Cheat sheet to develop healthy eating habits in your fussy toddler
|   Jul 23, 2016
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Cheat sheet to develop healthy eating habits in your fussy toddler

Fussy seems to be a permanent adjective used to describe a toddler. Every mother longs for her infant to start walking about and switch over to solid food so that she attains her long­lost freedom as well. The moment the baby steps into the terrible twos and she understands why they are called so, she is forced to think if infancy was the better time of the two. If you are mom to a toddler, fret not! We have all been through it and trust me, it doesn’t take much to change the terrible twos to terrific twos!

First of all, understand the fact that though this is a phase and shall pass, you need to develop healthy habits right now as whatever the baby picks up now is more or less bound to stick with her for life. It is not without reason that these years are known as the formative years of life. 90% of the brain development occurs in the first six years of life, after all. One cannot afford to miss out on the right nutrition.

Secondly, understand your responsibilities as well as limitations as a parent. We, parents, especially mothers, take it as a personal responsibility to feed our children, whether they like it or not, and a bit too enthusiastically. It is your job to offer healthy choices to your baby, but not to thrust it down her throat. Remember, we are trying to teach, not enforce.

Don’t give up!

Your toddler is now exploring the world and realising the degree of her freedom. She also is trying to exercise control on things and learn the extent of her independence, therefore you must have noticed a lot of ‘no’s and headshakes. Psychologists say this is nothing but a power struggle that the toddler experiences at this stage. You need to handle this carefully. Do not get into a tug­of­war with your baby but do not give in as well! If she refuses one kind of food, don’t give up! Re­introduce it in time and you will be surprised to know that according to experts, it might take as much as 15 attempts to get a child to eat a new thing!

Eat as a family

Offer your baby a structured meal time with the family sitting and eating together. There is no one who can teach her better than you. Be a role model for your child in eating habits as well. Avoid distractions like the TV or mobile phone. Make mealtime a pleasant and joyous time that the toddler enjoys.

Do not threaten/coerce/hit

A common thing that parents do is threaten a child with punishment or withdrawal of privileges on not eating a particular food item. Threatening to take away her stuff toy is going to make her hate the greens all the more. Same goes for hitting. I know a mother who takes her child with herself into a room and latches it and then feeds her with her hand, threatening to slap her if she doesn’t. I wonder how she believes it will help her daughter develop a liking to food? It is equally important not to use food as reward. Doing any of these things will only confuse the child as to the importance of food and she will start attaching either too much or too little of it.

Offer smaller but frequent meals

A toddler’s capacity to stay in one place, eat and be patient, are all different from adults. The doctor may have told you she can eat what you do since she was one­year­old but do not take it that she can eat the same amount or stay put like you. Make her eat with you on usual meal times but don’t insist on the quantity. Offer her healthy snacks or small meals in between as well. Letting her feed 5­6 times on small portions is better than forcing her to eat sumptuously thrice a day.

Offer choice

You may withdraw the privilege later but when your child is a toddler, offer her choice. She is new to food and her likes and dislikes may be transient and changing every day. Be careful to avoid offering or allowing junk food as an alternative when she refuses food. Offer her a healthy but tasty and visually attractive alternative. If she does not like the taste of cow’s milk she has recently switched to, try mixing up a health drink to change the flavor and color. Nowadays, you can find age appropriate health drinks in the market that focus on right growth and brain development in the early years.

Don’t be scared of the mess

If your toddler makes a lot of mess while eating, let her. I know it is difficult and you will the one wiping and cleaning everything, but trust me, it is way better than developing the habit of feeding your child with your own hands. That is one habit that will be awfully hard to get rid of, so don’t mind the mess and don’t lose your sleep over the dress she spoils.

Fat is not health

Chubbiness is not a sign of good health and being lean does not in any way signify ill­health. Focus on keeping the toddler healthy, instead of making her gain weight. As long as the baby is active, playful and not falling sick, she is just fine. In our society especially, a baby’s weight is synonymous with health and the mother’s care, so the pressure can be immense but let it be. You know best. Trust your instincts and take cue from your baby.

Raising smart and active children does not have to be tough. All it takes is a little tact and a little patience!

Let me know if these tips helped you and any other that you have used and it worked. Let’s share!

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