Here are some great eating tips for feeding toddlers 1 to 3 years old excerpted from Dr. Wood’s book, How to Get Kids to Eat Great & Love It!
- Offer a wide variety of fresh foods
The majority of the foods offered should be fruits, vegetables, and grains. Limit exposure to processed foods like crackers, cookies, candy, granola bars, chips, and fruit roll-ups. I’m not saying to give up these foods, but use fresh foods as snacks and pick healthier types of processed food snacks, like pretzels instead of potato chips. Use foods such as candy, cookies, and cake as rare treats, not as part of the daily diet. Your child will be exposed to these eventually (they’re impossible to avoid). Repeated opportunities to try a new food will generally produce a liking for the new food, although five to ten exposures are often required.
- Have regular meals and snacks
Snacks should be planned and constant snacking should be discouraged and avoided. If your toddler finishes his lunch, cruises around, and then is looking forconstantly grazing on handouts and snacks, he will not learn to eat be hungry for his meal. You can gently say, “Lunch is over, and you will have to wait until snack time.” He’ll probably be more hungry for the snack and next meal. Encourage eating fresh fruit as a snack. Avoid giving snacks while the child is watching television. This habit can lead to excess weight gain.
- Make meals a family event
For most families, this will occur primarily at dinner. The television should be off. The interaction should be pleasant, although we all know toddlers have their bad days (so do parents). Focus on the conversation and not the food. Don’t talk about unpleasant topics or bring arguments to the dinner table. Even toddlers understand anger and stress and will be less likely to focus on eating.