Chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, grilled cheese — who doesn’t love these foods? A favorite among toddlers and kids, these are foods that I offer every now and then to my little ones.
But, I also decided that my kids couldn’t hurt from eating foods that are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and that contain minimal fat, carbs, salt, and other preservatives.
Of course, getting them to eat healthy can be a daunting task!
Plus, you may not have all the time in the world to whip a meal as soon as you get home from work, making frozen, processed foods your go-to item mainly for convenience.
So, how can you ensure they become healthy, responsible eaters? Read on to learn some tricks of the trade to promote positive eating habits – starting today!
Tip #1: Designate a Meal Prep Day
Using the microwave is very easy for a lot of moms, including me. It quickly heats up food that has already been prepared and packaged for you.
I still utilize the microwave, but nowadays, I use it on meals that I’ve made for the week ahead of time. Designate one day out of the week that you can devote at least an hour or two, to cutting up veggies, preparing food for each meal of the day, and for even mixing up your own fruit concoctions if your little one is still into pureed foods.
You will not only save money, but you will be giving them a fresher, preservative-free, and even organic experience when eating!
Set a few meals aside in the fridge in an airtight container and freeze the rest, pulling them out as you need to, and using the microwave to defrost or heat them up as needed!
Tip #2: Give Them a Choice
Contrary to what you may have heard, giving your toddler and kids a choice is important.
It shows them that they are able to pick what they are in the mood for, and if you only offer them healthy items, it’s a win-win situation!
You can do this with juice, entrees, sides, and even vegetables.
Some studies show that kids are more likely to make responsible choices when they get the option and when food is not forced on them.
Tip #3: Portion Control
A great way that I like to give my kids a little taste of everything is to utilize a muffin tin. You can do this with a regular sized tin, or one that has mini cups.
Put some healthy food items in each cup for your child to sample throughout the day. This is a unique way to offer them their favorite fruits and veggies, but also introduce new ones!
It’s also great to allow them a sweet treat but in a smaller size.
You can even fit some hearty whole grain items in each cup, but you’ll be offering it to your child in a limited, portion-controlled manner.
Tip #4: Don’t stress
Your child is constantly watching you. If they see you react in an upset manner when they refuse a certain food, they are likely to continue refusing to get a rise out of you, or they may also get upset when they don’t want to eat what you are giving them!
Pediatricians often tell parents that children will eat when they are hungry, and eat nearly anything!
So, don’t stress if your child is not eating the healthy items that you are offering them at first. Calmly remove the food and give them something that you know they will eat. But, don’t give up.
Try offering the new food another day. It can sometimes take 10-15 tries before your child will actually try something new, and actually consume it!
Tip #5: Offer Healthy Foods When Your Child is Hungriest
The feeling of hunger often outweighs pickiness. If you wait until you know your child is very hungry to offer them ultra-healthy foods; you can almost guarantee that they will gobble them right down!
Tip #6: Get Creative
Kids are very visual. Sometimes, it is more about the presentation of food than what is being served.
Tip #7: Mix it Up (Literally)
Lots of moms get their toddlers to eat healthier by mixing something sweet and tasty, like vanilla yogurt, into their veggies. Some parents do this with cheese and veggies too.
You can also use their favorite puree, and gradually add good-for-you foods to it, like carrot slices, peas, beans, or slices of chicken. This allows them to recognize the taste of something they like and is familiar to them, while adjusting to new flavors of healthy foods.
Eventually, decrease the amount of puree overtime, and increase the new, healthier food chunks.
Tip #8: Break the Rules
Whoever said that your toddler has to eat pieces of healthy foods? There are many children who despise eating their veggies whole, but will whole-heartedly eat their veggies out of a puree pouch.
If they are still getting nutrients and vitamins, isn’t that all that matters? These pouches are actually designed for children of all ages, and are portable so you can use them as healthy, organic snacks when you are on the go.
You can even purchase your own pouches to fill with your own purees, so you can customize your child’s favorite foods and ensure they are having healthy meals throughout the day.
Feeding a child can sometimes be one of the most stressful tasks that a parent takes on.
It’s wise to remember that children go through various stages as they grow. One day they may like a certain food, the other day they will not go near it.
Consider the eight tips above to help you turn your child into a responsible, healthy eater for life!
And, remember: despite all of the tips, you are the best role model for your child. Show them that you love healthy foods and that they can (and will) too!
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.