Healthy eating during the toddler years

Encouraging a nutritious diet can help your toddler grow health and strong.

For parents, the toddler years can be a fun and wonderful, yet challenging time. As our little ones begin to gain language skills and independence, parents often begin to worry if their toddlers are eating adequately to fuel their growing bodies. Toddlers are very busy and often don’t want to stop playing to eat. Toddlers can also be picky and some days eat everything they are given but other days hardly eat anything at all. All of these scenarios are a normal part of a toddler’s development and nothing to be concerned about. As a parent here are a few things to remember when feeding your toddler to help them enjoy mealtime and learn to eat healthy:

  • Introduce new foods slowly and with other foods your toddler likes. New foods with different textures, smells and tastes can be intimidating for toddlers. Allow them the opportunity to try the new foods a few times in a neutral, no pressure environment.
  • Allow self-feeding from an early age. As messy as it can be, self-feeding skills are critical skills to master.
  • Offer a variety of healthy foods at meals and snacks. Be sure to include foods from all MyPlate’s Food Groups.
  • Let your toddler choose how much they want to eat. Watch for signs that he/she is done eating: playing with food, throwing food and saying “all done” tell us that they are done eating, even if parents think they haven’t eaten enough. Trust your toddler to know when they are full. It is not recommended to make a toddler, or any child, clean their plate. Let their hunger cues guide eating.
  • Serve proper portion sizes. You can always give the child more food after they have eaten their first portion. A toddler’s stomach is much smaller than an adults and even older children, so we can’t expect them to eat as much.
  • Set your meal and snack schedule and stick to it. Toddlers will have the security knowing that there will be a snack after nap or before morning playtime.
  • Snacks are very important for toddlers. Be sure to add two to three snacks to their daily diet. Healthy snack foods can help toddlers get nutrients they might miss at meal time.
  • Toddlers simply may not eat much on various days. You may notice their appetite goes up and down and that’s okay. Continue to offer meals and snacks and let them choose what and how much to eat.
  • Eat together as a family. Family mealtimes are beneficial to children of all ages. You might even find they eat better if you join them. Being a good role model for healthy eating will allow your toddler to see you enjoying healthy foods.

Encouraging your toddler to develop positive attitudes towards food and helping them enjoy nutritious meals and snacks will help your child grow healthy and strong.

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