It’s common for toddlers and small children to be choosy about what they eat. After all, everything is new to them as they explore their world, and trying something different can be overwhelming. But as parents, we want what’s best for our kids.
A nutritious diet with enough variety is essential for optimal health as kids grow. So how do we encourage our pickiest eaters to eat healthy without stressing them? We have fun tips for the whole family on how to foster healthy eating habits for our little ones. Read more for how to show them that eating right is not only good for you — it’s enjoyable, too.
Introduce New, Healthy Foods Early
By giving toddlers the opportunity to try a variety of flavors, textures and spices early on, you’re training their taste buds. Everyone wants their food to taste good, including our youngest diners. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to their broccoli, fresh basil to their spaghetti sauce or mild curry powder to their potatoes for an introduction to interesting flavors that are packed with health benefits, too. Be creative — the possibilities are endless.
Taste the Rainbow
Since we eat with our eyes first, vibrant colors can also draw kids’ attention. “Eating the rainbow” through colorful fruits, vegetables and whole grains is one of the healthiest habits to adopt no matter our stage of life. All those rich colors equate to major health benefits, like anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting antioxidants.
You can dice red bell peppers into their pasta, sprinkle bright green cilantro into rice or make baked sweet potato fries for something completely different.
Ratatouille is a simple, kid-friendly vegetable stew that boasts yellow squash, purple eggplant, red tomatoes, green zucchini and multi-colored bell peppers with fresh herbs. That covers the whole rainbow!
Take them Grocery Shopping
When you make kids a part of the cooking and eating process, it adds an incentive for them to enjoy what they helped choose and make. It’s also a chance to teach them where their food comes from.
When you go grocery shopping, spend some time in the produce section showing them all the different fruits, vegetables and fresh herbs. Name them together and explain that these foods grow in the ground. Have them pick out some favorites and plan your next dinner around what they choose. Offer them choices that they’ll likely enjoy, but make the same dish for the whole family so they know that’s what everyone eats — together.
You can even visit a farmers market as a family on the weekend, encouraging them to learn more about food and value those who grow what we eat.
Helpers in the Kitchen
After they’ve chosen their items, have them help prepare the meal. They can do kid-safe tasks like helping to wash the vegetables, pour the olive oil, mix any batter, put the foods in the pot and set the table. Just keep knives out of reach and avoid letting them too close to hot ovens, stoves and boiling water.
Play with Your Food
You can make breakfast fun and delicious by making whole-wheat pancakes that look like smiley faces with blueberries. For lunch, you can make sandwiches cut into hearts, stars and any number of shapes with cookie cutters. Arrange a tray of vegetables like carrots, celery and tomatoes with fun, homemade dipping sauces that will appeal to them. For the pickiest eaters, you can “hide” healthy foods by pureeing vegetables like cauliflower to make sauces.
Food Allergy Awareness
When exposing your little ones to new foods and flavors for the first time, make sure to do it safely. Food allergies can be a dangerous issue. Introduce new foods slowly, by giving just a bite the first day, two bites the next and so on. If they don’t have any symptoms after about a week of gradually giving them more, that food should be safe.
If you notice any hives, itching or stomach issues, don’t give them that food again. Eventually, get them an allergy test. If they have facial swelling or breathing difficulties, these could be signs of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. If this happens, call 911 immediately.
Healthy Foods for Your Whole Life
By showing your children early that food can be an exciting adventure, you’re also providing the loving gift of healthy eating habits that lead to wholeness in body, mind and spirit. At AdventHealth for Children, that’s what we’re all about. If you’re worried about your child’s nutrition, your pediatrician can help guide you and your family to make the best dietary choices, with the goal of helping you live and feel whole for life.
Visit us here to make an appointment today.