By: Dr. Wendy Lockhart, MD
Brevard Health Alliance Chief of Pediatrics
Your happy infant that loves baby food becomes a toddler who now decides what foods and how much they are going to eat. Anyone with children can relate to this scenario. Trying to get your young child to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet is a daily challenge!
Your child’s physical growth slows down after 1 year of age and they do not require as many calories as they did during infancy. However, good nutrition is linked to improved health and brain development. A healthy diet and exercise have shown to improve cognitive development. The most active period of brain and neurologic development occurs in the first 1000 days of life, so good nutrition is so important during this time.
It is easier to influence children’s food choices when they are young before bad habits are formed. Currently in the US, 1 in 4 children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or have obesity. Obesity puts children at risk for Type 2 diabetes, asthma, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.
Here are some tips for that can make feeding your toddler and preschooler easier:
- Be a better role model. Your child is more likely to try the foods they see you eat.
- Eat meals as a family as often as you can. TV, tablets and phones are distractions and should be turned off.
- If your child does not eat, avoid fussing and bribing. They may not be hungry.
- It may take 10-15 times of trying a new food before your child acquires a taste for the new food.
- Limit sugary drinks and excess milk.
- Offer a favorite food with a new food.
- Resist making a separate meal for your child.
- Involve your child in meal planning and some cooking. Be creative and make food fun.
- Avoid giving snack foods between meals. Offer healthy foods or small meals instead.
There are many excellent resources for parents of toddlers and young children to help ensure healthy eating.
Here are a few:
As always, you can talk to your pediatrician on what might work best for you and your baby. We are here for you!