The most important thing to remember with children when trying to implement healthier options is to be a role model yourself. Children are like sponges and will generally copy anything they see others doing. Be patient - children learn to like foods they are familar with. So just because they refuse one food this week, doesn't mean you should never try that food again. It is normal for a toddler to try a new 10 times before they will accept it - offer small amounts, and don't pressure your child to eat it BUT offer it often. Be presistant but not pushy.
Some tips I have found useful in the past include:
1. Sit down and eat together - toddlers learn many of their eating behaviours from everyone around them. Try putting a few options down on the dinner table and letting your toddler choose what they want to put on their plate - often, they learn what others fill their plates with and copy. At this time in their development, your Toddler is most likely testing their independence - giving them some independence via food choices can be a very satisfying experience for your little one.
2. Get your little one involved in the kitchen - try getting your little one involved in the kitchen. Children are more likely to try and eat something they have helped prepare. This might mean letting your little ones pick a vegetable at the supermarket that is going to be prepared for dinner, letting them wash vegetables before you peel them/cut them up, growing your own vegetables at home, have your little one set the dinner table etc.
3. Make healthy foods fun - You could try using vegetables as wedges and dipping them in a dipping sauce, mash, grate or puree vegetables into mince dishes, if your child likes mashed potato add pumpkin, peas, sweet potato etc to make it different colours. Chop fruit up and make fruit skewers rather than serving whole pieces of fruit. Read your toddler stories about food, especially new foods you would like them to try.
4. Make meal times an enjoyable, social experience - plan ahead so meal times are relaxed, discuss the flavour and tastes of foods with your toddler, sit down and eat together, set up some family food rituals (eg. Spag. Bol and Veggie Saturdays, Pancake Tuesdays etc)
5. Provide meals and snacks at regular times - 3 main meals and 2-3 nutritious small snacks are adequate for most children. If your child is not hungry at this time don't worry, the next meal or snack is just around the corner.
An Accredited Practicing Dietitian can sit down with you and run through many ideas and strategies to implementing a healthier diet for your children.
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