Healthy Food Swaps for Picky Eaters

Take a look at your toddler’s dinner plate. Could his meal benefit from a nutritional boost?

At this stage, you should be focusing on good nutrition rather than the number of calories he is consuming -- and when it comes to healthy eating, there’s often room for improvement. Remember that the early years are the best time to cultivate a lifetime of good eating habits, so pile on the veggies, go crazy with the fruit, and introduce your toddler to healthy, interesting foods such as quinoa, mango, or asparagus. These healthy food swaps will help get more nutrients into your child’s diet.

Food swap: At lunch
Lunchtime is the starting point for making healthy food swaps. If you’re serving your toddler a sandwich, make sure you prepare it on whole wheat bread instead of white bread. The whole grains in the wheat bread will give him a good dose of protein and fiber, and help keep him full longer. Also, consider skipping the juice box and replacing his drink with water instead. Finally, if you’re serving a dip for veggies, fruit, or crackers, choose healthy, low-fat options like hummus or Greek yogurt.

Food swap: While cooking
Your evening dinner routine is probably already rushed, but it’s worth taking the extra few minutes to make healthy food swaps. If you’re baking, consider substituting half of the oil the recipe calls for with unsweetened applesauce, which has more nutritional value. And Greek yogurt can be used in place of cream in many of your favorite sauces. It’s also a smart idea to add pureed vegetables, such as carrots or zucchini, to pasta sauces and other dishes -- an especially helpful move for picky eaters who refuse to touch their veggies.

Food swap: At dessert
Putting a limit on sweets is important for your toddler’s health. Instead of cookies, ice cream, or cake, offer fruit at the end of meals. To make fruit more intriguing, try a more kid-friendly preparation: Use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of watermelon slices, or alternate banana slices, raspberries, and blueberries on a skewer.

No child’s diet is going to be perfect 100 percent of the time, but if you commit to making healthy food swaps now, it will be less of a challenge to get your child to eat nutritious food when he’s older.