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Veggie-loving toddlers more likely to sleep through the night

If you want the toddler in your life to sleep through the night, make sure they’re getting plenty of vegetables and keep the soft drinks, snacks and fast food to a minimum, new research shows.

A New Zealand study of more than 6000 two-year-olds found high vegetable consumption was associated with less disrupted sleep, whereas high sugary drink, snack and fast food consumption was associated with inadequate and disrupted sleep.

Screen time and heavy maternal smoking were also associated with increased night waking in the toddlers, the study published in the journal Nutrition says.

Interestingly, a diet high in dairy was also associated with greater odds of night waking, but limiting dairy is not recommended as it provides many essential nutrients for children, including calcium for healthy bones.

It’s recommended toddlers sleep between 10 and 12 hours at night and have one or two naps during the day.

How to help toddlers love vegetables

From the time your baby starts on solids, if you keep introducing them to a variety of vegetables, by the time they are two years old, a toddler will, ideally, have a range of vegetables they’ll eat, including ones that are not sweet such as broccoli or spinach.

Babies and toddlers learn by watching the people around them. So, if you enthusiastically eat your vegetables, they’re more likely to willingly give them a go.

Toddlers can be really curious, and that can be used to help them learn to love their veg. Tell your wee one all about how the vegetable grows and how it was cooked. You can ask them what colour it is, how it tastes and what its texture is like.

Let them help you prepare the vegetables. Involving your toddler in the preparation of a meal will make them more likely to want to eat what’s served. Some of the ways they can help include washing the vegetables, putting them in pots or on trays, adding seasoning (that you measure out for them) or sprinkling cheese over.

If your toddler tells you they don’t like a particular vegetable, keep offering it on other occasions. It can take around 10 tastes or more to really determine whether or not they like something.

Finally, try to be encouraging and avoid stress or pressure at mealtimes.

First published: Dec 2021

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