How To Promote Healthy Eating for Toddlers In 8 Easy & Effective Ways

healthy eating for toddlers

Building healthy habits for younger children regarding food choices through a healthy diet is important. 

Each family meal you prepare and serve for your children is a chance to encourage a good relationship with food. The new foods you introduce that are considered healthy help make you a good role model for a balanced diet.

Our parents’ job is to create and instill healthy eating habits in our kids. 

To do this, we must serve high-protein foods and lots of leafy greens, fruits, healthy snacks, and sweets in moderation.

This article will discuss starting healthy eating habits by introducing healthy food to kids through the menu you prepare and serve. 

We’ll talk about yummy choices and how to moderate those sweet treats to promote healthy eating for toddlers.

healthy eating for toddlers

Healthy Eating for Toddlers

The choices we make for foods for a family meal are the building blocks of a child’s relationship with food. This relationship and these eating habits follow a person into adulthood and, often, throughout their entire lives.

Encouraging healthy eating without being overbearing or forcing bland foods onto the plate and into your child’s belly is a tightrope walk for many parents. 

Too many of us develop a “my way or the highway” sense of authority regarding food and kids.

The following are some tips for helping your child to develop those healthy eating habits without pushing them away from anything that even looks a tiny bit healthy.

1. Have family meals together

Healthy eating begins at the family table.

Family meals teach kids many lessons, including what a balanced meal looks like. Your kids will also learn table manners, how to hold a conversation at the table with other children and adults, how to forge strong relationships with family, and more.

Having a set time for dinner every night in which everyone sits at the table is a great way to have a relaxed but structured environment for your children and toddlers to start developing a good relationship with food and family.

2. Don’t give up on picky eaters

New foods can be a little scary to kids, especially if they don’t look all that appealing at first glance. If your child claims to dislike a specific type of food, don’t push it to the point that your child is upset, but don’t give up.

For example, if your child decides they hate raw carrots, encourage them to keep trying them, but don’t force them. 

Instead, next time, consider cutting them julienne style and putting a fun spin on them. Now they’re not just raw carrots; they’re carrot french fries.

There are endless ways to prepare food. If your child doesn’t eat foods a certain way, try preparing them differently. Don’t give up, but don’t yell or chastise.

3. Make breakfast important

Breakfast is what jump-starts your energy every day after a night without eating. It helps to replenish your glucose levels, which for kids especially, means a boost of power and energy to get their day started.

Sitting down together at the breakfast table with your toddlers to have some iron-fortified cereal, fruits, whole milk with Vitamin D, or protein foods like eggs is a great way to give your children a starting point towards a healthy beginning for the day ahead.

4. Moderation is key

Good eating habits don’t mean you never have anything fun or “unhealthy” as a treat. 

Meal planning can come in handy because you can occasionally have a “cheat meal” as a family, such as hot dogs off the grill (be careful with these, as they can pose choking risks for small toddlers), take out Chinese, or a slice of pizza.

Desserts like ice cream, cake, and cookies are OK sometimes, and fun but not nutritionally balanced snacks are OK every now and then, too.

All things should be done in moderation. 

Life should taste good. But understanding that healthy foods and lean meats can taste good is a great way to instill good thoughts and practices regarding food.

5. Lead by example

Never expect your child to eat anything that you won’t eat. Scrunching up your nose at broccoli may be your natural reaction, but it’s one that your child will notice and then mimic.

Similarly, you will have little luck getting your child to eat fruit as snacks if you eat jelly beans. Or if you are chugging soda but only give your child water to drink.

Parents need to engage in meals and snacks that set an excellent example of what a balanced diet looks like. 

Nutrients must be present, and understand that if you set limits for yourself on junk food, portion sizes, and physical activity, your toddler will do the same.

6. Let your toddler help meal plan and cook

When you welcome your toddler into the kitchen with you to prepare and plan meals, you can help them make good choices for which they feel responsible.

When you present low-fat options, iron-rich foods, or other nutrient-rich foods, your toddler begins to feel as though they are eating food they picked and are more likely to eat them without a fight.

When your child actively makes the foods you eat as a family, they are more likely to embrace whole wheat and whole grains or choose low-fat or reduced-fat options. All of this without ever knowing about things like high cholesterol, calories, or what vitamin is in each food.

7. Encourage water and milk over sugary drinks

Drink water as a family, and avoid sugary mixes and processed fruit juices. Soda is another big no-no. 

Dairy products like whole milk are fine for small children who need the calcium and Vitamin D it offers as the fat content.

You can use reduced-fat or low-fat milk for older toddlers and young children.

Your child will never miss what they don’t taste, to begin with. Offering water as a means of hydration rather than a juice pouch or energy drink is the best way to encourage good habits.

Staying away from such drinks yourself so you’re setting a good example is another wonderful and easy choice you can make as a parent.

8. Enjoy food and meals

This is a very fast-paced world we’re living in, and dinner and time at the table for meals used to be how families connected and spent quality time together. 

However, putting your smartphone down, turning off the television, and enjoying your food is difficult.

You are teaching kids to slow down when you eat together as a family and encourage your toddler to take the time to notice the tastes, textures, and foods on the table and their plates.

This leads to self-regulation, which can help to ward off binge eating out of boredom, can help to prevent choking (choking risks are a genuine concern for a toddler), and time with parents that leads to fun conversations and memories.

healthy eating for toddlers

Toddler feeding schedule

Toddlers need food to stay alert, grow, and develop appropriately. 

Making a schedule for when your child should eat daily will help you stay on top of nutrition. Planning meals and snacks ahead of time will keep your toddler from feeling hungry throughout the day but keep their appetite healthy so that they aren’t overly full, either.

No two families will have the same schedule, but if you need some tips and examples of a feeding schedule for your toddler, the following can be used as a loose guideline.

Sample toddler feeding schedule

  • 7 am: Breakfast
  • 9:30 am: Nutritious snacks
  • Noon: Lunch
  • 3 pm: Nutritious snacks
  • 5:3opm: Dinner

Nutrition for toddlers

Nutrients are important for your child to have daily. 

While there will be times when you’ll have a cheat meal here or there, sticking to the food pyramid, recommended serving sizes, and nutrition-based meals and snacks will help your child to develop properly and maintain good health.

The following are some nutrition needs your child needs to meet each day.

1. Protein foods

This can include lean meats, seafood, fish, nuts, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables. Kids who like to eat meat can often get plenty of protein from lean chicken and beef, while vegetarian households may need to depend more on alternatives.

Make sure before you serve nuts that your child is not allergic and that they do not pose a serious choking risk. Like hot dogs, the size and shape of nuts pose a choking hazard whenever your child is allowed to eat them.

2. Produce

Fruits and vegetables that are fresh and not fried or battered are great for kids. There are also many fruits and vegetables to choose from, so your kids will indeed find something they like.

3. Complex carbs

Grains, potatoes, squash, and other complex carbohydrates are great for hungry toddlers. These foods, dairy, meat, vegetables, and fruits will give your kids a healthy and well-rounded diet.


The food you offer your kids and the example you set for them is fundamental to healthy eating for toddlers. 

Vegetables, milk full of Vitamin D and calcium, whole grains and wheat, and lean meats are great additions to the diet for your kids.

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