Toddlers often have their own ideas about how meal times ought to go - including, but not limited to, spaghetti on the ceiling and mashed potato face paints!

Try out some of these tips to help your little ones build a good relationship with food, develop healthy eating habits, and make food preparation and meal times go a little more smoothly.

Don't let your toddler fill up on milk

Many toddlers love milk, and would drink it all day if they could! Offer them up to three cups of milk per day, and water for all other drinks. Remember that your toddler must have full fat milk until they're at least two years old.

Offer small meals and regular snacks

Small meal servings and regular snacks are the best way to keep up your toddler's energy throughout the day. Their tiny tummies are not accustomed to just three large main meals a day. A toddler often may not eat as much as you would like them to at dinner time - try to remember that this is normal and that as long as they are getting plenty of regular, healthy nutrition, then there's no reason to stress yourself out over it.

Use frozen chicken stock to cool down hot food

Make up some healthy chicken stock and freeze some in an ice cube tray. When serving hot casseroles, soups or stews, mix in a stock ice cube to cool it down without watering down the flavour. 

Offer foods in containers and bags

Try offering food in small containers and bags instead of on a plate. Many toddlers enjoy picking food out of things because it challenges their tiny fingers. Zip lock sandwich bags are an easy option. Some foods you could try are corn kernels, sultanas and diced cucumber.

Get a mini fry pan

If you don't already own a miniature frying pan, consider buying one. Frying up eggs, meat, etc in toddler sized portions becomes so much easier when there's only a tiny frying pan to clean afterwards.

Try to make foods visually exciting

Get your toddler excited about what's on their plate by making it visually appealing to them. Arrange fruit pieces to look like smiley faces, bake healthy biscuits using cookie cutters in the shapes of things they like, etc. 

Save leftovers

Save leftovers to use in other meals. For example, if your toddler doesn't eat their vegetables at dinner time, save them for the next morning so you can cook them in with scrambled eggs.

Keep offering refused foods

Even if your toddler refuses a certain food, offer it again another day. It can often take several attempts before they will try something new.

Offer new foods when your toddler is relaxed and alert

When offering unfamiliar foods, timing can often be everything. Try to offer new food when you are both relaxed and your toddler is not tired.

Minimize distractions

Try to minimize distractions at meal times. Turn off the TV, take toys away from the table, etc. Toddlers are very easily sidetracked and will find it difficult to sit still and eat while so many other things are going on.

Eat healthy yourself

Set a good example for your toddler. Let them see you eating a variety of healthy foods.

Have your toddler help with cooking

If your toddler is at the stage where they want to help with everything, have them help out with safe parts of cooking such as rinsing vegetables or mixing ingredients. This encourages a good relationship with food and home cooking.

Use healthy dips instead of processed sauces

Many toddlers love to dip their food in sauces. By providing them with healthy dipping sauces (eg. Greek yoghurt with avocado blended through) they may be encouraged to eat more of what's on their plate.

Offer unfamiliar foods with favorites

Try introducing unfamiliar foods to your toddler by offering them alongside their favorites. 

Engage your toddler's senses at meal time

When introducing new foods, engage your toddler's senses by discussing the texture, colour and smell of the food. This may be more exciting to them than confining the experience to taste alone.

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