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Toddlers and Healthy Food

Posted March 27, 2013, at 1:33 p.m.
Watermelon contains lycopene, which is the same red-tinged antioxidant found in tomatoes. Watermelon is also hydrating, low in calories and has some vitamin C in it.
Watermelon contains lycopene, which is the same red-tinged antioxidant found in tomatoes. Watermelon is also hydrating, low in calories and has some vitamin C in it.

As parents, we’ve all gotten the advice from at least ten different relatives, with ten different ideas on how to make your toddler eat broccoli. While you may appreciate the advice, it might not work for your child. So, now you may be stuck wondering what to do and how to get your toddler to eat healthy. Educating yourself on the typical development of a toddler and what makes foods healthy is a great first step.

According to a publication from The University of Maine Cooperative Extension, “The way we feed our children during the first five years of life affects everything – their physical health, and their emotional and social development, as well as how they learn.” (Bulletin #4340) It probably sounds a bit scary when you see it written like that, but there are many things you can do to ensure that your toddler is getting the needed nutrients.

Remember, you are a role model for your child. Your attitudes around food will influence your child. One way to model healthy eating habits, is to sit down with your child at regularly scheduled snacks mealtimes to eat with them. Children thrive on predictable routine. If your child isn’t hungry for snack, you’ll both know that a meal isn’t that far away. Since toddlers are going through many changes, their diet may vary day to day. More great reasons to share mealtimes together is that the whole family can model good behaviors like passing dishes around. Taking turns in conversations can improve communication, positive attention and a secure feeling of belonging to a family.

Introducing new foods, like broccoli, can be a headache for some parents. Did you know that your child may have to see a new food over fifteen times before they are even willing to try it? When introducing new foods, it’s helpful to pair with well-liked familiar ones. Don’t force your child to try the new food though; just model good behavior by eating the broccoli and saying things like, “This tastes good.” This idea can be applied to any healthy food, not just broccoli. Your toddler is ultimately in charge of what they eat, when they eat and how much they eat. Your job is to provide the most nutritious options at every snack and meal. If you have concerns, you may contact your Parent Education Professional of your child’s pediatrician.

If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a newborn at home and would like to have information about the Maine Families home visiting program or the Teen and Young Parent Program, please call us at (207) 594-1980. We enroll prenatally and until the baby turns three months old. Parent Education Professionals provide enrolled families with up-to-date information on topics such as eating healthy, fine motor skills, social/emotional development and much more.

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