[rev_slider alias=”nice-and-clean-menu32″][/rev_slider]We all do the best we can when it comes to teaching our children about healthy habits. Especially those of us who have struggled with eating healthy ourselves. You know how important it is to teach your toddler how to eat healthy so they can carry those habits with them for the rest of their lives.
But getting children to eat healthy can sometimes seem overwhelming. We tend to think back to when we were young and how much we hated certain foods. Most of us had a list of foods we wouldn’t touch under any circumstances (heck, some of us still do). So I am going to give you the answer — guaranteed to work.
Only offer your toddler healthy foods.
That’s right. Don’t expect that your toddler is going to pick up that broccoli — or even that apple — over a cupcake. If cupcakes are on the menu, your toddler will fight you for them.
That’s their job.
You can sit there and bargain with them (if you eat your broccoli I will give you a cupcake after); you can try to reward them for good behavior (you were so good today, I think you deserve a cupcake). In either case, your toddler will have learned the same two lessons:
- Cupcakes are better than those other healthy foods,
- How to get you to give them a cupcake.
Because they want those cupcakes.
There’s no reason for your toddler to have a cupcake. Or any junk food for that matter. They don’t need it. In fact, having junk food around causes your toddler to lose out on what he or she does need to learn: when to eat.
Listen to your toddler, because they listen to their body.
While you might think teaching your child what to eat is one of the most important things, as a toddler it’s much more important for them to learn when to eat. The what comes later.
Toddlers don’t eat when they’re bored, or when they’re feeling anxious. They ask for food when their body tells them they’re hungry. They stop eating when their body tells them they’re full. If you listen to their requests, you’ll find that most toddlers eat exactly what they need in exactly the amounts they need.
They stop listening to their bodies when parents teach them things like eating at the same time every day, eating a certain amount every sitting, clean their plates, etc. They start listening to you, even as you tell them to stop listening to their bodies.
While it isn’t a bad thing for a toddler to listen to his or her parents, learning to stop listening to his or her body lead to some very poor eating habits later in life.
Toddlers need to learn control.
Even more than learning how healthy that apple is, toddlers need to learn control: control over their bodies, control over their food, and control over their eating habits. By listening to them when they tell you they’re hungry, you’re teaching them that control. Don’t worry — no child has ever starved to death by not asking for food. They will let you know. Don’t try to force feed them on the days they aren’t eating much, and don’t try to hold them back on a day they are eating a lot. Their bodies are changing — so some days they need more food than others.
Just keep listening to them.
By learning control over their bodies’ eating habits and learning about their power over food, toddlers will have a much easier time fighting eating disorders later in life. They will be much less likely to eat out of sheer boredom or of feeling as though food controls them.
Yes, even picky eaters can learn how to eat healthy.
Most children go through a stage in which they get a bit choosey. Even children who started off with some of the best eating habits stop liking certain foods for seemingly ridiculous reasons. And as parents, it’s easy for us to start worrying that they aren’t eating enough. But like I said — no child in the history of anything has ever starved to death by not asking for food.
The key to teaching your pickiest toddler how to eat healthy is to provide a variety of healthy choices. If they don’t like it when their food touches, then place smaller bowls of separated food and let them choose. Put out smaller portions of two or three different vegetables and let them choose which one they want to eat that day.
If junk food isn’t in the picture — they won’t ask for it.
To teach your toddler how to eat healthy, you need to focus on just one key point: you’re in charge of choosing what they eat. Toddlers will choose when and how much.