth and their rigorous activity.
You could schedule breakfast at seven a.m., a snack at ten a.m., lunch at noon to one p.m., another snack at four p.m. and dinner at seven to eight p.m. This schedule usually works for my nieces and nephews because of their kindergarten schedule. We found that syncing the holiday schedule with their kindergarten feeding and breaks schedule helps improve the way they eat. It also improves their attitude and removes the need to adjust from the equation.
When you plan their meals well, your child will not be famished or cranky. You can pack their snacks when you go out so they do not have to feed on junk food. This method is guaranteed to improve toddler feeding habits greatly.
3. Bite your tongue
Avoid making orders when it comes to kids. Shouting at them to eat or drink something only leads them to doing the opposite, in rebellion mostly. As hard as it may be, try not to comment on your child’s feeding habits at the table. Instead, Notice,and make improvements on how to help them eat better.
4. Make mornings count
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The saying “break fast like a King” should be your guide when it comes to feeding your kids breakfast. Fiber, fruits and protein should be the key components of your child’s breakfast plate. Whole grain cereals like Weetabix and oatmeal are a good source of fiber. You can serve them with natural yoghurt and fresh fruit to make them more tasty and attractive while providing nutrition the kids.
5. Sneak nutritious treats into snacks/ meals
Some kids hate certain types of foods. My experience is with oatmeal and soy milk. They will not take them willingly, but when snuck into foods as an ingredient, without them knowing, they consume them. You can sneak a spoonful of oatmeal into the four o’clock smoothie for that extra boost and fiber. You can also add soy milk to the mashed potatoes or oatmeal for the kids with milk allergies. This us to make sure they get the nutrients without even knowing they have taken the food.
6. Cut back on junk food
Buy less and less cookies, potato chips, ice cream, popcorn and any junk food for the house. This counts also for the adults in the house. With little junk food to bite on, children will have mire room for fruits, smoothies and vegetables.
7. Give treats once in a while
Cutting back on junk food means that once in a while, the kids are treated to movie and popcorn or ice-cream after dinner. The treats can come once a week, say every Saturday night. This will create a culture of eating well without completely exiling the little pleasure that are scoops of ice cream and buttered popcorn.
8. Be a role model
If you are constantly on fad diets or skip meals, this sends a message to your children that it is okay to have such eating habits. The same goes for eating unhealthy food and gluttony. Eat right, portion well and your child will follow suit. Example is the best way to improve toddler eating habits. When you stash little or no junk in your pantry, and ensure they barely get exposed to junk food, then they will not eat more junk food.
Remember, kids are always watching.