Want Your Toddler to Really Eat Healthy? Here's Help


food in jarsSometimes when you're looking to improve your child's diet, it can be rather daunting, especially when your kid has a favorite dish that isn't the most healthy. We all know that cutting out their favorite food isn't always met with happy results.

But you don't have to cut it out -- well just the unhealthy parts of it. So rather than overhauling your diet altogether, let's look at healthy food swaps kids will still like and maybe not even notice. All while we avoid getting sucked into the baby and "kid food" trap.

Peanut butter: Ever look at the ingredients in peanut butter? Some have hydrogenated oils or mono- or diglycerides -- it's really not as good for you as you'd think.

The baby step swap: Buy natural peanut butters that just contain peanuts and maybe salt.

The leap: Use the grinder machines and make your own peanut or almond butter right there in the store, or you can even do it at home in a food processor. (The grinder type is normally cheaper than the store brand!)

crackersCrackers: Most crackers not only contain high-fructose corn syrup, but high sodium and sugar and little to no real nutrition.

The baby step swap: Buy whole grain crackers and avoid HFCS.

The leap: Make your own crackers with sprouted wheat flour and whole seeds, such as sesame seeds, and flaxseed oil.

dried fruitsPuffs or fruit snacks: Neither of these really accomplishes anything good, and the added vitamins are usually cancelled out by the sugars, chemicals, and food coloring.

The baby step swap: Buy some dried fruits that still melt in the mouth, but read the label to make sure they don't have added chemicals, too.

The leap: Buy a good dehydrator and make your own dried fruit. It's AMAZING how good it tastes -- you'll never go back. Also, whole fruit like grapes and berries are still good, ya know.

fresh juiceJuice: Most juice has all the fiber processed out, so what's left really is mostly liquid candy, without the vitamin C the fruits originally had.

The baby step swap: Buy the straight-up pureed juices, generally in the organic aisle, that need to be watered down and often are only "lightly pasteurized."

The leap: Make your own, or just don't drink it at all. Eating the fruit itself is way better for you, and you can drop some frozen berries or cucumber slices in water if you'd like a little flavor.

These are just some ideas to get you started, but there are so many ways you can take baby steps or leaps to a healthier diet for your whole family. Check out healthy food sites for kids like Weelicious and start swapping out one or two ingredients or foods here and there, and before you know it, your whole shopping trip will be different.

What healthy food swaps have you made for your baby or toddler?


Image via Justin and Elise/Flickr; little blue hen/Flickr; saitowitz/Flickr; Liz/Flickr

natural parenting, solid food, toddler meal, picky eaters


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wendy... wendy46121

We've completely cut out juice, finally!  It's been well over a month since they've had any.  Now they drink mostly water, and sometimes milk (cows, rice, coconut,  etc)  I am very happy about that.  Everytime i was giving them juice I just kept thinking "why not let them have soda?"  LOL.  


K Maeve Powlick

I've seen a few 'picky eater' posts on your page, and I read them with great interest because my little one can be very picky!  She is a moody eater....one day she loves rice, the next day she insists "I don't like that," and it's the same story no matter what we serve her (her father is exactly the same way, but he has actually been very good around her to try and not encourage her to be moody like he is!).  I've already implemented these healthy swaps becacuse I have what I like to fondly refer to as the label-reading disease, but I have yet to find a real strategy to get her to eat a more varried and balanced diet.  I'm hoping that the nice weather and fresh garden veggies, combined with her finally having the full complement of teeth, will help. 

One thing I have found to work is using a nibble tray (recommended by Dr Sears)...we're planning on using this more consistently, along with a rule that if she doesn't want what we're serving for dinner, she can eat whatever is left in her nibble tray.  I don't want to have food battles with her, which I think are counter productive, but I also am not willing to let her turn down whatever the rest of us are eating for dinner and demand something else.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I completely agree with the peanut butter thing... It's wicked easy to make, especially if your grocery sells shelled, unsalted peanuts in bulk. Just puree them wtih a little salt and peanut oil in the food processor - you can make it as smooth or thick as you want.  But it really does need a little salt. Even when I buy the natural stuff (I like the Smuckers), I add salt when I get home. My son never noticed the change.

PonyC... PonyChaser

(hit submit too early...)

We also don't use jelly very much anymore. We have pbF sandwiches - peanut butter and fruit. Bananas, strawberries, even grapes, are really yummy on a sandwich with peanut butter.  Occasionally, he'll even have his favorite - a peanut butter and honey sandwich (yeah, it's high in sugar, but the honey has really good benefits, so we eat a lot of local honey around here)

Memph... MemphisSuzi

We do natural peanut butter - the label says CONTAINS: PEANUTS.  Love that!  LOL  -- No juice (which I had to fight daycare over as they insist every kid needs juice..I insisted not my kid.) But I can not get him to eat dried fruit so we just stick with lots of fresh fruit. 

Love the suggestions, thanks!

Danielle George

my kids love fruit leather vs. the "fruit snacks"! i just puree whatever fruits and veggies are about to go bad, spread on wax paper and dehydrate.

Amy Geib

every kid needs juice? come on maybe if it was real juice and not some crap they call juice. they shouldnt even give you a hard time it is your child. lol what is this world coming to? I work in a restaurant and i see parents putting soda in sippi cups, i wanna scream are you kidding me?!!!!!

my son is only 6 months and i make a majority of his baby food, i just dont trust too many companies. after all there was the recall on baby formula from roaches. i would rather make my own food so i know what is in it! these are great ways to be healthy!

Madel... MadelynMc

My daughter looooves raisins, and they're obviously high in sugar so I try to limit them. But I started mixing them up with a dab of coconut oil so at least they have some good fat...it's actually quite a delicious combo!

yogap... yogapantz

I think the biggest area of disagreement on foods for my husband and me was breakfast foods. I didn't grow up on sugary junk food crap like Coco Puffs and Pop Tarts, and he did and does not see anything wrong with cereal that turns your milk into chocolate goo for breakfast. I have trained the palates of my girls to be satisfied with whole oats made in the microwave with juice to sweeten it, and then cooled off with chunks of frozen fruit. My "junky" cereals are Cheerios and Kashi Go Lean with berries.  I've steered the husband away from ginormous breakfasts of eggs, bacon, sausage gravy on biscuits, and hash browns, and now we do omelettes with some stir fry veggies or the favorite sauteed spinach, mushrooms, and onion with canned tomatoes.

For snacks, we like peanut butter with apples, graham crakers wtih a schmear of peanut butter, or ants on a log. Yogurt with a dash of honey, a sprinkle of Kashi, and a handful of frozen blueberries is our current favorite after school snack.

Simpl... Simply_Janeen

Curious, isn't dried fruit a bit of a concern with teeth? Since my daughter has FIVE cavities she now has to get filled, I'm really concerned about the dried fruits. She loves the fruit leathers from the co-op but I won't get them for her now due to her cavity concerns.

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