8 Tips To Make Healthy Eating Easier for Toddlers and Moms

1. Hide it
Most of us have worked the occasional white lie into conversations with our little ones: that their annoying beloved television show is not on right now, that the Binky Fairy really needs their pacifier for another baby, and that we have eyes in the back of our head. Making sure our kids get the nutrients they need each day can be challenging, so we won’t judge if you stretch the truth a bit when it comes to food too. If vegetables are not a favorite in your household, sneak them in! Muffins are a great place to bake in zucchini and carrots. Pizza cheese can hide chopped up veggies. A smoothie can turn any number of offenders into a delicious milk shake (ahem, kale).

This tip works for you too, momma. Not a fan of cauliflower? Trick yourself by adding some to your baked mac and cheese. The important thing is getting enough vitamin-rich foods in your diet, not choking down a big bowl of your least favorite unseasoned veggie. Give yourself license to get creative! At Bababella’s we are big fans of sneaking nutrient-dense foods, like plum puree and organic flaxseed, into our cookies without sacrificing flavor. Each of our cookies is filled with naturally balanced fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Some are even vegan! We worked hard to keep the sugar content low, all while keeping our cookies yummy, and perfect for the inevitable sugar craving. You won’t even know that they are healthy.

2. Keep it simple
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated. Many of us follow an Instagram idol who knows the perfect way to shape her toddler’s protein pancakes into bumblebees, but that doesn’t mean that level of effort is required. New foods are exciting enough for a toddler, they don’t need to be over the top. The same applies to you. It’s great to keep a file of labor-intensive recipes on hand for special occasions, but if you are short on time and energy, the basics are just fine. There is enough pressure in mothering, and it doesn’t need to apply to your meal prep too. A simply cooked chicken breast with steamed broccoli may be just as satiating as a dish requiring prep time and a sink full of dirty dishes. A cup full of grapes or breakfast-for-dinner can be just as exciting for your little one as a bento box with rice shaped into a cat. Adding a simple dip like marinara or honey for dunking fruits and veggies can turn snack time into play time. That said, if you have the time and creativity to turn bell peppers into train cars with cucumber wheels, more power to you, momma!

3. Freeze it
Let’s face it, there are days when scaling Mount Everest seems more attainable than getting dinner on the table for our family. If you haven’t already made the freezer your BFF, now is the time to do so. We all have that friend who dedicates her Sunday to meal planning. Carefully organized and labeled containers and ingredients line her counter while she puts away meals that would make Martha Stewart proud. However, meal prep doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. Here’s our hack: when you do cook, just make more! If you make a batch of egg and pepper breakfast bites or slow cooker meatballs, double your recipe and stick the ones you don’t eat in the freezer. In addition, buying frozen produce can help prevent a crisper drawer full of moldy berries and wilted greens. You know what’s even better? Studies show that frozen fruits and veggies are as healthy for you as fresh ones. Over time you will have an arsenal of meals available that help you answer that perpetual question, “Oh crap. What are we going to eat for dinner?”

4. Offer choices
Life would be boring without choices, and choices about our food are no exception. Part of the reason restrictive diets don’t work over the long-term is that eating the same thing every day gets boring. If such rigidity is boring for adults, it’s no wonder that kids crave variety too. We can all agree that letting our littles choose what they want to eat for each meal would be a disaster, both from a physical health perspective for them and a mental health perspective for us! Include choice where it effortlessly fits in. If it’s snack time, your toddler might choose between blueberries or strawberries. If veggies are a struggle, letting them choose which green veggie will go in your casserole offers a sense of empowerment, and feeds their growing independence as well as their bellies. Adults do better when healthy choices are on hand too. If you’re sick and tired of cucumbers and hummus, it’s nice to have the option of apples and peanut butter in your pantry rather than throwing in the towel and hitting the Oreos.

5. Turn cooking time into quality time
Cooking and baking don’t have to be chores or solely a means to an end. Some of our fondest childhood memories include time in the kitchen with family. In fact, those early experiences with food are what led to the creation of BabaBella’s, which is a mother-daughter business. The word “Baba” means grandma in Russian, our family’s origin. Bella is my grandmother’s s name. She is the family baker, and the one who inspired us to turn our love for baking into a business. On days when time allows, pull up a stool for your little sous chef, even if the process is slower and messier. In addition to creating space to ask questions about food, this time together allows for sensory exploration, and helps you both feel more connected to the final product. If our own childhood experiences in the kitchen with Bella are any indication, the memories you create will make up for the flour on the floor.

6. Learn where your food comes from
Grocery store shelves do not grow food, but to kids it can feel like it. Everything tastes better when you know it’s backstory. That is why our bakery shares its story with customers—so you know each cookie is made with love and the best ingredients. If you have a farmer’s market where you live, it is a great place to ask the farmers who grew your food questions. Parents and kids alike can discover new produce to try while learning about the cow who produced the milk you are bringing home. It’s also a way to meet your neighbors and get outside. If you don’t have a farmer’s market, a trip to the zoo to visit chickens creates an opportunity to learn about eggs. Or, if you’d like to develop a green thumb, try growing herbs in your windowsill or a tomato plant in a community garden.

7. Swap it
I’d never ask you to replace chocolate chip cookies with brussels sprouts, but there are more subtle swaps that make healthy eating feel effortless for the whole family. Pasta is a favorite meal for many toddlers. Luckily, there are tons of products on the market now that make that can make that meal a little bit healthier. Instead of traditional white pasta, try whole wheat, black bean, lentil, quinoa, corn, or even chickpea pasta. You’ll be surprised by how many nutrient-dense choices are on your supermarket shelf. Spiralized veggies are a great option too. The corkscrew shape of zucchini, squash, or beat noodles is fun for little ones. You can also feel guilt-free about adding parmesan cheese to your pasta when you know it’s really a bowl of veggies! While you’re at it, consider switching to all-natural peanut butter (no added sugar), swap avocado oil or ghee for partially-hydrogenated oil, try nutritional yeast on your popcorn instead of butter, and experiment with fruit-infused water instead of high-sugar juice. No one wants to feel restricted, and with a few swaps you can transform your favorite meals.

8. Avoid all or nothing thinking
How many times have you started a healthy eating phase, fallen off the wagon, and decided that since your “good” streak is ruined you should throw in the towel and have pizza and ice cream for dinner? Just as there is no such thing as perfect parenting, there is no such thing as perfect eating. So, let’s stop holding onto those myths right away. If you make healthy or healthier choices most of the time, you’ll be doing far better in the long run than someone who takes an extreme approach for a month. Moderation and consistency allow for your toddler to have the frozen French toast sticks occasionally or eat the fast food at a birthday party. They allow you to have a chocolate bar in the car on the way to daycare pickup without guilt or shame. Healthy eating shouldn’t add stress to your life. If you accidentally eat the whole bag of potato chips, rather than beat yourself up, incorporate some veggies into your dinner. Our bodies are far more resilient than we give them credit for.

All parents want to feed their children the food they need to grow and thrive. However, when that effort becomes an overwhelming item on an already long to-do list, we start to question if the nutritional benefits outweigh the stress. We hope these tips provide a few ways to make eating healthy a more relaxed process. If you try them, we’d love to hear how they worked for your family in the comments below—or share your own!


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