Toddlers tend to be fussy eaters. They may eat less than you desire or may flatly refuse to eat what’s on their plate and demand something else. No wonder then that it becomes challenging for parents to ensure their toddler gets the right amount of nutrients through his/her diet.
But as parents, we need to remember that our toddlers are going through many physical changes due to growth spurts that affect their appetite and make them fussy about food. They also don’t grow as fast as babies do, so their food requirement is less. But most importantly, it is their curiosity about their surroundings that makes them unable to sit in one place and finish off their food in one go. They also have a short attention span and can not keep doing one single activity for long. But this may result in a baby not eating right and not meeting his growth milestones.
So, it becomes the parent's responsibility to coax their kids and get their cooperation so they can get their daily dose of nutrition for the healthy growth of their bodies.
Let’s look at some tips for getting your toddler to eat a healthy and hearty meal. But before that, here are some reactions that toddlers can have to food.
Some Reactions Toddlers Can Have To Food
If you observe your child not eating food, it is not necessary that he is throwing a tantrum. He may be allergic to specific kinds of food. This is the right age to learn about your child’s allergies and avoid them in the future. Food allergies can be present in the form of a variety of symptoms like itching in the mouth, eczema, swelling of the lips, tongue or mouth, trouble breathing, stomach pains, vomiting, diarrhoea or hives. The most common foods that children are allergic to are milk, eggs, soy, wheat, peanuts, fish and tree nuts. It might help to carefully observe the responses of your toddler’s body to these foods.
Nutrition Value Every Toddler Should Get Daily
Toddlers need balanced nutrition, which means they must eat food from all five food groups. They need 4 servings of cereals and grains in a day, where 1 serving includes one slice of bread or a half cup of cooked rice. They need one serving of fruit each day which can be given in the form of 1 medium apple, banana or other fruit. 2.5 servings of vegetables must be given per day which includes one medium potato, 1 cup cooked veggies or 1 cup leafy greens. Milk is important for toddlers in their growing age, so they must be given 1.5 cups of regular milk or another alternative like soy milk with at least 100 mg of added calcium. They can be introduced to meat, fish and eggs in small servings by giving them 1 serving per day. Nuts and legumes can also be given as 1 cup of cooked lentils or beans. Lastly, healthy fats must also be incorporated into their diet in the form of 2-3 teaspoons of olive, canola or rice bran oil or nut pastes.
Tips To Make Toddlers Eat
1. Have Meals Together
Make sure you have the big meals of the day along with your child, so they can see you eat healthy foods. Ensure you’re setting a good example because you are a role model for your kids. Toddlers tend to eat more healthy foods when they regularly have family meals together.
Also, your child will learn your eating habits by watching you, so this is the best way to help them develop good habits from a younger age. Make mealtime a happy, social and regular family event. Show your child how much you enjoy eating the food you have made and they will follow suit.
2. Offer New Food More Times
When you offer a new type of food, it’s possible that your baby refuses to eat it right away. But you should keep introducing it in small quantities and encourage them to try one bite without complaining.
New foods must be offered along with at least one food that your child already likes and eats easily. They may need to see, smell or taste the food several times before starting to eat it regularly. Toddlers’ interest in foods can fluctuate wildly, so they may end up liking a food that they once disliked!
3. Let Toddlers Feed Themselves
Toddlers can start finger feeding from as early as 9 months of age and can learn to use utensils at 15-18 months. Letting them self-feed is an important process in learning to eat. Let them use their instincts of sight, smell and touch to explore the food they’re given. Also, expect some mess in this process.
Toddlers also try to be independent at their age by refusing to eat food, or only eating the food they want. Letting them feed themselves is a good tip to let them choose what they want to eat out of the healthy options you have laid out.
Don’t Bargain With Unhealthy Options
The most common mistake parents make while getting a baby not eating food to eat his spinach or broccoli is promising to give him a cookie after. This only makes the child hate the healthy food and develop a mindset that meal foods are less valuable than treat foods. Bribing them with dessert does not work in the long run because it doesn’t help develop healthy eating habits.
Instead, you can keep teaching them the benefits of nutritious food, but don’t try to force it down their throat or cheer when they have a bite of something healthy on their own. Offer them a variety of healthy foods so they can choose one they like the best. This way, they will develop a liking for healthy foods without an obsession with unhealthy food.
Serve Right Portions
Many parents tend to overestimate the amount of food a child can eat and hence, serve more than what they need. Toddlers have a good sense of when they are hungry and full, so when they stop eating or tell you their meal is over by playing around with their food, you can let them leave the table to read a book or play.
Especially when you’re experimenting with new foods, start with smaller portions such as one or two tablespoons, which is enough to develop a liking over the long run. Bigger portions may lead to overeating, while smaller portions let the child learn to try different foods and eat at their pace.
Try Using Different Utensils
The more a child is excited about mealtime, the more he tends to eat the healthy food you want. Making mealtime an enjoyable experience means that you must use interesting utensils like colourful Silicon Feeding Sets that are safe for the child to use on their own. Silicon plates and sippers with different animals or prints make the child more receptive to eating the food kept in them.