Toddler Eating Habits & Picky Eating
On the bright side, toddlers are fun and adorable. On the not-so-bright side, they can also be incredibly picky about what food they eat at the dinner table! If you’re a parent of a picky eater, you know that mealtime can be a struggle. Trying to get your toddler to eat fruits, veggies and other nutritious foods can feel like a never-ending battle. Luckily, picky eating usually doesn’t last forever. Studies show that many children eventually outgrow picky eating, and it may just be a normal part of their development.
If your toddler is a picky eater, there are steps you can take to manage the situation. After all, your little one is in an important stage of their development. They need essential vitamins and nutrients to support them as they continue to grow. Read on to learn more about how to deal with a picky eater.
Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
Every child is different, and reasons for being a picky eater will vary. Whether your toddler is scared of trying new foods, or they simply just aren’t hungry during mealtime, children in general tend to be fussy when it comes to eating. Focus on fostering healthy eating habits and creating a positive environment in regards to food in order to help your little one navigate this difficult stage. Explore our tips on how, when and what to feed a picky toddler below:
Set a schedule.
To support your toddler’s eating habits, aim to serve them meals and snacks around the same time each day. Toddlers can have erratic appetites. Toddlers’ growth slows down after infancy, sometimes causing a decrease in appetite or changes in appetite. Stick to a consistent breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule to help establish a regular eating routine. Also, try to avoid giving your toddler sugary drinks and snacks or refined carbohydrates throughout the day. These food options usually do not provide many nutritional benefits, and they may spoil your toddler’s appetite for lunch or dinner later on.
Avoid food fights.
When it comes to feeding your toddler, it’s important to try to minimize stress and conflict. Research shows that actions such as scolding, punishing, pleading or bribing your toddler to eat may actually have the reverse effect and reduce your toddler’s food intake overall. Instead, give your toddler time and space to finish their meal. If your toddler isn’t hungry at dinner, cover the food and put it in the fridge for them to eat later on. The key is to work with your toddler—not against them!
Try toddler self-feeding.
Your toddler is in the process of developing their own little personality. As your toddler learns more about their likes and dislikes as far as food goes, they may prefer self-feeding. Instead of trying to force a spoonful of food into their mouth with the airplane trick, let them use the spoon themselves (and don’t worry too much about the spills—toddlers are messy!) If you give your child the opportunity to eat their meals at their own space, they can exercise their developing sense of autonomy, and more food might get eaten in the long run!
Start with healthy food choices early.
As a parent, you can’t control everything your child eats or doesn’t eat, but you can help manage what food options are available. Focus on introducing your toddler to a variety of nutritious foods from the start to help promote a well-balanced diet. Options such as citrus fruits, green veggies, whole grains, lean protein and certain dairy products like cheese and yogurt can be excellent choices for your toddler. It’s tough to wean toddlers off of junk food when that’s all they are used to eating, so try to break the cycle before it even begins by giving them healthy food options from the start.
Make food fun.
Meals are more fun for you your toddler when you involve them in the cooking process. If your toddler plays a role in the meal preparation, they may be more inclined to eat later on. When you head to the grocery store before dinner, bring your toddler along! They can ride in the cart and help you pick out different items from the aisles. Another option is to give them safe, easy jobs to complete while you’re cooking, such as washing the vegetables, or having them help wash the dishes after dinner. Your toddler will like feeling important and involved.
Lead by example.
Your toddler watches you to learn how to behave. If you foster healthy eating habits in your own life, you might have a positive influence on your toddler’s eating habits as well. Eat healthy meals with your little one, and if you snack, opt for wholesome options like nuts, fruits or veggies and dip. If your toddler sees you eating and liking healthy food, they’ll want to do the same! In addition, try not to graze or let them graze throughout the day. Instead, establish a regular eating schedule full of nutritious food options that you, your toddler and the rest of the family can enjoy together.
We hope you found this article on how to deal with a picky eater helpful. Explore more tips for feeding toddlers today.