It is likely that anybody who has raised a toddler has been through ‘the food battle’ and spent more time than they care to count cleaning up food off the floor. This can be funny and cute at first, but eventually leading some moms to feel stress about food waste and anxious that their little one isn’t getting enough nutrients. There’s good news and bad news; the good news is that children will not starve themselves, the bad news is that there will be food on the floor for years to come!
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How to Get Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Having a wide variety of easy to prepare foods in your house is the first step to ensuring your child has lots to choose from and doesn’t get bored with the same old, same old. Of course, all kids go through phases where they will have one or two favorite foods, just go with it! Our daughter has been loving beans and mushrooms for the past few weeks, she cannot get enough of them. What a toddler is willing to eat may stem from their food habits, are they used to eating prepackaged snacks and you’re trying to transition them to whole foods? This would be a challenging switch and one I suggest doing overnight. If you have their favorite snack up in the cupboard and only give them one piece per day, they still know that box of goodies is in the house and they’ll battle you for it. Physically showing them that the unhealthy food, or whatever it is you don’t want them to have, is all gone will help them understand that it is no longer an option. It won’t be easy! But children are so visual, simply telling them ‘no more’, doesn’t necessarily register that it’s gone for good. That being said, keeping food in your house that they can eat at any time, will make them feel empowered. Help them to look inside the cupboards and fridge, let them pick-out what they want and help them to prepare it. Whether it be as simple as peeling a banana, or throwing fruit into the blender to make a smoothie, they will be much more excited to try it when it is something that they have created. Encourage them to do as much as they can by themselves, it may be tempting, but try not to step in and speed up the process. Learning where food comes from and how its made is part of developing respect. For example, a child may go up to his friends sand castle and knock it over, not thinking twice about it. However, when a child builds their own sand castle, they love it and are proud of what they’ve created. It is the same idea with food, maybe not right away, but eventually they will come to understand the care that goes into preparing meals.
Spending a whole bunch of time and energy creating fancy meals for your toddler can end up being more of a chore than anything and can be especially defeating if it just ends up on the floor. Which is why I encourage sticking to whole foods, cut them up in fun ways and provide nutritious dipping sauces. Almond butter pretty much goes with anything, so offering it alongside apples or celery sticks can create a more interesting meal time.
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Kids are very impressionable and don’t often like being told what to do, I mean, who really does? Telling your child to sit and eat, while you’re eating something different, or not eating at all, can be a battle not worth fighting. I find that when I sit down and eat the same thing as my daughter, at the same time, she is so much more likely to eat. She may not want to sit down and eat a meal, while i’m walking around or sitting somewhere else, doing something else. Sitting down together and even sharing a plate, while talking about how yummy the food is, helps to engage them and make them feel like a grown up. That being said, even though I sit and eat with my daughter, much of the time she ends up on my lap, eating off my plate and that’s okay! The point is that we’re both happy and we’re both eating. We also love making a big healthy smoothie and sharing it, that way I know she is definitely getting calories and good nutrients. Add fun textures and colours to meals whenever you can, making gluten free pasta pink with beet juice is always fun, and adding peas can be a simple crowd pleaser. If children just don’t seem too interested in sitting down and eating, that is totally fine and do not stress about it. Like I said before, a child will not starve themselves and they will eat when they’re ready, leave a cup of water and a non-messy snack down at their level and they’ll gravitate towards it eventually. I always make sure our daughters reusable water bottle of full of fresh water and often I leave out a snack of diced grapes, sliced oranges or other fruit at her level. Sometimes just having a nutritious snack casually available to them while they’re playing can be the key. Making meal time a huge deal and stressful activity isn’t fun for anyone. Offer a wide variety of healthy foods and trust that your child’s body will tell them when they’re ready to eat.