18 Months – Healthy Eating

Limiting “sometimes” or “discretionary” foods

It is very difficult to restrict foods you don’t want your child to have, especially if those foods are readily available in your home. Children will ask for the ‘sometimes’ foods that are available in your home. By saying ‘no’ to these it is clear that you are restricting these foods and this can add to their desirability. It is much better to avoid having these foods readily available – if they’re not there, they won’t be asked for.

Consider getting a ‘sometimes’ or ‘discretionary’ food such as a block of chocolate that can be shared by the family. Once that food is gone there is no more.

When you serve a cake or some chocolate, try not to make a fuss about it being ‘yummy’ or a special treat or reward. Being overly strict around sweets or by using them to bribe your children will make them more exciting, forbidden and preferred. The demanding of ‘sometimes’ foods and sweets can then become a way for your child to assert their independence and can become a battle ground.

Don’t encourage your child to finish their plate of food

Children will eat more than they need if they are required or encouraged to finish their plate food. Eating more than their body needs will not only promote excess weight gain but it will also lessen their ability to listen to their appetite – to know when they have had enough to eat. Encourage your child to stop eating when they feel satisfied. If you are worried about wasting food, limit the amount of food you give your child and allow them to have more if they are still hungry. Dessert should not be a reward for “cleaning the plate” as this will also promote eating more than the body needs. Instead, consider offering dessert once or twice a week with dinner after a smaller main meal! Remember Parents Provide, Kids Decide.

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Remember Parents Provide, Kids Decide

Tap into Water

Beyond milk, water in a cup is the best drink for children. They don’t need juice, cordial or soft drinks. From around 1 year of age the maximum amount of unsweetened cow’s milk should be around 500 ml a day. Water needs to be offered regularly throughout the day and always be available. This is particularly important when you are away from home. Consider getting a special water bottle for your child to encourage them to drink water on-the-go. Another great way to encourage your child to drink water is for you to drink it too!

Budget tip:

Keep budget friendly foods on hand for quick and easy meals. For example:

  • tinned tomatoes for casseroles
  • a ready made pasta sauce to heat and serve mixed with seasonal vegetables and rice or pasta
  • frozen peas for pastas, risottos and soups
  • rolled oats for porridge and crumble toppings
  • eggs for omelettes and sandwiches
  • tinned legumes for soups, pasta sauces and salads.

Make a casserole or soup over the weekend to have for the next week.

Just add fruit and vegetables tip:

Get the kids involved in planting indoor or outdoor herbs or vegetables. Research has found that kids involved in a veggie garden, consumed more vegetables and were more likely to enjoy eating them.

> Useful resources for Session Six: 18 Months