Making sure your little one eats right is no easy job – especially when toddlers can get distracted so easily, and can find meal time boring. Here are some quick tips to help get them more invested in the process, make meals for toddlers more fun and healthier and make sure they eat right:
*Make trying new food fun! You can try reading a book about a new food and then serving it as a snack, or you can include your little ones in the cooking process. They’ll be excited to try eating the food they helped make!
*Mix old foods and new. Serve a couple healthy options that you know your child likes along with something new to try. Only introduce one new food at a time, so they don’t get overwhelmed.
*Don’t be afraid of finger food. Meat cubes, vegetable sticks, and fruit chunks help children improve their coordination, and are a great way to introduce kids to new food.
*Use squeeze bottles to liven up condiments! This makes it easier and more fun for children to serve themselves some ketchup, mustard or jelly, for example.
*Take it easy on the fruit juice; while nutritious, it can also make your child feel full faster. If they feel full, they won’t eat as much at meals, and will miss out on the nutrients there.
*Teach your children mealtime skills. Toddlers are old enough to learn how to set the table, spread butter or jelly on their bread, serve their own portions, or pour their own glass of milk or water.
*Don’t cry over spilled milk – or any other spill, for that matter! Look at it as an opportunity to teach your toddler how to clean up a mess. If meals get particularly messy, consider spreading out an old shower curtain to help contain the mess.
*Temperature and texture are important! Kids don’t tend to like extremely hot or cold food, or lumpy or stringy textures (make sure you don’t overcook the vegetables). Keeping food at a good temperature and varying textures will help them stay engaged in the meal.
*Color and shape are also important. Serving several colors and shapes of food will help keep kids interested, as well as teach them basic shapes and colors!
*Don’t forget to keep flavor in mind. A meal that’s all sour or all spicy won’t be as appealing as one that mixes several flavors.
*Get the right size of serving utensils. Toddlers and young children need smaller portions of food than adults, to have serving spoons and tongs sized to them handy for them to serve themselves.
*Get cooking utensils that are a different color from your silverware. This helps little ones learn the difference between the dishes we cook and serve with and the ones we eat with.
*It might take several tries before your toddler enjoys a new food. Don’t give up! The more times you try, the more likely they are to accept it. If they have a friend or older sibling who loves to try new things, offer it to the adventurous kid first, and the fussier eater might follow their lead.