How Can I Help My Toddler To Have Healthy Food Habits?

I’ve said it a hundred times lately that I’m so excited, and out of all the projects I’ve been working on, this is the one that just has me PUMPED! Seriously. So excited!

Like any toddler, mine goes through roller coasters where for weeks we fight through 90 minute dinners just to have him take five bites, and then last week, he ate his weight each day of whatever we gave him. But it was in those weeks where he wasn’t eating that I tried desperately to explain to him why he needed to eat dinner before dessert, or why I wouldn’t let him snack before lunch, or why he couldn’t have a spoonful of brown sugar straight out of the packaging. Sometimes those things all happen. Regularly, even. Don’t judge. But in my house they can only happen if he also eats what we have prepared for him to be healthy. Or just if I’m desperate. The odds are usually in his favor. I’m not alone on that, right?

But how the heck do you explain to an irrational small human why they get it sometimes, but not now? After a lot of thought, I think I’ve got some suggestions, aaaand some awesomely applicable resources/games to help! If you’d like to purchase this 40+ page Expedition of Chinese Food, you can keep reading/scroll to the end, or click on any image to go to the China Shop.

What should I say when my child demands dessert/snacks before meals?

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty proud of the explanation I’ve come up with during quarantine:

Oh, I can’t wait to eat ice cream tonight, if that’s what you want to do! BUT. If we eat too much sugar, it’ll make our bellies hurt. So we need to eat more fruits and vegetables than sugar. Can you eat a lot more fruits and vegetables tonight before we have a little dessert tonight?

I mean, that’s a pretty soundly scientific explanation for a two year old, right? It keeps in line with the food pyramid, and also doesn’t deprive them of a healthy love of sweet food. Win-win, I’d say!

It’s all about Yin and Yang and having that balance, right? So I went a step further and did an activity that illustrates exactly that!

How do I encourage them to CHOOSE a healthy diet?

I’m a full grown woman – old enough to have two babies, at least – and I still am 5000x more likely to get excited and dive in to a pretty plate of totally new food, than one that I have eaten 50 times and know is good, but is just, well, colorless. Afredo, chicken and rice mixes, rice and beans. You can’t go wrong with any of them. But to me, they’re last picks because – apparently – I’m mentally a toddler about food. I want a RAINBOW on my plate. Luckily, that also happens to be a pretty guaranteed way to get a variety of nutrients.

You’ve maybe heard of the rainbow diet – try to eat as many colors of the rainbow as you can at each meal. Really, it’s pretty brilliant. It’s also a ridiculously simplified branch off of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Chinese Food Therapy. If you don’t know anything about TCM, the theories are based on food being used to heal and enable the body. We can all get on board with that, right? I believe that’s exactly what food’s purpose is. But TCM takes it way further and break down foods and people by colors, tastes, target organs and even seasons to help keep people healthy. It’s old, and the details are scientifically outdated, I know. Still, I decided to use it as my model to encourage having a variety of foods on my son’s plate each day, because colors, tastes, body parts and seasons are right up a toddler’s alley. You can see how I approach it with the Food is the Best Medicine Lesson. Try it for yourself!

Expedition of Chinese Food

40+ pages of activities directed toward helping your child better understand their body's relationship with food and encourage them to eat healthy, all based on Chinese food practices.

$5.00

Includes:
6 Easy-to-Follow Expeditions of Food and the Body with Discussion Prompts and Activity Instructions/Ideas to lead you through every page
A list of Additional Resources – Books and Videos – with links to purchase and/or access for free
Bonus Activity Ideas
A pretend play Chinese Restaurant setup with all the pieces needed

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