At the age of 3, in all probability, your child has not become defiant enough to use ‘not eating’ as an excuse to get their way. This is generally an age when you will find them joyfully participating in ‘family meals’. Certainly one of the best times, then, to start inculcating some healthy eating habits in them, that you otherwise might find yourself struggling with implementing as they get older.
Good eating habits for 3 year old kids
The diet ‘ingredients’ for your 3 year old are not the only things that should be at the top of your mind at the dining table!
Turn off the television
As tempting as it might be, you have to ensure that the TV is turned off at all mealtimes. Good eating habits for 3 year old kids include fostering a sense of connectedness when it comes to the experience of dining, without ‘any’ sort of electronic connection – be it the phone or iPad, too.
Eating with the family
Eating habits for 3 year olds are well exemplified when the entire family eats together at the dining table. Of course, you might not be able to make this work for all meals, but you could ensure the entire family (baby included, of course) eats at least 1 meal together every day, be it at the dining table or in the kitchen.
Offer nutritious choices at every meal
As an adult, it is your job to ensure there are always healthy food options for your kids at every meal. Your child might show picky food preferences, steering clear from those nutritious ‘veggies’, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep offering a variety of healthy foods to them and allow them some time to foster healthy food choices. It could take up to 20 exposures to a particular healthy food for them to develop a taste for it.
Wean them from the bottle
Eating habits for 3 year old kids are best incorporated when you get them to wean off that bottle. That will help them not only in school but in preschool, as well.
Keep meals simple and nutritious
If you’re looking to concoct the best possible meal plans for your 3 year old child, know this: kids this age don’t need anything fancy. Keep those meals simple.
Tip: You could try a simple meal preparation that includes a protein source, whole grain, fruit and dairy. Like a chicken or peanut butter sandwich. Or perhaps an apple and a glass of milk. Easy to prepare and way better than junk food!
Serve the right amount
Eating habits for 3 year old kids encompass serving them food in the right amounts. You don’t want to overburden your toddler with food. The rule of thumb is: 1 tablespoon of food for every year of age. So if they are 3, you need to be giving them no more than 3 tablespoons of each food item. Giving them small portions gives them a chance to ask for seconds, too!
Introduce new foods sparingly
When creating the perfect diet for your 3 year old, the last thing you want is to interfere with the diet you have already set in place for them. So, if you’re looking to introduce some ‘superfood’ other parents can’t seem to stop raving about, you want to start by giving them a bite; not a full portion.
Get them to participate in meal prep
Eating habits for 3 year olds become something of a breeze when you get them to participate in little things like helping pick out items in the grocery store and setting the table (all with a little bit of assistance from you, of course). When they are involved in the preparation of meals, you will find them all the more eager to eat.
Let them eat on their own
Getting your kids to eat their meals gets easier when you allow them to eat on their own. This is one of the messier ways to enforce eating habits for 3 year old kids, but well worth it. The thing is, children learn well by touching, tasting and even looking at foods. All the more reason, to let them indulge in self-eating!
Set an example
When you’re whipping up healthy meals for your 3 year olds, you know at the back of your mind that there’s no guarantee they’re going to eat them. One way you can possibly get them to eat those healthy treats, is by eating healthy yourself. If you’re dismissing those veggies with a wave of your hand, how can you expect your child to eat them?
Tips to inculcate good eating habits in 3 year olds
There are other ways that you can reinforce good eating habits in your 3 year old child.
- Ensure ‘snack time’ is healthy, too. Let them nibble on things like fruits and crackers with hummus. Letting them eat unhealthy at these times will only negate your efforts at getting them to eat healthy during those main-meal times.
- When they are thirsty, give them water. The last thing you want to be doing, is giving them things like sugary drinks or even fruit juices that are laced with sugar!
- Don’t force them to eat. There are times when your child might simply be too tired or perhaps not even hungry. It’s okay to let them get a break from food at these times.
- Teach them food hygiene. Learning to wash their hands before their meals is a must, to get your 3 year old to learn about food hygiene.
- Stay calm. Children won’t eat well if you get agitated while feeding them; be calm to ensure they effortlessly imbibe the right eating habits.
Not all 3 year olds are the same. Some are picky eaters; yet others will not make much of a fuss at the dining table. However, all of them need to be steered towards imbibing the right eating habits. Use the tips enlisted herein, to help do just that.