If your mealtimes have morphed into coaxing fests with your toddler, it’s time to put a meal plan in place.
If your toddler has a tendency to be persnickety during mealtimes, seek comfort in knowing that it’s just a phase. After all, toddler food face-offs are part of the job description, didn’t you know? If luring your toddler with a treat at the start of every meal sounds like your kind of day, it’s a good idea to implement a regular meal schedule that involves feeds every two to three hours. This way, even if your toddler isn’t up to eating at any given time, you can always make up for the missed meal with another one a few hours later. If you’re looking for inspiration for a meal plan strategy for your little gremlin, this guide has you covered.
Make breakfast a fun-filled ritual by introducing balanced meals (with grains, fruits and milk) in various shapes and forms. A Mickey Mouse-themed omelette, for instance, can be just the antidote for a mealtime meltdown. Also, introduce structure to your child’s day by stationing meals at the same place and time everyday. And hey, don’t stress about making breakfast the largest meal of the day. Remember, your toddler can only eat so much at a time, and you can use snacks as handy little recharges throughout the day.
Regular snacking will keep your toddler’s tummy completely fulfilled, resulting in fewer flare-ups and temper tantrums. Schedule a little nibble about one-and-a-half hours before your afternoon meal, and try to include at least two (if not three) food groups. Avoid processed and refined foods like biscuits, cakes and fried snacks. Also, don’t worry if your toddler eats heartily during this meal and doesn’t have an appetite for lunch. As long as the food he is eating has a high nutritional value, you’re home.
Toddlers are curious little things, always expecting something new and marvelous at their next meal. Make lunch a novel experience by weaving stories around each dish to lend a touch of sparkle. Over time, you’ll notice trends that will help you plan your toddler’s meals better. A meal played with or picked at may reflect an eating schedule gone slightly awry. Perhaps the snack prior was too heavy, or too close to mealtime. Also, if you’re a juice-loving parent, remember that sugary beverages can mean unnecessary (and unhealthy) calories for your child, compromising their appetite for food.
A light snack two or three hours after lunch can be the perfect pick-me-up for your rambunctious toddler. Slivers of apple, a cut-up cheese cube, or an egg served any way make for great toddler snacks. As with meals, serve snacks at the table, to encourage decorum while eating. By handing your child a snack while he’s tearing the living room apart, you’re inculcating the notion of food as a careless afterthought.
As your toddler loses steam through the day, he’ll be least interested in dinner, possibly because he has already gained enough nutrients through other meals, or is zapped of energy from the day’s activities. There’s no need to worry if your little tyke refuses dinner, or eats less than usual. Trust his tummy to guide him. A clever way of making dinner the star of your toddler’s day is to introduce nutritious favorites he is unlikely to reject. Rajma chawal, chapati with bhindi, or fried rice safe bets? Make them regulars on the menu.
This meal isn’t set in stone. Sometimes, your toddler may demand it, other times not. If your child is up for a nibble, go with a light snack, low in sugar and easy to digest. Half a glass of milk or a bowl of yogurt are perfect to calm your tiny’s tummy before bedtime.
Once you’ve aced a nutrition plan, you’ll find your life – and your toddler’s – automatically falling into place. A few hard steps to an easy, breezy ending is all it takes.