Eat the Rainbow: What should be on your child’s plate?
What is Healthy Eating?
Lately I have had the absolute pleasure of creating meal plans for toddlers. This is a question that arises quite often in my one-on-one sessions with clients with kids. My response continues to be consistent for any age (child to adult), eat colourful nutrient-dense foods. Healthy eating for your child means giving them a variety of foods so that they get the proper nutrients for normal growth.
More and more I hear parents frustrated at the thought of what to feed their child each day. Now although sometimes it is easier to feed your child foods that do not require a fork (grilled cheese, pizza, burgers, etc.) it is not the ideal option for their optimal health. This is creating a habit in which will be a lot harder to break as they get older. My thought is that as long as my daughter is not old enough to opt out of her meals and take my car to the drive-through, I have full control of what is in front of her. This allows me to spend this time teaching her the beauty of nutritious, colourful foods and to eliminate all foods that are high in bad fats, cholesterol, sugar, additives and preservatives.
I have said it time and time again, leading by example is key especially when it comes to your children eating healthy. We all know that toddlers want to do what mommy and daddy are doing. Whether it is putting on your high heels and jewelry or incessantly trying to grab daddy’s cell phone (who is clearly on it far too much! But that is another topic lol). Therefore if your little one sees you eating colourful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins (while avoiding sugar-refined foods and junk) they are much more likely to follow your lead. So no you cannot get away with eating cake for dinner and trying to push vegetables on your child. It doesn’t work this way but hey look at it as a way for the entire family to change and establish better and healthy eating habits. Which brings me to my next topic of family meal time. I grew up in a household with a mother and father who would not budge when it came to dinner time. We all sat at the table as a family and ate the same meal as a family. This was a time we all connected about our day with absolutely no distractions from the TV, phones, etc. We all enjoyed this time and as a result dinner time became an enjoyable time as did the food on our table. Research shows that children who have regular family meal time establish better eating habits and as a result eat more fresh produce.
So what do you feed your toddler?
Children will always love the plain starchy foods such as pasta, potatoes, rice and bread and yes although you can make grilled cheese healthier by switching up the white bread for Ezekiel or mac and cheese made with brown rice pasta these foods are not nutrient-dense and will only fill the belly. Experiment with colourful foods and do not be discouraged when your toddler turns some foods away. Research shows that it takes 9 tries before a toddler will accept a new food: keep trying over and over.
I like to start off by giving Savannah a base of pureed greens (kale, spinach, collard greens, swiss chard) blended with bone broth.
Because Savannah is at the age where she wants to chew her food, pick it up, explore it, the rest of the vegetables that go into her bowl are steamed or boiled until just soft allowing her to develop her pincer grip. These foods are typically a mix of sweet potato, carrots, beets, zucchini, parsnips, daikon radish, peas, avocado.
Making her bowl as colourful and exciting as I can and then explaining it to her is what gives me joy
Then I add her lean healthy protein which is always different: Organic turkey, chicken, liver, lentils, chickpeas, wild salmon, egg
Grains: I typically give Savannah 2 tablespoons of organic brown rice, amaranth or millet with her dinner (unless she is having beans/legumes in which case I eliminate the grain)
Keep in mind that balance is the key and as a parent one of the most important things you can do for your child is teach them healthy eating habits and this starts with YOU modelling these behaviours. If you feel overwhelmed or confused book in a consultation with a Nutritionist who will provide clarity as well as a meal plan and recipes.