As a parent, if you are worried about your children developing unhealthy food preferences as they grow older, you are not alone.
All parents worry about fast food options becoming increasingly attractive and leading to a host of health problems that include obesity, hyperactivity, or even depression.
So if you are looking for ways to teach healthy eating habits to your children, we suggest you start working on this as early in their life as possible.
Usually, food preferences tend to form in the first two years of a kid’s life. This means that when your child is a toddler, which is defined as the age between 1-3 years of age, you need to adopt ways to choose the best healthy food for them.
This is also important because, as a toddler, your child is learning various motor skills such as walking or climbing and is constantly in need of adequate energy and nutrients for their cognitive and physical development and growth.
To supplement them with the right food means that you are essentially investing in their overall health and wellbeing.
In this article, we highlight the different nutrients your toddler requires along with ways to get creative when making healthy snacks and encouraging good eating habits:
What Nutrients Does Your Toddler Need?
Picking out the best healthy food for toddlers is important for their growth and development. Ideally, it is good to introduce different food groups so that they get exposed to a variety of food options.
Some nutrients that are critical to your toddler’s health include:
Calcium and Vitamin D
Toddlers need 700 milligrams of calcium and 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every day for healthy bone and teeth development. It also helps to prevent diseases such as rickets.
Some calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. If your kid doesn’t react well to dairy, opt for vegetables such as legumes.
For vitamin D, oily fish such as salmon and fortified food such as breakfast cereals are excellent options.
This is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important to protect cells from free radicals that may cause serious illnesses such as cancer.
The recommended amount of vitamin E for toddlers is 6 milligrams per day.
Foods that are vitamin-E-rich include pumpkins, almonds, and spinach.
Iron is essential for preventing anemia and stimulating hemoglobin in your toddler. The recommended amount of iron is 6 milligrams per day.
Some foods rich in iron include spinach, beans, liver, and nuts.
Other Important Nutrients
Other essential nutrients include potassium, zinc, and omega-3 fats. These are important for regulating the nervous system and blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and improving cognitive functions, and providing anti-inflammatory functions, respectively.
You should also ensure that your child gets enough protein from either animal-based or plant-based sources.
It is important for toddlers to get energy from carbohydrates such as bread, rice, and potatoes.
Also remember to include adequate fiber in their diet from sources such as whole-grain cereals, lentils, and kidney beans, so that their bowel movements are regulated.
Additionally, vitamin C and vitamin A are also necessary for your toddler to prevent them from infections such as the common cold and to contribute to their overall health.
Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, and cabbage. Sources of vitamin A include carrots, squash, apricots, and egg yolks.
Healthy Snack Ideas
In order to discourage toddlers from eating junk food, it is best to get creative with your snacks at home.
A great way to deal with your toddler’s hunger pangs between their routine meal times is by introducing nutrient-dense foods such as fruits and vegetables.
For example, create a colorful fruit salad with mangoes, berries, and kiwis or give them celery with peanut butter to make vegetables seem attractive.
You can also explore the idea of feeding your toddler different cuisines, such as hummus with carrots. This is a great way to broaden their choices and widen their palate.
Another great idea is to arrange the food in a fun way so that your toddler is actually interested in mealtime.
If your toddler is not keen on eating, you can make healthy smoothies with sprinkles to encourage them.
Generally, try to steer away from processed foods as much as possible. They usually lack the appropriate nutrients and contain added sugar or salt which may be unhealthy for your child.
Encouraging Healthy Eating Habits
Toddlers require between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day, which means that if your child is being finicky about eating their food, you need to make an effort with them.
The best way to encourage healthy eating habits is by setting a fixed eating schedule and introducing new foods slowly and steadily.
It is also important that you don’t force your toddler to eat a particular food as it can backfire pretty easily.
If you are short on time, stock up on healthy food items such as yogurt, oats, and fruits, rather than giving your toddler pre-packaged meals.
This helps to develop an overall balanced diet for your toddler and encourages them to seek out healthy options as they grow older.
A great way to develop good eating habits is by sitting down to eat as a family. This helps motivate your toddler to eat and allows them to have a better diet.
Being a parent is a 24-hour job that requires meticulous attention to every aspect of your child’s life. A major component of parenting is to ensure that your child gets sufficient nutrients in their everyday diet.
For this, it is integral that you choose organic and natural foods that are packed with nutrients so that your toddler doesn’t develop any illness or deficiency.
Our parting advice would be to make a weekly meal plan on a whiteboard so that you can keep track of your child’s diet even if you are busy with work and other commitments.
This will help keep you organized and ensure your toddler gets a healthy diet.