Parenting Tips

This is how young children learn to eat properly

Proper child nutrition is not that easy: Can a toddler get his way at the table? Or do the parents know better what is good? A few tips to keep meals from turning into agony.

All beginnings are difficult. A relaxed, harmonious atmosphere is a prerequisite for enjoyable and healthy food. After all, food should taste good and be fun. At around one-year-old, your child should be sitting at the table. Because the little ones are already discovering the variety of food on offer and learning table rules for later. Practice early: Let your child eat alone from the complementary feeding time. It takes a while before they can handle cutlery properly. Now boiled pasta, carrots or pieces of bread help to pick up.

Never force children to eat

“Come on, another spoon for mom!” Children often react with rejection when something is forced on them. The best way to introduce children of complementary feeding to healthy eating is to set an example for them. When mum and dad eat a balanced and varied diet themselves and stop when they are full, small children adopt this as normal. However, it is important to keep motivating the little ones to try something new.

When toddlers don’t want to eat…

… parents should be patient. Your child instinctively decides how much and what to eat. Just as your child learns to trust their parents, mom and dad must do the same. So don’t worry if your child eats like a sparrow. Meals at fixed times are helpful . And when the plate is nicely arranged, eating is a lot more fun: A funny clown face made of raw pieces of carrot, pepper and kohlrabi stimulates the appetite and puts you in a good mood!

The best ingredient: serenity

“Even simple dishes can be healthy and taste good. I recommend serenity as the most important ingredient for all recipes. A warm meal every day is not necessary for a balanced diet, ” advises Dr. Kiran Virmani, Managing Director of the German Society for Nutrition e. V. (DGE). Especially in a time of crisis like the Corona pandemic, it is important to cook with what the store and supplies have to offer. Sometimes a glass or a milk substitute is right.

Eating has to have a positive connotation

Eating problems often stem from an unpleasant experience. Avoid using food as a reward or punishment for your child. And a dessert is also allowed, even if the vegetables have not been eaten. Rules and rituals that apply to everyone are needed to ensure that things work out at the table right from the start . Motivating and encouraging is just as important as helping and trying to be a role model and having fun. After all, practice makes perfect when it comes to eating!

This is how small children learn to eat properly

Can my toddler choose what to eat?

As parents, you set the framework with a selection of foods on the table. The child can choose from these. If there is nothing “edible” with it, it is welcome to use pieces of vegetables and wait until the next meal. Please no extra sausages for children, this is very stressful for parents and can contribute to the fact that there are little dictators at the table.

French fries and sugar – how much is okay?

According to the German Society for Nutrition, a handful of fries or sweets a day is okay. Small rituals in which sweets are eaten together are helpful. As long as raw vegetables cut into strips are called swede, kohlrabi and carrot fries, they are eaten with pleasure.

How do I teach my child to like healthy things?

By doing it with pleasure and by buying a balanced selection of food. Toddlers often prefer raw vegetables to cooked ones. Instead of mixed vegetables: children still need the pure taste of a vegetable to get to know them. The mouthfeel of each carrot concoction is different each time, and it takes about 10 to 15 exposures to something new before we like it.

How do I motivate my child to try new things?

I create an atmosphere that makes the children curious and in which they can get to know food with their senses. Parents who love to eat talk about it a lot and positively. With relatives or friends, it is often much easier to try new things, since the meals take place in different rooms and in a relaxed atmosphere.

What is the right “mixture” that my child also likes?

In principle, more health-promoting foods such as vegetables and proteins should be on offer. In this way, the children get to know them at an early age and naturally grow up with them. Depending on the stage of development, liking can sometimes turn into disliking. Then just take a break for a while and add it back to your diet.

Does my child have to eat up?

No. Toddlers have an innate hunger-saturation mechanism. You always eat exactly as much as your body needs. This can result in significant fluctuations in the quantity. Large amounts are eaten before a developmental spurt, after which two bites of bread are sometimes enough for the child. So don’t try to force the child to eat.

How important is eating together at the table at home?

This is elementary. Children need adults to learn about food choices and eating techniques. Important rules for sharing a table: no media, enough time to eat, a relaxed atmosphere, conversations about or about food. And: Small children like to help in the kitchen and with laying the blankets. Involving them lifts the spirits and lets them be “big”.

What else do you think is important for children to learn at the table?

The competencies of small children at the table are their feeling of hunger/saturation and a very fine perception of taste. Therefore season mildly and put extra salt shakers on the table for parents to taste. Serving in bowls shows the children that everyone at the table eats the same food.

What other tips do you have for balanced, easy-to-implement meals during complementary feeding?

Always place the ingredients neatly separated and clearly visible on the plate. Prepare a casserole with a maximum of one vegetable. Simply puree vegetable mixtures and serve as a soup or sauce with pasta. Anything that doesn’t taste good can be hidden inside!

This is how young children learn to eat properly


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