Getting Your Toddler to Eat Healthy Foods

Child 2: Too Many Snacks & Liquids

The Eater: Danielle Peck, 27 months

Daily Food Intake

9:00 a.m.
scrambled egg
1/2 regular-size Eggo Waffle
6 oz. 50 percent orange juice/50 percent water

11:00 a.m.
1 mini-box raisins
5 1/2 oz. apple juice

11:30 a.m.
1 package Dora fruit snacks

1:00 p.m.
8 mini Oreo Cookies

5:00 p.m.
hot dog with white bun (2/3 serving)
handful Lays potato chips
2 bites white cupcake with buttercream icing
4 oz. lemonade
1/2 small portable cup vanilla ice cream

6:30 p.m.
3 pieces Andes chocolate candies
1 mini Hershey's chocolate bar (4 squares)
few licks of a lollipop

9:00 p.m.
5 oz. skim milk
handful colored Goldfish

Diet Makeover

What Mom Says: "Danielle ends up snacking throughout the day when we're running here and there and these foods aren't always the most nutritious choices. Danielle, along with my other two kids, can be picky. I've given up trying to get them to eat anything besides pizza, pasta, chicken nuggets, or hot dogs," says Davora Peck, mother of three kids under age 6, in San Antonio.

The Good News: Danielle starts each day with a hearty breakfast. Her mom tries to keep cookies and chips out of the house because she's aware Danielle will fill up on them like she did at her sister's birthday party, as seen in the diary.

What to Improve: The nutritionally poor choices -- hot dogs and other processed foods -- Danielle fills up on leave no room for better fare. Plus, Danielle drinks more juice than the 4 to 6 oz. recommended per day and she typically snacks on simple carbohydrates, such as fruit gummies, crackers, and white bread, which are high in calories and sugar but low in nutrients, such as fiber and protein.

Realistic Solutions: Danielle's mom could give breakfast a nutritional boost by adding fruits, such as strawberries, bananas, or single-serving tropical fruits packed in water, which add a fun twist and are very convenient. Whenever possible, she can also offer a healthier version of a kid-friendly favorite: Because Danielle likes chicken nuggets, her mom can bread chicken tenderloins and bake them. You can also replace breads, crackers, bagels, and waffles with their whole-grain versions. Water (or watered-down juice) and whole fruit, such as apple slices, are simple swaps for times Danielle wants juice or fruit snacks. Other choices: halved grape tomatoes, cheese, or a hard-boiled egg.

To prevent Danielle from grazing on junk food, her mom should have Danielle sit at the table for meals, which should consist of less processed fare from at least two food groups. Adding vegetables to meals can take little effort too: Microwave frozen broccoli or green beans or try canned carrots (rinse well to remove much of the salt). If Danielle rejects the new food, her mom can try to find another healthy substitute but shouldn't give in.

What Worked: "I've been including vegetables with at least one meal a day. Danielle and I make a deal that she has to take at least one bite of all the good foods on her plate. Sometimes she even wants more. Although Danielle wouldn't eat veggies as a snack, she did accept the fruit instead of the gummies. Plus, I've been including the kids in planning the weekly meals. They each get to pick one. This way they each get one night of their favorite food, but it'll be a healthier choice, such as baked chicken nuggets," says Peck.

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