What should you say to your child who constantly asks for sweets or salty snacks?
Should they be forbidden or hidden at the top of the pantry? Here are some tips on how to deal with your toddlers in order to encourage healthy eating habits in the long term.
Bring food back to the same level
If your sweethearts are very interested in very sweet or salty foods, it’s of course because they associate them with festive occasions or special events: a birthday cake, chips for movie nights, candy when you go to grandma’s. Make room for these foods in your pantry or fridge, just like nuts, fruits or vegetables. By leaving them in front of your children and letting them know that they are as available as vegetables and fruit, they will end up perceiving them as “ordinary” foods. By being less special, they become less desirable…
Give them (a little) control
As they get older, toddlers try to develop independence and make their own decisions. They assert themselves and loudly admit their desire to eat dessert rather than finish their cauliflower! Give them some “power” while gently directing them to nutritious foods. For example, rather than saying “no” to children who want candy after a meal, offer them grapes or yogurt before they even ask for it. The child will have a choice, but will understand that it can’t be candy every day.
Question their appetite
From birth, babies recognize their satiety when they are full: they stop drinking milk and nap when they are full. Encourage this instinctive listening to hunger signals by encouraging your toddlers to refer to their appetite before eating any food.
“Are you still hungry for a second plate?”
“Do you think you’re going to get a tummy ache if you eat ice cream?”
“You have the right not to finish your meal if you want to save room for dessert.”
“Do you think you’re hungry for a small or large popcorn?”
These simple sentences encourage children to trust their instincts rather than categorizing foods as healthy or unhealthy. If all foods have a place in your toddler’s diet, his body will be healthier… and his mind, too!
Geneviève has been collaborating with Mother Hen for almost 7 years. As a mom, breastfeeding enthusiast and nutritionist, her greatest desire is to pass on her love of delicious meals and fun-filled times around the dinner table.