Many parents feel apprehensive as their child transitions from infant to toddler. Why? Toddlers in their terrible twos are, well, terrible! They want to be independent and they want to eat what they want to eat, not what’s necessarily good for them. Additionally, some parents discover that tastes change as toddlers age. Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, explains, “It’s important to remember that a toddler’s appetite can temporarily wane when teething or ill, causing temporary disregard even for tried-and-true mealtime favorites. Older toddlers may reject foods to garner attention or as a way to assert their independence, or both, because it’s fun to watch their parents react. Whatever the case, because toddlers are characteristically fickle, parents should remain flexible. And, they should try not to worry.” So how do we, as parents, “remain flexible,” as Ward suggests? Always have plenty of meal ideas at your disposal. Try to have a small number of “go to” meals, but also have “Plan B” meals if your toddler suddenly changes their tastes.
Healthy Meal Ideas for Toddlers
Even if your toddler is a peach, gladly eating everything you put in front of him or her, you may be wondering what exactly you should feed your toddler for optimal nutrition. Here are some meal ideas, broken down in food groups, that could help inspire you to introduce some new meals into your toddler’s diet.
- Grains: Try to choose whole grains for your toddler, for optimal nutrition and fiber. Great grains could include whole grain pita, whole grain pasta salad with olive oil, whole grain toast, or pita chips.
- Fruits: Toddlers love the sugar in fruits, which make for a healthy snack. Try sliced bananas or apples, or even a fruit salad.
- Vegetables: Cooked broccoli is good for a dinnertime meal, while you can feed your toddler carrot sticks on the go.
- Dairy: Fruit yogurt, cheese, a fruit and yogurt smoothie, and milk could all satisfy dairy requirements for your toddler.
- Protein: Every little boy or girl needs protein in their diet for optimal growth and muscle development. Turkey, ham, chicken slices, chicken nuggets, or peanut butter could each comprise a protein serving.
- Snack ideas: Snacks are essential for hungry toddlers. Try snacks that are portable, like graham crackers, applesauce, cheese slices, dry cereal, muesli with blueberries, cheese cubes, milk, fortified fruit juice, or mini sandwiches on whole grain bread.
Tips for Fun and Peaceful Mealtimes
Sometimes, mealtime with a feisty toddler can be difficult. WebMD.com recommends that you practice these tips to have a peaceful mealtime with your little boy or girl:
- Sit and eat with your toddler
- Don’t pressure your toddler to eat what they don’t want
- Provide structure with mealtime
- Make 3 meals and 2 snacks per day
By feeding your toddler the right nutrients in the right fashion you may see an improvement in their behavior. Your child will surely exhibit signs of being happier and healthier when they’re eating healthy snacks.