Be a role model of healthy eating habits. Take the lead and most toddlers will follow.
Eat meals together as a family. In addition to encouraging good eating habits and allowing you to model eating behaviors, this provides some wonderful family time. Mealtimes should not involve chasing your toddler around with a spoonful of food.
Whenever possible, serve homemade meals rather than prepared or convenience foods. Encourage eating and snacking on fresh fruit and vegetables by having them cut up, ready to eat, and easily accessible.
Offer your toddler a variety of healthy foods, regardless of your own likes and dislikes. This is important for maintaining a balanced diet.
Introduce your toddler to new foods gradually. Studies have shown that some children will eat a new food only after tasting it five or more times.
Limit your toddler's juice intake: 4 ounces, or 1/2 cup (125 mL), a day is plenty. Water is a healthy option if she's thirsty.
Adjust portions to suit your child's comfort level. She can always come back for seconds.
Don't coerce or force-feed your toddler -- this is likely to have the opposite effect of the one you intend. Recognize that needs vary between children, and between meals for a particular child.
Ensure that you are providing an adequate source of iron in your child's diet, particularly in the case of big milk drinkers. Milk is low in iron, and the iron it does contain is poorly absorbed.
To minimize overweight and obesity, model healthy, active living by walking, playing, bicycling, or swimming together as a family.
Don't stand for distractions. The television should not be on during mealtimes.
Make mealtimes fun. Don't worry about the mess. Get your toddler involved in meal planning and preparation. Ask her to decorate a menu in crayon. Appoint her as the official taster.
What parents are often not prepared for are the behavioral changes that occur as their child enters the second year of life, and seemingly overnight becomes an opinionated, independent little personality who seems bent on testing their endurance on a daily basis.
That's when they will most need The Toddler Care Book by Dr. Jeremy Friedman. Written with pediatric colleagues from the renowned Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, this book is a thorough reference that provides age-appropriate strategies for dealing with the challenges parents face during the first five years. Designed to be user-friendly, it is chock full of practical information, easy-to-read charts, and helpful sidebars, enriched by more than 250 full-color photographs and illustrations.
Dr. Jeremy Friedman, MB.ChB, FRCP(C), FAAP, is the chief of pediatric medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children and an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto.