Growing up half Indian, my toddler loves all things rice (or rice based like idli, dosa), coconut, mango, etc. I’m glad that she’s exposed to different tastes through my husband’s culture, but I also want her to not just eat rice. I hope to introduce her to a wide variety of food and help her develop a diverse palate. Here are some tips I’ve used to help encourage healthy toddler eating habits.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Yes, seriously. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is my daughter’s favorite toddler show. It’s based on the old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood show and she loves it. Each episode has a catchy musical phrase tied to a life lesson. One episode has Daniel trying new food accompanied by the song “You gotta try new food cause it might taste good.” We sing this one often at our house. Honestly, singing this song has often (not always) encouraged her to try some new food that she might not be inclined to try.
Offer a variety of foods
Since I want her to eat and try different foods (other than her same ol’ favorites), I make a conscious effort to incorporate new and unique recipes and foods. Recently, I went on the Whole30 challenge and consequently tried many new recipes. This exposed her to new foods and recipes. I noticed that when I buy different foods that I don’t normally, she is often happy to try them. We recently tried delicata squash (which we both loved!). She also loves quinoa, but I don’t cook it often, so when I do she usually gobbles it right up.
Remember her favorite foods
I keep a mental note of my daughter’s favorite healthy foods and make sure to have these on hand often too. Everyone has a comfort food – my daughter has a bunch: idli, dosa, string cheese, pistachios, frozen blueberries.
Offer healthy snacks
If I don’t offer it (or buy it), then she can’t eat it. I try to keep a variety of healthy snacks available so that I don’t often offer her processed alternatives. (This doesn’t mean that we never eat those types of foods. My daughter loves Goldfish crackers and Cheerios. I just want to make sure that these aren’t the ONLY things she’s eating.) Here are some of our favorite healthy snacks: apple and peanut (or almond) butter, string cheese, nuts (especially pistachios), and smoothies.
Model healthy eating habits
If you eat a wide variety of foods yourself, this will set a great example for your child. I find that every time I’m eating my daughter usually wants to try whatever I have. Often I can get her to eat some unique food simply by casually eating in her presence (especially if I don’t make a big deal about what I’m eating). If I’m eating and honestly enjoying it, she’ll usually want to try. If I’m eating and I’m hiding because I don’t want to share, then she’ll definitely want to try! Many times this ends up with her taking over my bowl.
You don’t have to battle with your toddler over food and eating. You can encourage healthy toddler eating habits with these simple tips. Most importantly, model good, healthy eating habits and food choices for your child. I’d love to hear your tips for encouraging your toddler to eat healthy food.