July 21, 2016 – Hi! Liz Ward here – Registered Dietitian and member of the ALDI Advisory Council. The ALDI Advisory Council is a team of registered dietitians supporting ALDI in various areas of the nutrition field including family nutrition, sports performance and promoting a positive body image. I’m here to share some of my favorite tips for feeding toddlers.
By the time children reach their first birthday, table foods dominate their diets. Moving away from “baby” foods is one of many exciting transitions your child makes in the first few years of life, even if it doesn’t always go smoothly! Here are some ways to help your toddler get the right nutrition.
Understand Picky Eating
Perhaps it was possible to feed your child just about any food when they were an infant. Toddlers are often another story.
Toddlers are, by nature, often suspicious of the unfamiliar, including something different on their plate. It’s easier to understand their tendency to avoid new foods when you take a toddler’s point of view. Your son or daughter spends most of their day learning and mastering new skills, such as walking, climbing, and talking, and they may not want to see anything they don’t recognize when it comes to food.
In addition, toddlers are fickle about food for a number of reasons. They are going through growth spurts, teething, and experiencing a general fascination with the world, all of which may affect their appetite, crankiness, and willingness to accept new foods.
Despite your child’s initial lack of enthusiasm about new foods, keep offering healthy choices. It can take 10 to 15 tries before a child feels comfortable eating something different. After the first unsuccessful try, wait a few days before the food makes an appearance again. Here are some other helpful tricks to get kids trying healthy foods:
- Keep portions of new foods to a teaspoonful at a time.
- Avoid offering a new food when a child is tired; breakfast or after a nap may be a better time than at dinner, for example.
- Serve a new food alongside familiar foods.
It can be difficult to stay calm when you’re unsure what your toddler will eat from day to day, but it’s worth the effort. Feeding a younger child only their favorite foods because it’s easier at meal times makes it harder to get them to eat a variety of healthy food as they get older.
Get Kids Involved
By age one, your child is more adept at communicating with you. Don’t be surprised when they let you know that they want to help at meal times by stuffing food into their mouth with their little mitts or grabbing at a utensil you’re holding with their food on it. Their fine motor skills are developing at a rapid pace, and they want to practice them.
Allowing a toddler to feed them self fosters muscle coordination. Provide your child with a covered plastic spoon designed for toddlers and have another for yourself, so you can handle most of the feeding. Drinking from a covered cup is another developmental hurdle that’s fun, and important, for kids to practice and master.
It’s OK to offer young children snacks, but don’t allow them to graze – eat and drink at will – all day. Grazing fills children up so they are not hungry at meal time. Curb grazing by feeding your child between meals seated in a designated eating area, preferably a high chair or table.
Next month, ALDI will launch its first full line of baby products, Little Journey. The new line will carry nearly 50 high-quality, affordably-priced everyday changing and feeding essentials, including several snacking options toddlers will love, made from ingredients parents can feel good about.
When considering what to serve, think of snacks as opportunities for healthy eating. Nutritious snacks can include:
- Hard cheeses, such as Happy Farms Mozzarella Cheese or Happy Farms Spirals String Cheese
- SimplyNature Organic Skim Milk or Little Journey Toddler Formula
- Little Journey Organic Puree Pouches (assorted varieties) or Little Journey Yogurt Bites (assorted varieties)
- Hard-boiled Goldhen Large Eggs
- L’oven Fresh 100% Whole Wheat Bread or Savoritz Original Woven Wheat Baked Crackers
- Soft, ripe fruit, such as mashed banana
- Cooked vegetables, such as sweet potato
- Whole wheat snacks, like Little Journey Little Munchers (assorted varieties) and Little Journey Puffs (assorted varieties)
Have any other suggestions that have worked with your kids? Share in the comments!
Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, is a freelance writer and nutrition consultant. She is the author of several nutrition books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, which features healthy eating and lifestyle tips for busy women and their families who want easy ways to make nutritious, tasty meals and snacks, and include more physical activity. Follow her on Twitter at @EWardRD and at www.betteristhenewperfect.com.