* Eat healthy yourself. Setting a good example is the best way to help a preschooler develop healthy habits.
* Stock the house with nutrient-dense foods. Leave the treats and candy for special occasions. Preschoolers have a way of wearing you down to get the goods if they know cookies and candy are hiding in the cupboard.
* Provide a few items, including at least one nutrient-dense choice, at meals and snacks instead of one highly-palatable food. For instance, setting out a snack plate with a few apple slices, some nuts and a couple of whole-grain crackers is better than offering a whole bag of snack crackers.
* Turn dessert into a family event. Instead of always having a gallon of ice cream in the freezer or cookies in the cupboard, pick a night each week to go out for ice cream or a smoothie. And if you can walk there, it’s a great way to get out of the house for some exercise.
* Take advantage of snack time. Instead of the standard crackers and juice, offer fruit, edamame (boiled soybeans), nuts or veggies with dips like guacamole, bean dip, hummus or nut butter. Nutrient-dense snacks like these can go a long way toward your child’s nutrient goals so it’s OK if they make a meal out of the snack. And it can help take the pressure off finishing the vegetables at dinner.
* Add nutritious goodies to their favorite foods. Cheese tortilla a favorite? Replace some of the cheese with black or refried beans or add diced tomatoes. Do they like a certain soup or stew? Lots of vegetables can be added without drastically changing the flavor. Pancakes might be a hit. Add berries or make whole-grain pancakes by substituting oatmeal for part of the flour.
* Be flexible. Make an effort to eat healthy most of the time. If you do, you can feel good on those special occasions when your preschooler enjoys food just because it’s yummy.
— KATI CHEVAUX, M.S., NUTRITIONIST, PRESCHOOLROCKS.COM