Phase 3: Feeding Guidelines
So your child is now eating a variety of things and feeding himself. Your family is getting more active and everyone is short on time. Right now is a critical time to not fall into the “fast food trap” that many parents resort to after a long, hard day at work or home with an active toddler. You have come this far; don’t stop now! Continue to reinforce healthy eating and a good variety of foods. Keep in mind that a 2-3 year old’s eating habits might slow down a bit as his or her growth is slowing down. This is normal!
Your job is simply to buy the right food, prepare it nutritiously (steamed rather than boiled, baked rather than fried), and serve it creatively. You can leave the rest up to your child.
- Healthy spreads and toppings can entice children. Teach your child how to spread cream cheese or sprinkle cheddar cheese on her snack. Anything to add variety and color!
- Sometimes a finicky eater may be more likely to want to drink his meal! Why not create a fruit and yogurt smoothie?
- Get creative when slicing up veggies and fruits. Fun shapes will gain the child’s interest and it is easy to do.
- Keep food servings small. As a rule of thumb, a young child’s stomach is approximately the size of his fist. Pass out small portions at first and refill the plate when your child asks for more. This less-is-more meal plan has the added benefit of stabilizing blood sugar levels, which in turn minimizes mood swings.
- Switch it up! Breakfast, lunch and dinner differences have little meaning to a child. If your youngster asks for dinner in the morning or cereal in the evening, go with it.
- Make every calorie count. Choose foods that pack lots of nutrition into small packages. Berries and leafy greens are good examples of foods high in nutrients. Offer the unprocessed berries as a snack. Chop kale and pour a small amount of steaming water on it. Allow to cool before serving as a quick side dish.
Fresh Produce Can Help
The following simple and healthy adjustments to snack and meal preparations can make an enormous difference in the way your family approaches healthy eating and develops healthy eating habits for the future.
- Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into cooking whenever possible.
- Start by breaking one unhealthy family eating habit per week (example: no fried food on Mondays.) Replace the unhealthy habit with a new healthy habit.
- Enlist older children and make a game of nominating favorite family recipes to try using fresh ingredients.
- Scramble eggs with diced tomatoes, bell peppers and onions.
- Add strawberries or blueberries to your usual salad mix to liven up the taste.
- Let each family member pick a color, then search cook books or the internet for recipes using a vegetable of that color. Remember to choose low-fat recipes.
- Try making takeout favorites at home. Love delivery pizza? Use a premade, whole-wheat pizza crust, then add your sauce and top with fresh vegetables. Kids can decorate the pizza with green peppers, eggplant or any number of fresh vegetables.
- Pack cut carrots, celery, oranges, etc. as individual snacks in small containers. Let your toddler or older sibling decorate the containers. The snacks are ready to pull from the fridge anytime and your toddler will love having his own special container each day.
- Serve raw or blanched vegetables often. The natural texture of the vegetables will help avoid “high-speed” eating and force everyone to slow down and enjoy the entire meal.