Healthy Eating Habits for Your Child

Change Is Normal

When toddlers and preschoolers become more preoccupied with their world, their eating habits change, and you can understandably become frustrated.

Be consistent through all these changes. Continue to offer healthy choices and begin to build activity into your child's (and your own!) schedule in fun ways. Don't be tempted to place your child on a diet. Keeping her diet healthy and avoiding unnecessary sugars and the wrong fats will allow her to "grow into" her weight.

If you are concerned about your child's nutrition, you may ask your health care professional about adding a multivitamin. They now come in liquid, chewable, gummy bear or even chewing gum varieties. Do not call vitamins candy. Taken in large quantities they can cause a health risk, especially if they contain iron.

Breakfast Is Fundamental

Breakfast is a meal that counts. It gets our engines started for the day. Children who eat breakfast have been shown to score higher on tests, concentrate better and have better muscle coordination. Breakfast should include complex carbohydrates and proteins. And eating after seven o'clock the evening before can reduce morning appetites, so avoid eating late and having big evening meals. If your child can't eat first thing in the morning, offer her something she can eat on the go.

Drink Up

Most children do a good job of asking for something to drink when they need it, but you need to choose the type of fluid they take in. Infants do not need extra fluid, due to the high water content of breast milk and formula.

Children should be encouraged to drink four to eight ounces of water before playing outdoors. Offer snack foods high in water content such as oranges, apples, watermelons, tomatoes and lettuce to replace fluids. Frozen juice bars, sorbet and yogurt can also be healthy snacks and good water sources.

Avoid caffeine sources, not only because they actually cause a loss of fluids, but also because caffeine is a stimulant. It can cause your child to be hyper, irritable or anxious and can cause headaches and sleep difficulties.

Fruit-flavored drinks and soft drinks may have as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar. Phosphoric acid contained in many soft drinks has been shown to reduce calcium in bones.

Juice should be limited to no more than four to six ounces in a day. It can be diluted with water to make it go further. Sometimes full-strength juice can cause diarrhea in children. Unpasteurized juice can contain bacteria that can also cause diarrhea or other illnesses. Check the ingredients list and avoid sulfites, which may cause asthmatic symptoms in some children.

Orange juice and blends of orange are healthy choices because of the vitamin B, vitamin C and folic acid they contain. Better yet, instead of fruit juice, offer fresh fruits so your child gets the nutrients of juice, plus fiber to help keep her regular.

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