Junk food is addictive, and your toddler will fall in love with their first taste of sugary treats.
Managing junk foods and your toddler’s health may be your first-ascent challenge in your journey of motherhood, so it’s wise to get ahead of the pack and learn how to avoid the pitfalls and traumas of keeping those little fingers out of the sugar bowl and growing and developing without worry of tantrums, addiction, or disease.
Junk food is usually gorgeous and glitzy to look at, always colourfully presented and wrapped with a silver lining or in a cluster of sugary crystalline collaboration which looks decidedly more alluring than a piece of broccoli on a plate. Even adults struggle with maintaining a healthy diet, but you can help your child ingrain good eating habits early on in life and set them up for health and longevity over a lifetime – at the same time, it may help you to get back on track after your maternity.
Everyone needs to eat healthily but especially toddlers to get the nutrients their growing bodies need. Studies show that fast food served more than three times a week is associated with disorders in children such as asthma, eczema, and rhinitis.
Cakes, sweets, puddings, potato chips, ice cream and other low-nutrient junk foods shouldn’t be part of their diet. Junk food puts everyone’s health at risk but especially your toddler and sets them up for:
- Obesity, low self-esteem, and the risk of developing depression later
- Constipation and poor bowel health
- Dental problems, cavities, and mouth disease
- Skin complaints and dry skin and hair
- Anxiety, mood swings and problems with concentrating
- Addiction to dopamine, the reward system in the brain, throughout their life
- Nutrient deficiency in iron, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc, leading to stunted growth, breathing problems, fatigue, unusual food cravings, and chronic infection.
How can you better manage junk food and your child’s health?
Avoid power struggles
Even if your child likes chips, sweets, and fizzy drinks, you don’t have to give in to their cravings. Your toddler can’t get to the shops to buy junk food themselves, so don’t keep it in the home. When they ask for treats, simply respond that you don’t have any and offer them a choice of two healthy snack options instead. Nature’s own sweets are fresh or dried dates, sweet melon, and grapes.
Eat regular meals
When your toddler is getting adequate nutrition with regular and timely meals, there will be no room for junk food cravings and bad eating habits to creep in. If you have a busy schedule, it is important to plan and bring healthy packed snacks when you are unable to sit down at the table to eat.
The Nourish Scoop High chair from Vital Baby is compact, comfortable and tailors to every stage of weaning. It is perfect for sit-down family meals while growing up, converting to a handy toddler chair when the time comes.
Set a good example
Our children don’t do what we say, they do what we do. Let your child watch and get involved in cooking nutritious meals and packing lunches, or at least having a say in what goes into their lunch boxes. For example, let your child help squeeze fresh oranges for decanting into their juice bottle or sippy cup and let them choose their favourite trail mix style.
You can encourage their nutrition further with the Vital Baby NOURISH Starter Weaning Kit, which is the perfect combination of utensils and accessories for little ones who are taking their first weaning steps toward independent eating and drinking. This set makes for a great weaning gift for moms and dads who are about to start their toddlers on their own food journey. It includes super-soft and shallow spoons for a little mouth, bowls and pots for easy serving and storage, a super soft silicone bib with a built-in mess catcher, free flow cup to encourage sipping and is BPA, Latex, and phthalate free.
Make meals learning time together
Engage with your child at mealtimes. You can get them involved in their meal by arranging foods into a smiley face or cutting patterns into fruit skins.
Brighten their meals by serving five different food group colours on their plate, always as fresh as possible. Help them identify the colours with parts of their body, such as their heart, bones, teeth, and eyes. Red fruits are for healthy hearts and immunity. Orange fruits are antioxidants and convert to Vitamin A in our bodies. Green food groups relate to protein and Vitamin K for healthy skin and gut. Blue fruits such as blueberries are superfoods providing a good source of fibre and Vitamin K, and C.
Encourage your child to be curious by preparing their favourite meal and adding a new vegetable or fruit to the sample. You can also serve two side dishes at the evening meal, one familiar and one as a new experience.
If your toddler is ready to move from finger foods to adult cutlery, empower them further with the Vital Baby big kid cutlery set, which includes their own stainless-steel set with rounded fork tips and chunky handles for little hands to grip easily. By feeding themselves, your toddler is developing many skills, including hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and postural control.
Quick tips to live by
- Never use junk food as a reward or bribe.
- Order the healthiest options when eating out.
- The number one contributor to junk eating is stress and boredom. Children often get fussy and demand junk food when they are idle and don’t have anything to keep them busy.
- We often feel hungry when we are dehydrated. When your child wants junk food, ask them to drink a cup of water first. Add a slice of cucumber to the glass and ask them to count the transparent seeds in the centre to take their mind off the junk.
- Involve your child in making ‘junk food’ at home, including homemade healthy topping pizza, chickpea burgers and sweet potato chips, and home-made ice-cream served with fruit salad.
- Not getting enough sleep makes your child hungrier. Establish a bedtime routine that includes adequate rest hours for their tiny bodies, and then feed them well and see them grow!
For more information and products, visit Vital Baby.