5 Ways to Introduce New Foods to Your Toddler

By Lucille Lannigan

Healthy eating is crucial for your toddler as they grow and develop. Starting early on in childhood means there may be less of a chance they develop chronic diseases and conditions like obesity, heart disease or type 2 diabetes. The Mayo Clinic emphasizes nutrient-dense food like protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy. It also suggests limiting your child’s calories from added sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats.

There are several ways you can implement healthy eating and expose your children to healthy and new foods, which can guide them into a well-rounded nutritious diet from day one.

1) Start them young

Among the health benefits that come with healthy eating at a young age, it is also easier to introduce new foods to your children the younger they are. As toddlers, they are more exploratory and open to trying new things. Healthy eating habits from a young age will set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating, according to the study, “Tracking of Obesity-Related Behaviours From Childhood to Adulthood: A Systematic Review.”

2) Be a role model

There is evidence that children model the behavior they see from adults or other older figures. When introducing a new food to your toddler, have the whole family participate and enjoy the food. If your toddler sees those they look up to enjoying this new food, they may be more likely to enjoy it as well

3) Exposure and variety

Use a strategy when preparing for mealtimes. Alternate between dinners your children enjoy and dinners they may be unfamiliar with and also incorporate foods they like into meals with foods they may not like. Jill Castle, a pediatric dietitian, says that the path to having children accept new foods is to repeatedly expose your toddler to them. Castle referenced a 2016 PLOS study that says offering a disliked food up to eight times leads to eventual acceptance.

4) Involve kids in meal planning and preparation

Sit down with your kiddos and let them help pick out which fruits or vegetables they want to eat with dinner or as a snack. Talk to them about their choices and why they’re good ones. Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone. Finally, let them participate in preparation whether it’s stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh ingredients or other simple tasks. Having your kid watch the process may make them more excited to eat.

5) Be patient

Try to not get discouraged with your child if they are refusing to eat a new food. Encourage them to try it, and if they can’t finish that day, move past the situation. Reprimanding them or forcing them to eat foods they do not like can stress them, and you, out and make them shy away from trying new foods in the future. Be encouraging and patient and applaud them for the small steps they take toward healthy eating.

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