I’ve now experienced, first hand, picky eating. It’s funny… because my son has always accepted new foods up until now, I thought that we were golden in the eating department! Ya, not so much. It turns out that most babies are WAY more accepting of new foods than toddlers are. And even if you have already introduced a food and it was well-accepted, it doesn’t mean that your toddler will not one day reject it. Ok, so now that I know that my son will not gladly eat every food I put in front of him all the time, I’ve decided to learn from it, write about it and teach about it. I’m trying to think positively here, can you tell?!
So this may be a sore topic for some of you, and I get it. You’re not alone. You’re worried that your toddler or preschooler is not getting enough nutrition because he or she only eats applesauce or cheerios. All the time. Every meal. But in reality, your child may be receiving balanced nutrition throughout the week. Maybe not in a day, but throughout a one-week period. Until your child’s palate matures, consider some of these tips. Your child may eat a tonne one day and not very much the next. This is totally normal. By the end of the week, your child will have likely eaten more balanced that you think.
Here are my Top Five Picky Eating Tips, straight from a first-time Mother of a picky-eater.
- Your child’s appetite is going to fluctuate from day to day. Respect that. Just like your appetite changes from day to day and meal to meal, so does your little one’s. If you notice that your little one is cueing that he or she is full or not interested anymore, even after a few bites, don’t force feed and pressure him or her to keep going. Your toddler is respecting his or her hunger and fullness cues and so should you.
- Establish a routine with meals and snacks so that the timing is fairly similar every day. This way your toddler will begin to know and expect when meal and snack times are. It will allow him or her to be hungry at meals (but not starving). Don’t let eating be a free-for-all- it will exhaust you and your toddler will have a hard time figuring out his or her natural hunger and fullness cycles. You are in charge of what, where and when your toddler eats and they are in charge of whether and how much they eat. I know it would be so much easier if we were in charge of EVERYTHING, but we’re not.
- Let your child explore new foods, pressure-free. Part of becoming comfortable with a particular food is exploring it. When you see your toddler playing with, mushing up, or smearing food all over his or her highchair, consider it a way of your toddler learning more about the food and becoming comfortable enough with it to put it in his or her mouth. What my son does now, is he tries a new food but then spits it out, only to put it back in his mouth if it is up to his satisfaction. Lovely. It’s his way of feeling safe with it though, so we are trying to just go with it. Sometimes it ends up on the floor, in his hair or smeared on his highchair, but that’s all part of it I guess! Here’s the thing. You don’t want to pressure your toddler into eating something that he or she is not yet totally comfortable with. Allow a warming up period. Let your toddler try new foods without pressure.
- Don’t reward with food or praise for eating certain foods. Once you start rewarding your toddler with certain foods, or praising your toddler for eating other foods, you are starting to teach your toddler to associate certain foods as “good” and certain as “bad”. If you praise your child for eating broccoli, he is going to start to wonder what the big deal is…and then if you reward them with a cookie (after they’ve finished their broccoli), they will soon come to learn that cookies are the sought after “yummy” food and broccoli is not so great.
- Don’t stop serving new or rejected foods. It may take up to 20 tries before your toddler accepts a new food. I know that it’s tempting to skip right to the accepted and safe food at meal times- trust me- but they are not going to learn or have the opportunity to become comfortable with a food unless it’s introduced many times in a pressure-free environment. It’s frustrating and may feel like a waste, but it’s key to molding a balanced healthy eater. Model healthy eating- it’s important that your toddler sees that you enjoy a variety of foods every day- they will start to learn that this is normal. This brings up another important point- family meals are key- at least one a day.
If you’re really concerned about your toddler’s picky eating habits and nutritional intake, keep a one-week food dairy. Most toddlers will not let themselves go hungry first of all. If they fall short on calories one day, they will likely make up for it the next day. Throughout the course of a day, you may worry that your toddler is only eating one or two foods. But over the course of a week, you may notice that your child eats more balanced than you thought. The point is, it would be unusual if your toddler wasn’t a picky eater to some extent. Try not to obsess or stress about it (trust me, I know it’s hard). Most picky toddlers grow to accept and eat a variety of foods. If you’re concerned about your toddlers growth or development, consult your Doctor to explore further.
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