What you feed your toddler today can go a long way in helping him develop healthy eating habits for life.
Studies show a child’s eating habits are established by age 3, so now is the time to focus on positive food parenting. Help your toddler grow into a healthy eater by training him to recognize how much his body needs to eat to be satisfied, and by limiting the amount of sugary foods and drinks he enjoys.
Let’s be honest, most of us were taught to clean our plates as kids, causing us to ignore our own hunger and fullness cues. The good news is it’s not too late for our kids. They know how much food their bodies need to grow—we just need to help them listen to their own cues. For example, from time to time, your toddler may choose not to eat a meal or snack. That’s OK! She won’t starve or become malnourished from missing a meal or snack here and there. With you as her guide, she will learn that when she’s hungry, she can enjoy the healthy foods you provide.
When you’re parenting a growing toddler, it can be a challenge to know how much to feed him—and when—to help him grow.
Here are two helpful tips:
- Schedule three meals and two to three healthy snacks at regular times each day.
- Offer water in between snacks and meals (offering milk in between meals can fill him up).
Most kids eat more than twice the daily amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association, which says children ages 2 to 18 should have 6 teaspoons (25 grams) or less of added sugar each day. The dangers of too much sugar include an increased risk for tooth decay. For those reasons (and because more added sugar means less room for healthy veggies and fruits), it’s helpful to put a reasonable limit on the amount of sugar your toddler enjoys each day.
A great way to reduce your toddler’s sugar intake is to cut back on sugary drinks like soda, flavored milk, sweet tea, sports drinks, lemonade and juice. Even when the sugar in juice is labeled as “100 percent fruit juice,” or “natural” or “organic,” it’s still sugar, and your toddler’s body digests it the same as it does soda and other drinks with added sugar.
Other common sources of sugar in toddlers’ snacks include:
- Fruit snacks
- Cereal bars
- Sugary cereal
Instead of those options, choose healthy snacks like these:
- Fresh fruit
- Lean meats or cheeses
- Whole-grain breads, crackers or pasta
With you at the wheel choosing healthy snacks and meals, your toddler will learn to eat the right amounts of the right foods.