Try to provide a wide range of food from a variety of food groups

The toddler years provide a wonderful opportunity to set up lifelong healthy eating habits and to set up strong food literacy skills. Of course, there can also be some challenging times with fussy eaters.

During this time, toddlers find their feet and they’re off. They’re inquisitive learners and engaged students, so all that’s left for us to do is to provide them with the right tools (ingredients and food) and lots of opportunities to have some fun. To that end, mess is normal, so allow your kiddies to hold food, play with it and break it apart – it’s all part of learning and it’s definitely part of the fun.

At this age, it’s important to provide a wide range of food from a variety of food groups. This will allow them to explore a whole range of wholesome and nutritious foods from a very early age.

As a guide, the Australian Dietary Guidelines give us a good idea of the sorts of things we should be presenting to our toddlers, and also provide some direction on the amounts of food, too.

So, we’ve put some of this advice into ‘picture book’ recommendations on the following pages, all just to help make things a bit easier.

It is also helpful to know that it’s quite normal for our toddlers to offer resistance when introducing new foods – of course they will: it’s in their DNA! As studies show that little ones may need 10-15 trials of a new food before they really learn to accept it, our thinking is to try, try and try again. Gradually, the little humans start to catch on in one of two ways: 1) they decide they like it; or 2) they understand it’s not going away, as mum and dad keep bringing it back.

During the toddler years, it’s helpful to keep activities around food and your toddler’s table fun and engaging . Let them play and don’t be too concerned if food is dropped and tossed, as this is all engagement with food and is all part of our children learning the skills of eating.

Children also respond well to fun stories being made up about the food they are eating. This is also a little strategy that can teach your child that conversation around the dining table is a normal part of dining behaviour, and that it’s all part of the fun.

Oh, and by the way, have a think about the expectations you have around the amount of food you think your little ones should eat. Their tummies are small, roughly around the size of their fist, so kiddies in this age group often do well with smaller snacks and meals, peppered throughout the day.

Enjoy these years of food exploration with your toddlers – it is as wonderful and rewarding for families to see their little ones grow into food savvy school children, as it is liberating for the children themselves. It may not be that easy or fun some days, as they may decide they suddenly don’t like the food they liked yesterday, but don’t worry. It’s all normal behaviour and soon they’ll start to enjoy it again.

Good luck on this journey to helping your little one discover the joy of eating a wide range of food.