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Eat­ing a healthy, bal­anced diet is imper­a­tive for young chil­dren, so steer­ing them away from junk food and sweets is vital for their phys­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al development. With per­se­ver­ance and patience, and knowl­edge of a bal­anced diet, you can ensure that your tod­dler is con­sum­ing healthy food that will help them to thrive in child­hood and lat­er in life. Stud­ies have shown that a healthy diet can have enor­mous health ben­e­fits. It can help to main­tain a healthy weight, sta­bi­lize a child’s mood, improve aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance, pre­vent phys­i­cal health prob­lems, improve their men­tal and emo­tion­al well-being and even low­er the risk of suicide. Fur­ther­more, diet is often exam­ined in chil­dren who suf­fer from con­di­tions such as depres­sion, ADHD, schiz­o­phre­nia, bipo­lar and anx­i­ety. Thus, a healthy diet for tod­dlers is an impor­tant dai­ly habit.

- Start Early

First, estab­lish healthy eat­ing habits in the ear­ly years of your child’s life. Make healthy food nor­mal. Be sure to set a good exam­ple by eat­ing healthy food your­self, and avoid pack­aged and processed foods because your chil­dren will imi­tate you. You should aim to eat food as close to its nat­ur­al state as pos­si­ble. Pro­mote this habit by dis­guis­ing healthy food. Add veg­eta­bles to a deli­cious stew, mash-up car­rots with mashed pota­to and think about the way you present food so that it appeals to children.

- Involve Your Children

Healthy Eating Habits for Kids l healthy habits for kids l healthy eating for kids l healthy eating kids l kids healthy eating plate Cook with your chil­dren. Cook­ing more meals at home is an effec­tive way to ensure the nutri­tion of your meals, and includ­ing chil­dren in the prepa­ra­tion of the food makes them more famil­iar with the ingre­di­ents of their meals and teach­es them a valu­able life lesson. Have your kids decide what is on the menu some days, and who knows, they might even start cook­ing for you when they’re old enough. You could even take this one step fur­ther and grow some food at home if you have space and the resources.

- Eat Breakfast

This may sound obvi­ous, but many peo­ple skimp on or skip alto­geth­er the first meal of the day. Encour­age your chil­dren to eat a whole­some and sub­stan­tial break­fast, which will help them study and play and feed them food such as enriched cere­al, fish, meat, milk, eggs, cheese or yogurt.

If You’re Strapped For Time, You Could Try One Of The Following Techniques To Ensure a Healthy Breakfast:

Boil eggs at the begin­ning of the week and give one to your chil­dren every day, as well as a piece of fruit and some healthy cereal. Make break­fast bur­ri­tos and freeze them. Fill a wrap with scram­bled eggs, chick­en or beef and cheese. For tod­dlers, these can be small­er or mini burritos.

- Come Together

Meals should be an expe­ri­ence. They can bring fam­i­lies togeth­er and can rein­force the impor­tance of meals as a healthy dai­ly ritual. Sit down at least once a day to eat a meal as a fam­i­ly, and if your tod­dler is at home with you most of the day, eat with them as much as possible. Encour­age chil­dren to enjoy healthy food and the expe­ri­ence of eat­ing, as this will help them to make pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tions with nutri­tious food. Eat­ing togeth­er allows you to mod­el healthy eat­ing to your chil­dren and to talk over any prob­lems your chil­dren are hav­ing. There are enor­mous ben­e­fits to sit­ting down togeth­er to enjoy a meal that has been pre­pared by one or more fam­i­ly members.

- Snacks

Chil­dren of any age like to snack. Lim­it their access to sweets and unhealthy snacks, and offer them fruit instead. Of course, this won’t appeal to many chil­dren, so, as men­tioned pre­vi­ous­ly, find a way to present the fruit appealingly. Add a dash of hon­ey to chopped fruit, and for sum­mer days, make pop­si­cles with 100% fruit juice or kebabs with dif­fer­ent fruits. Remem­ber, pre­sen­ta­tion is impor­tant, so try a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent colours. Fur­ther­more, make a fruit treat. Sell the snack as a reward or spe­cial treat from an ear­ly age to cre­ate the habit in toddlers. Try car­rots or cel­ery with a dip such as hum­mus, or offer some cute lit­tle pro­tein balls. Need fur­ther inspi­ra­tion? Go fruit pick­ing with your toddler!

- Sugar

The great temp­ta­tion. Chil­dren crave it; we crave it. How­ev­er, chil­dren can get all of their required dai­ly intake of sug­ar from that which occurs nat­u­ral­ly in food. That’s right, nutri­tion­ists tell us that there is no need to add any sug­ar to food, pro­vid­ed a child is eat­ing a bal­anced diet. Added sug­ar can lead to dia­betes, weight gain, den­tal prob­lems, obe­si­ty, hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty and mood dis­or­ders lat­er in life, so avoid adding any sug­ar to the meals your tod­dler consumes. Kids who are 2–18 should have less than 25 grams or 6 tea­spoons of added sug­ar dai­ly for a healthy heart, rec­om­mend­ed for chil­dren by the Amer­i­can Heart Asso­ci­a­tion. The aver­age soda con­tains 10 tea­spoons of sug­ar. Also, stud­ies show about 75% of pack­ages of food in the USA con­tain added sug­ar. Again, the mes­sage is clear; avoid pack­aged and processed food where possible.

- Refined Carbs

Foods such as white bread, piz­za dough, pas­ta, pas­tries, white flour and white rice, and many pop­u­lar break­fast kinds of cere­al, fall into the cat­e­go­ry of sim­ple or refined carbohydrates. This sim­ply means that they are refined grains that have been stripped of bran, fibre and nutrients. Not only have these foods removed the nutri­tious ele­ment, but they also pro­vide a sud­den rise in blood sug­ar, which, as we all know, pro­duces sig­nif­i­cant mood swings in chil­dren, as well as neg­a­tive phys­i­cal side effects. Aim to feed your tod­dler what are known as com­plex carbs. These can be found in food such as nuts, fruit, beans, brown rice, whole wheat or multi­grain bread, high-fibre cere­als and non-starchy vegetables. As men­tioned ear­li­er, eat­ing food close to its nat­ur­al state can help to keep your tod­dler healthy. Com­plex car­bo­hy­drates pro­vide longer-last­ing ener­gy because the body digests them more slowly.

- Alternatives

Tod­dlers will demand tasty food. As hard as you try to keep them to healthy foods, they will taste junk food at some point, and they will be hooked. So, how do you steer them away from the food they crave?

Here Are Some Alternatives:

  • Choc chip cook­ies – Fig bars, vanil­la wafers or fruit with caramel dip
  • Dough­nuts and pas­tries – Bagels, Eng­lish muffins or home­made pas­tries with less sugar.
  • Fried chick­en – Baked or grilled chicken.
  • French fries – Baked fries, light­ly salt­ed and grilled.
  • Ice cream – Yoghurt, sor­bet or fruit smoothies.

- Eating Out

Healthy Eating Habits for Kids l healthy habits for kids l healthy eating for kids l healthy eating kids l kids healthy eating plate Spe­cial occa­sions, rewards and fam­i­ly time should be cel­e­brat­ed with a night out, which can also be healthy. Choose a restau­rant that you know offers some nutri­tious options and unhealthy food or treats. Avoid the fries and instead order the option with sal­ad or veg­eta­bles. Do the same when order­ing the kids’ meal, which will usu­al­ly offer the option of fries. Many meals will offer sides, and few of these are nutritious. Mon­i­tor por­tion sizes. Overeat­ing among chil­dren can be as dam­ag­ing as eat­ing unhealthy food, so lim­it the amount of food your tod­dler con­sumes when eat­ing out, just as you would at home. Give your tod­dler a treat from time to time, but be sure to let them know that it is sim­ply a treat.

- Fat

There are good fats and bad fats. Feed your tod­dler monoun­sat­u­rat­ed fats and polyun­sat­u­rat­ed fats , and avoid trans fats. Monoun­sat­u­rat­ed and polyun­sat­u­rat­ed fats are found in pump­kin, sesame seeds, nuts, avo­ca­dos and olive oil, as well as wal­nuts, flaxseed and fish such as salmon, her­ring and mackerel. Junk foods, includ­ing fried food and cook­ies, are full of trans fats. Be aware also that trans fats can be found in par­tial­ly hydro­genat­ed veg­etable oils, some baked goods and some kinds of margarine.

- Fussy Foodies

Chil­dren can be fussy, so expose them to many dif­fer­ent nutri­tious foods, in many dif­fer­ent forms, from an ear­ly age. If they are fussy, present new foods as an adven­ture, an expe­ri­ence, and make it fun, remem­ber­ing only to present one new food at a time.

- Exercise

Of course, healthy food must be com­ple­ment­ed by the exer­cise your child is doing to stay healthy. Set an exam­ple by exer­cis­ing your­self and where pos­si­ble, make phys­i­cal activ­i­ty part of your reg­u­lar fam­i­ly rou­tine. Find sport­ing teams and phys­i­cal activ­i­ties in your com­mu­ni­ty for your child to join and explain the link between a bal­anced diet and phys­i­cal growth, and ath­let­ic performance.

Last But Not Least!

The phys­i­cal, men­tal and emo­tion­al ben­e­fits of a healthy diet in young chil­dren are proven. Guid­ing chil­dren away from junk food and peer pres­sure is dif­fi­cult but impor­tant, and with knowl­edge and per­se­ver­ance, this can be achieved. Set a pos­i­tive exam­ple by eat­ing well your­self, and get chil­dren into pos­i­tive habits as ear­ly as possible. Avoid pack­aged and processed foods and eat food close to its nat­ur­al state when at home and eat­ing out. Sit down as a fam­i­ly and pre­pare food at home, and fill your meals with as many fresh ingre­di­ents as possible.

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