Your little one is growing by leaps and bounds, both physically and mentally. It’s your job to make sure he’s got enough nutrient-rich calories in his body that will help him keep up on the playground. Of course that can be easier said than done, as this age group is famous for fickle eating habits. Recommended daily calorie intake depends on your child’s age, size, and gender, but most toddlers require between 1,000 to 1,600 calories a day. We’ve got a few tips to help you build healthy eating habits in your little one.
Take the “division of responsibility” approach to meals
In a nutshell: you decide what, when, and where to offer food. It’s up to your child to decide how much and whether they’ll eat it.
Send him off with a protein-packed breakfast to fuel his busy day
Some kids just aren’t breakfast eaters, but if yours is, this is a great opportunity to load him up with the energy he’ll need to tackle his busy day.
Choose lunch foods you know he’ll like
If he rejected last night’s pasta, don’t pack the leftovers in his lunchbox in the hopes that he’ll eat it. Stick with a tried and true rotating repertoire of high energy, non-processed foods to keep him upbeat and active throughout the day.
Ask him what his friends are eating for lunch
He might try something new if he sees one of his new friends eating it, too. But seriously, don’t sweat it if his lunchbox is still full when you pick him up.
Make sure he gets lots of physical activity every day
The more active he is, the hungrier he will be!
Have dinner together as a family as much as possible
This is probably the best way to encourage healthy eating habits--you set a good example, and you can try new foods together.
Don’t use sweets as a reward
This is a tough one and can be hard to follow when you’re frazzled and it feels like he hasn’t eaten a vegetable in days. You might be successful in the short run, but you don’t want to set a precedent that vegetables are something to be “endured.”
Offer new foods all the time
And even if he rejects lentils one night, give it a shot again soon. It might take a few tries for him to decide if he really likes it or not. Or also try a different preparation--if he rejected the lentil salad, maybe he’ll like lentil soup instead.
Enlist his help in the kitchen
Getting him involved in the food prep is a great way to spend time together, but it also will teach him skills he’ll use his whole life. Let him measure, stir, tear, mix, mash, and pour, all while you’re teaching him about good nutrition habits.
This can often be one of the more infuriating pieces of parenting advice, but it’s true. Avoid power struggles over food and we guarantee that you’ll raise a healthy eater.