If you are the parent of a one-year-old, you just finished watching your baby’s weight triple since her birth! But suddenly, your growing baby may not want to eat quite as much as she’s accustomed to eating. If that happens, it’s no cause for concern; toddlers gain weight more slowly, so they don’t need to eat quite as much.
If you suddenly find that your child routinely picks at her food, you
needn’t worry! This is a normal part of growing up. Also, since young children are a beehive of activity, they may be harder to pin down, to get them to eat.
As a thoughtful parent, your responsibility consists of buying healthy, whole, natural foods. Buy organic foods whenever possible; while these cost more, they are also devoid of pesticides, growth hormones and other synthetic chemicals that can, and do, cause harm, including food allergies and sensitivities, to young children and adults. The added benefit of buying organic produce, meats, dairy and eggs is that they actually stay fresh longer!
It is wise to plan ahead, stocking up on healthy foods that can be prepared in one or a few minutes, whenever your toddler decides that she is ready to eat. After all, a satisfied tummy will not only promote healthy growth, but will help keep your child’s moods more stable. A hungry child is apt to be more irritable and may throw more tantrums.
If your toddler prefers to eat smaller portions through the day than to eat larger, fewer meals, indulge that preference. The size of a young child’s stomach is only about the size of their fist — pretty small. A child’s appetite may also fluctuate from day to day — she may eat a good amount one day, but not eat too much the next day. This is normal also.
Further, don’t be surprised if your toddler’s food preferences change from one day to another. Your child may love a certain food one day, but want nothing to do with it the next. This is partly how a baby who is just coming into her own exerts her growing independence.
A parent’s goal, then, should be to aim for a nutritionally balanced diet overall, week to week, as opposed to a balanced daily diet.
Here are some good suggestions for healthy, nutritious, easy-to-prepare toddler foods:
- Home-made breaded fish sticks (which can be baked or fried and stored in the refrigerator or freezer, and heated as needed; use healthy olive oil or coconut oil for frying)
- Small chicken strips (steamed, baked or fried)
- Small chunks of cheese (or sectioned mozzarella cheese sticks)
- Sectioned hard-boiled eggs
- Yogurt sweetened with chopped fruit
- Peanut butter (as a topping on fruits or on preservative-free toasted bread)
- Home-fried potato wedges
- Mashed potatoes, plain or with butter (avoid margarine, as it has preservatives and other unhealthful ingredients)
- Steamed rice, plain or buttered
- Pasta with chopped vegetables
- Pureed organic corn
- Banana slices
- Apple slices
- Sliced strawberries (sprinkled with a little honey, to lessen tartness)
The following tips will be helpful in getting a picky young eater to eat:
- Steamed carrot slices
- Steamed broccoli florets
- Steamed string beans
- Avocado slices
- Mashed peas
- Cut foods into small bite sizes that little mouths can handle
- To better teach your toddler about eating healthy foods, try offering a variety of colorful, natural foods on her plate
- If your child seems a bit too active to pin down for a formal meal, offer informal healthy snacks, or consider pureeing fruits in a blender, adding milk and a little honey (it may be easier at times to get your young one to drink a meal than to eat it!)
- Add chopped vegetables to foods that your toddler enjoys. For instance, add broccoli, green beans, or carrot slices to macaroni and cheese, making the meal more nutritious and healthy
- Melt cheese over vegetables or add butter to them, to enhance their taste (and their nutritional value)
- Don’t be overly concerned about getting your child to finish everything on her plate. Instead, offer smaller portions, and when she asks for more, serve up more
- Aim to have nutritious foods in the refrigerator that are ready to go. When your child says she’s hungry, let her take a look inside the refrigerator and tell you what she’s in the mood for
- If you wish for your child to eat with the rest of the family at dinner time, don’t give snacks for at least two hours before meal time
Last but not least, keep your active youngster hydrated by offering filtered (or bottled) water throughout the day. If she likes fruit juices, it’s a good idea to dilute natural juices (never buy artificial, “fruit-flavored” beverages or anything with artificial sweeteners) with plenty of water, to keep sugar intake down. Maintaining sugar consumption to a minimum will lessen hyperactive behavior, as well as help prevent a host of possible illnesses later on.