‘ I kept my daughter away from sugar and white flour for the first two years of her life, but now that she’s around other children more, it’s become next to impossible to keep her eating habits “pure”.’
Alas, the days of gastronomic innocence – when biscuits, Smarties and iced fairy cakes neither crossed your child’s mind nor passed for lips – are gone and gone for good.
Of course, you could protect her nutrition virtue by locking her up in an ivory tower stocked only with healthy foods. But allow her to live in the real world – among the diet-sabotaging influences of peers, television commercials and gimmicky food packaging – and temptation will never be far away, ever beckoning her to stray from the whole-grain and sucrose-free.
In the face of such temptation, making sure your toddler eat rights will undoubtedly be a struggle. But with the solid foundation you’ve already aid, and the following tips, it’s a struggle from which good nutrition can ultimately emerge triumphant:
- Make home a nutritional haven. You may not always be able to oversee your child’s eating habit when she’s out, but you can when she’s at home. By keeping your home true to the Toddler Diet tradition, free – or mostly free – of foods made with white flour, excess fat, sugar and artificial colors, chemicals and other nutritionally unworthy ingredients, your toddler will have no choice but to eat right.
- Make eating well tempting. If your answer to sweets and crisp is carrot sticks, your toddler will come to associate good nutrition with taste-bud tedium. Respond instead with treats that are both nutritious and delicious, such as those beginning. A toddler whose taste buds haven’t been tainted will find them every bit as appealing as the more traditional, empty-calorie treats.
- Make a strong statement with your own eating habits. Even a two-year-old will resent, and eventually protest, a double standard at the dinning table, at home or away (Daddy washes down his chips and white bread with Coke, she is forbidden all three; Mummy has doughnuts and coffee for breakfast, she’s stuck with porridge, fruit and milk). Instead of giving your toddler the message that only little kids have to eat healthy foods and that Mummy and Daddy can eat anything they want, send one that says ‘our whole family believes eating right is important, and we do our best to eat right all the time.’
- Make your wishes known. Anyone who will be supervising your toddler’s eating when you’re not around – her teachers, nanny, playmates’ parents, grandparents, or other relatives – should be made aware of your dietary dictums. That doesn’t mean your toddler should be denied a birthday cupcake when all the other kids at day care are having one. But it does mean that her teacher should know that you prefer that your toddler not be offered junk food regularly, and that the rare exception not be overdone.
- Make a pact. The biggest stumbling blocks in the way of keeping a toddler’s eating habits healthy often are the eating habits of peers. Many parents find that making a pact with the parents of their children’s friends to avoid junk food at play dates, lunches, snack times, and so on, and to limit it parties makes it easier for everyone to keep their children’s diet healthy. It also eliminates the common parental plaint, ‘What can I do … all the kids eat that junk’.
- Make exceptions. The puritanical approach may yield your toddler’s compliance when she’s with you, but may encourage her defiance when she’s not. Allowing the occasional treat will help satisfy her curiosity and her cravings without undermining her nutritional profile.