Finding healthy foods for your toddler can be challenging, but there are some foods that I’ve found work well for my kids.
When I first became a father, I had no idea how challenging food would become. I figured, “buy food, children eat.” Simple, right? Too simple, it turns out. Kids, or at least mine, quickly develop preferences just like adults. Yesterday, they loved yoghurt, but today they’ll have nothing to do with it. What will they prefer tomorrow? Who knows!
It becomes a parent’s responsibility to encourage your toddlers to try new tastes and textures while keeping in mind that a young body needs healthy, nourishing foods to help them grow. This doesn’t have to mean feeding them just vegetables, but mixing in a diet of proteins, carbohydrates, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. I also believe that kids need to be exposed to nuts (both ground and tree nuts) as early as possible in life, principally because nuts are an excellent source of protein but also because I want to avoid nut allergies. Thankfully, neither of my kids have shown any sign of nut allergies or any other allergic reaction.
Here are some healthy foods I’ve found work well with my toddlers:
Low fat Greek yoghurt
This type of yoghurt contains bacteria that is known to boost immunity and help in digestion. Also, it has double amount of protein and less sugar than other types of yoghurts. To make the yoghurt a bit more interesting, I mix in some fresh fruit, homemade jam, or honey to add a bit of sweetness or tanginess.
Blueberries contain a rich mix of vitamins and minerals — iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K — that help with bone growth and important for young bodies that are growing! They are also a great source of vitamin C and help young bodies with digestion.
I’ve tried to reduce my toddlers’ intake of milk, but there is no denying the benefits the proteins and calcium bring. Proteins aid in building the tissues in the brain while the calcium in the body is used in strengthening of the toddler’s bone and also the teeth.
Apples, Bananas, oranges, strawberries, raspberries – whatever is in season, I try to have plenty on hand. Rather than snacking on junk food, I hand out apple slices or orange wedges whenever one of my toddlers gets ‘hangry’* or asks for food.
* SIDENOTE: I discovered recently that my oldest’s meltdowns were mainly caused by hunger (low blood sugar, perhaps?). Kids can tell you when they’re hungry, but they don’t understand when their body needs a bit of a pick-me-up. So, if one of them is getting a bit whiny or bursts into tears over something trivial, I put some fruit in their hands (or a bit of toast) and get them to sit for 5-10 mins. I’d say 90% of the time, that helps pull them back together.
Eggs are rich in proteins and vitamin D. Vitamin D is useful to the toddler’s body since it helps the body in absorbing calcium. Eggs are also fun because they can be served in a variety of ways. My youngest is a big fan of ‘soldiers’, dipping pieces of toast into a soft-boiled egg. Of course, there is a bit more cleanup afterwards…
It may seem like an odd food to choose, but cabbage can help trigger enzymes that clean out toxins in the body. It is also a great finger food and provides an interesting texture when it is raw. Or I can make some sauerkraut or coleslaw to mix things up and play with the flavors.
Salmon contains lots of great omega 3 fats and is also known to improve brain development. Mercury is always a question in salmon (especially farmed salmon), so I try my best to only get my salmon from a fish monger I trust. I think the benefits outweigh the risks, but you’ll need to be the judge for your own kids.
Rich in proteins, fiber and calcium, black beans offer a lot to a growing toddler. It is also another food that can be served in a variety of ways, so it keeps it interesting for my children. I can have beans as a side, mixed into a salad, as part of a stew or vegetarian chili, and so much more.
My dad used to make me toast with a bit of butter and cinnamon every morning before he went to work. It’s a memory I’ve cherished and so I love that I can pass this on to my kids. I’ve read that cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar, but I just enjoy this bit of shared experience. I will also sprinkle a bit on an apple slice, again to change the flavor a bit and keep food interesting.
Toddlers are at an interesting point in their development. They are just starting to develop their own set of preferences and opinions, so it can be challenging to get them to eat healthy foods. I find this especially true once they start going to preschool and are interacting with other kids. I try to mix up the foods I offer, mainly through seasoning or style of preparation. This way I can keep my weekly grocery shopping consistent but still offer a healthy variety to my increasingly persnickety toddlers.
What are some foods or seasonings you find work well with your toddlers? I’d love to hear about it.