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Encouraging Good Eating Habits in Toddlers

  • Children this age generally dislike green foods and foods with strong odors. To a toddler, a sprinkle of parsley ruins a serving of buttered noodles—otherwise a sure winner. Advise your server of this every time you order any meal in a restaurant. Think plain.

  • Bring flat magnets and/or small toys and books with you to restaurants as a backup. The way to keep a toddler sitting in his chair is to keep his mind and hands busy. Don't go empty-handed unless you're planning to dine for less than five minutes—and that includes the four minutes it takes to strap him into the high chair.

  • While in the restaurant, try to keep baby at the table until the end of the meal. Usually a little one-on-one attention goes a long way, so if baby acts up, try playing a round of peek-a-boo or offer a book.

  • If your child tries to eat something you wouldn't expect him to like, watch for a reaction, but remember some toddlers really like spicy or unusual foods. To our great surprise, my friend's toddler loved Caesar salad and wanted it all the time!

  • If your toddler is a really fussy eater, serve his food on a standard-size dinner plate, rather than a child-size plate. He may think he is eating less than usual.

  • Our toddler would refuse to eat apples on certain days and yet he adored them on others. It drove me nuts trying to figure out why. One day after he learned to talk, he said, "Mommy, I don't like the apples when they have garbage on them." I realized he was talking about apples that his busy mother had washed without removing the grocery store sticker.

  • How do you encourage your toddler to drink from a cup and drop his bottle dependency? Serve good old-fashioned lemonade! Just squeeze a lemon wedge into eight to ten ounces of water and add sugar or honey.

  • If your toddler doesn't like fruits and vegetables, start slipping them into other foods. Try potato pancakes, applesauce pancakes, and fruits mixed into gelatin. Add grated carrots to spaghetti sauce and celery and onions to meatballs. Be creative, and use a blender or food processor to help you disguise foods.

  • My grandmother used to say, "I made you eggs, sugar, and toast with butter for breakfast." Then she would give me an oatmeal cookie! That's how she slipped oatmeal into my diet. And it worked!

  • You should consider your family mealtime a number-one priority. If you teach your child from an early age that no matter what the stress or challenge of the day, there will always be dinner with family, then you will be feeding her soul.

  • The point of a mealtime together is to provide a consistent schedule for everyone to rely on. If you don't like to cook at night, no worries! Order a pizza on Tuesdays or go out for dinner on Wednesdays. Do whatever works for your family.

  • It amazes me how many toddlers absolutely adore Chinese food! Don't be afraid to try it out with your family, especially fun things like spareribs. Toddlers love to gnaw on bones.

  • Whenever you purchase treats such as lollipops, sort them by color and repackage them in separate bags. When other children are around—especially other toddlers—you'll have only one color to offer, and you'll avoid the challenges of competition.

  • If your child clings to your leg while you're in the kitchen, he could be hungry. Anywhere else, he could be starving for attention—that's when you "feed" him with lots of hugs and kisses!


Copyright © 2006 by Jeanne Murphy. Excerpted from Your Happy Toddler with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.

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