This article appeared for Paleo on the Go

Who wouldn’t want to give their kids the best nutritional start in life? It’s our job as parents to offer the best foods and their job as our kids to eat it (in most cases). Enjoying our toddlers own forays into food, is definitely a chance to set them up for healthy eating behaviors, and reset yours. 

1. DON’T EAT THE SAME THING EACH DAY

I’ll pretty much put anything into my mouth. I don’t really know what I like so keep trying me on different foods. Chances are I’ll like things you never imagined.

‘Explore food each season’, all of which are new to your kids, just sounds like something people with all the time on their hands do. But how can you even contemplate it when we just get so excited when our kids will actually eat something that we quickly declare it a favorite and give it to them all the time, satisfied we’re filling them with calories.

But just stop for a second: how can they have a favorite when then haven’t tried very much in the world of food? Just because they’re eating something doesn’t mean they should all the time. Take sugar! Calories aren’t the goal; nutrition and good eating behaviors are. Though sweet potato at every meal seems both nutritious and easy for little fingers to handle themselves, you can make equally simple mashed cauliflower into finger sized balls or mini sliders from ground beef.

If you find yourself buying the same things at the grocery store, or if the same things keep running out, you’re eating too much of them. It’s time to mix things up. 

2. THINGS THAT CRUNCH ARE PRETTY FUNNY

When I bite into crunchy things I can hear it inside my mouth and it makes me laugh. And it’s even funnier when you do it too. 

Adding a bit of texture at each meal, a dip, salad, soup, can make it more satisfying, and not just because of the laughs. But that doesn’t have to mean stale bread croutons, weird oily chips or even expecting a toddler to dig into every carrot stick you serve with relish. Try guacamole and chips  or beef tacos. Chips are great sprinkled on soup or a salad or make your own veggie chips!

3. EAT YOUR GREENS AT EACH MEAL

I don’t know what greens are, let alone oranges or purples. Try me on all my veggies. I might even like some before my terrible twos!

Everyone knows toddlers don’t like their greens but put them alongside other parts of their meal and they might even try them. All veggies go better with butter and sauces made of healthy fats – they’ve chock full of fat soluble vitamins so serving them this way makes them useful! 

Try zucchini noodles, sweet potato gnocchi or yummy cauliflower rice bowls.

4. IF YOU DON’T EAT IT, HE WON’T EITHER.

When you eat those little fishies you screw up your nose, so I will too. I’m gonna look like you mummy. 

Ok, so for me it’s sardines. They gross me out. I would probably add heart, brain, liver and any other organ meats to my list. Do you have a food that you so don’t like but have tried to fed to your little one thinking you should all have more of it for a healthier diet? Bone broth is delicious and luckily now readily available in great unprocessed good for you forms so you don’t have to handle the bones or cook for ages. I will cook liver to make pate, oh and I whizzed my sardines with garlic, eggs, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper and voila, sardine pate. It’s great on tortillas and the quickest, healthiest and ‘one up to me’ lunch on the go.

5. LIVE 80:20

I am pretty good with my fork, especially when it comes to getting my share of ice cream, daddy. 

So there’s ice cream and there’s ice cream but I’m a firm believer that if i’m having it, he can. But he has to serve himself. This isn’t a ‘get the calories’ down kind of meal ever! But that said, it would appear my toddler is rather dexterous when it comes to ice cream! Make sure you’ve eaten something first so the sugar rush, organic or not, is not as harsh on his little body. Oh, and at least he’s learning something.

6. EATING IS A SOCIAL AFFAIR.

I want your iPhone not lunch. I want your iPhone not lunch. 

What if, over lunch, you told a story and half way through the story your baby stopped listening. They looked away, yawned, replied to an email on their iPhone? It would be pretty funny actually. Initially. But imagine if it was your partner. Ummm yep rude. Ok phone goes away at meal time and just talk, even to your babe, even if they can’t talk back yet. Eating is a social affair and sets up healthy eating behaviors we want our kids to thrive in as much as the choice of the foods.

My toddler is teaching me to eat well by helping me realize I need to slow down and explore all that’s in front of me, with him. Here’s to embracing the perfectly imperfect reality of raising kids!