Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Healthy Diet for Toddlers and Young Children

One of the things moms focus on the most is what goes into our kids' bellies. From the moment my little ones were born, I worried if they were getting enough milk when they were nursing. And then when they started on solids, I was careful to make sure they had the right servings of vegetables and fruits in addition to their nursings each day. As they became toddlers, I was determined to offer only healthy snacks, well balanced meals and milk or watered down juice. It wasn't all that difficult when they were very young.
However, now that my children are five and two, I have had to really stick to my guns when it comes to what they eat. Sure it would be much easier for me to just put a microwaved corn dog and some potato chips on their plate each day, but that is a habit that could be quite harmful. I'm not saying that my kids don't get their share of corn dogs and cookies. But the point is that I try hard not to make it a habit. What I do try to make a habit is healthy eating. We do that by keeping good snacks in the pantry and by my cooking as many meals as our schedule allows. I cook meals that I know are healthier than we would get if we were eating out.
Another thing that I try to keep in mind is that children have small bellies. They aren't supposed to eat as much as adults do. When a child is hungry, he or she will eat. And if what you put in front of them to eat is healthy, they will eat it if they are hungry. You don't want to fill up those little tummies with junk if you expect them to be hungry enough to want to eat something healthy at mealtime. Small, healthy snacks are best. Our family pediatrician put it best when he offered the advice-- You decide what; the child decides when. So you decide what the child eats and he or she decides when. Don't force feed your children. Making a child who isn't hungry finish his plate can be another very harmful habit. I am guilty of this as well when I think my child should be hungry. But then I have to try to remember to let my children determine when they are hungry, and I will be ready with something good for them to eat.

To help, here is a sample daily menu for my two year old:
Breakfast- 1 sippy cup full of 2% milk or orange juice, 1 slice of toast with light margarine, 2 slices of turkey bacon
Snack- 1 sippy cup full of half water/half apple juice, 1/2 cup pears, handful of goldfish crackers
Lunch- 1 sippy cup full of 2% milk, spaghetti with lean hamburger meat sauce in toddler bowl, 2 carrot sticks, 1 small butter cookie
Snack- 1 sippy cup full of half water/half apple juice, 1/2 sliced apple
Supper- 1 sippy cup full of 2% milk, 2 chicken tenderloins (baked), 1 dinner roll, 2 tablespoons of green beans, 2 tablespoons mashed potatoes, 1 sugar free popsicle for dessert

Here is a sample daily menu for my five year old:
Breakfast- 1 small bowl of cereal with 2% milk, small child's size cup of orange juice, 1 slice of toast with light margarine
Snack- snack sized box of raisins and cup of water
Lunch- 1 low fat peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, goldfish crackers, 4 carrot sticks, 1 apple, apple juice
Snack- Sunkist fruit snacks and water or milk
Supper- 3 or 4 chicken tenderloins (baked), 2 dinner rolls, 4 tablespoons of green beans, 4 tablespoons of mashed potatoes, cup of tea, milk or juice, 1 sugar free popsicle

These menus are just a sample of what my kids eat in a day. Believe me, there are days that consist of toaster waffles at breakfast, hotdogs for lunch, and McDonald's for supper. But those days are very rare. We really do eat well and our kids are learning some good, healthy eating habits because we are modeling those habits for them. In a society that is becoming more and more obese, we need to get back on track and help our kids make good decisions when it comes to food. Moms--we need to tap back into that focus we had on what we fed our little ones when they were babies and use that to create healthy eating habits for our toddlers and young children so that they will grow to become healthy teens and adults.
Here is a link for further information on keeping your kids healthy.

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