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feeding toddlers

Feeding Toddlers: The Power of Peer Pressure

Kate Freeman

“Feeding toddlers can be a huge area of frustration. They easily get stuck eating the same thing everyday, refusing to try anything new, especially if it’s green. Not to mention the tantrums, throwing of food and battles to just taste something.”

Parenting toddlers can be hard work.

In fact, the two biggest issues you’ll face in the first few years of your child’s life will be feeding and sleeping.

Feeding toddlers can be a huge area of frustration. They easily get stuck eating the same thing everyday, refusing to try anything new, especially if it’s green. Not to mention the tantrums, throwing of food and battles to just taste something.

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have stress free family meals, where your children happily ate their vegetables or gave something new a try? Sound like a fairytale? It’s not.

It is very possible to raise your toddler to become a confident, happy eater who’ll eagerly consume a wide variety of different foods. It just takes some strategic planning from our end and having a few tricks up our sleeves.

One of those tricks, is harnessing the power of peer pressure. Here are a few tips:

Have ‘healthy food’ play dates

Get your child eating regularly with other, less fussy, kids. Research shows that when your child is around other children who are happily eating vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, eggs and other foods, your child will be much more likely to join in.

Shared meal times with family and friends are a vital part of social inclusion and their psychological development.

Parent as a community

Parenting is hard and we need each other’s support. When you arrange a regular catch up with your friends who have kids the same age, make it a priority that you’ll always serve healthy food. You could even set other examples like staying active by catching up for a walk around your local lake or park. Support each other with developing healthy eating and lifestyle habits. It’ll be great for both you and your kids.

Include your child at family meal times

I know it’s tricky to eat together as a family when your children are very young. Sometimes both partners aren’t home from work early enough and your kids are losing the plot by 6.30pm because they’re tired and hungry.

If it’s not possible to do it everyday, just set a goal of doing it 1-2 times per week, something that’s realistic for your family and be consistent. When your children eat dinner with you and see you and their siblings eating healthy food, and are offered the same food as you, they will improve in leaps and bounds with their eating habits.

It’s also a really important part of their social and psychological development to be included regularly in family meals and offered the same thing to eat.

Serve the kids shared healthy food at playgroup

If you regularly attend a playgroup with your child/children during the week, how about organise a few plates of ‘shared food’ for the kids to eat. A large group of children, all eating from the same plate of food is a great way to encourage fussy kids to try something new!

Get creative and put a wide variety of food on offer. Keep it colourful and fun! Your shared food plate could contain:

  • Carrot sticks – may need to be par-boiled for under 18 month olds
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Capsicum sticks
  • Green beans
  • Cucumber sticks
  • Hummus
  • Greek Yoghurt based dip
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Banana slices
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon cubes
  • Apple slices
  • Orange or mandarin wedges
  • Cheese cubes
  • Boiled egg halves
  • Chicken strips
  • Small meat balls
  • Wholegrain crackers
  • Cashews – only suitable for children with a full set of teeth
  • Peanuts– only suitable for children with a full set of teeth
  • Walnuts – only suitable for children with a full set of teeth

I regularly run sessions on feeding babies and toddlers. If you’d like some comprehensive information on feeding your fussy 1-4 year old, then get along to my next workshop on Thursday 26th May 7.30pm. A webinar is also available.

Image of ‘close up…‘ via Shuttertsock

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author