5 Top Tips for Developing Healthy Eating Habits in Your Toddler

  1. Model healthy eating

Toddlers feel safe and confident eating what you are eating as most toddlers are very risk adverse when it comes to trying new foods, as per tip number 2. If you want your kids to eat their vegetables, sit down with them as they eat theirs and have your own portion too. Show them how to eat and enjoy healthy food. Better still, if you can, try to eat as a family, making meals a safe, loving and enjoyable experience – not based around the quantity of food eaten.

  1. Avoid saying “Eat your vegetables and you can have some pudding!”

It’s fine to offer food as a reward for good behaviour – that will not create an unhealthy relationship with food. What can create an unhealthy relationship with food is offering food rewards for eating certain foods, for example, avoid rewarding eating vegetables with a piece of cake. All it will do is reinforce the dislike of vegetables. Interestingly researchers have also found that telling toddlers that the food is good for them to encourage eating is unhelpful.

  1. Having to offer foods many, many, many times before a toddler will take an interest is perfectly natural behaviour

Again, this behaviour comes down to self-preservation, they want to be completely sure that this new food is OK. When you are in the thick of this continual rejection, do not be perturbed – it’s normal. Most parents, when questioned, offer a new food 3-5 times before they stop offering it, claiming their toddler does not like it. Keep persisting, while you are getting through this stage make like you have amnesia, and keep offering a little of the foods they have not yet warmed too. Offer it up with the foods that they think are yum and just wait, one day it will make it into their mouth. Until then, you will have a thriving compost heap.


Elspeth Witton is a registered nurse, specialising in infant-maternal sleeping, feeding and emotional needs. She is co-founder of The Baby Sleep Practitioners

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