For new parents, picky eating is especially frustrating and confusing and, at times, heart breaking. It’s tough. But, and as a mom with a toddler who’s been there (and is still “there” from time to time), I’m hear to tell you that while tough, it’s (or, picky eating) not impossible.
Based upon my experiences, here are my rules for dealing with a picky eating toddler:
- When introducing new foods, offer one food at a time. Offering too much food, particularly new kinds of food, is overwhelming to most toddlers. And overwhelming = whole plates being thrown to the ground.
- Go easy on the Mickey D’s. It’s tempting when dealing with a picky eating toddler to go with the path of least resistance, the path of McDonald’s French fries and Ice Cream and string cheese. And while this path is OK sometimes, making it a habit will backfire in the long run. Trust me.
- Try, try, and try again. Just because your child turns down chickpeas the first, second, and third times you’ve offered them, don’t give up. At times, with my daughter, I did give up with certain foods and resign to easier alternatives (see #2). But I learned that usually toddlers will eat what’s given so long as it is given enough times (sometimes in different environments and with other helpers).
- Don’t throw uneaten foods away (or eat them yourself). Invest in some Ziploc bags or Rubbermaid containers to store uneaten foods. Offer them at a later time when your child is hungry enough to accept them.
- Give your toddler choices. Toddlers like to feel like they are in control of what they are eating. So with my daughter, for instance, I always made sure to give her two choices for potential meals. I never did more than two because too many choices would lead to mommy meltdowns and tantrums for that one food item that I happened not to have in my refrigerator.
- Give smoothies a try. Every parent wants their toddlers to eat veggies and fruits. But Murphy’s Law of Parenting dictates that the thing you really want for your toddler will be the very thing they seem to hate/resist/fight most. To get around this law, you have to be “clever.” Rather than offering plain old veggies and fruits on a plate, blend them into a smoothie. Let your toddler drink the smoothie with a fun straw and voila, you have a veggie/fruit drinking genius!
- Make mealtimes when your toddler is most hungry. When your toddler is most hungry, he/she will be more likely to a) try new foods, b) eat what’s given, and c) not put up a fight.
- Allow your toddler to be involved in preparing their meals. Allowing your toddler to be in on the preparation will give them more incentive to want to try the foods made.
- Get help when you need it most. Dealing with a picky eating toddler is stressful, so when needed, enlist the help of a spouse, friend, or family member to help with mealtimes.
- Be patient. Take each mealtime in stride. Like most things in parenting, know that this too shall pass. Just try to go with the flow and don’t take things personally. The less you give in to their battles, the better off you will be. Trust me!