When we first start to feed our baby solid food, they show their likes and dislikes with certain textures and tastes. With the baby growing into toddlers, this can become an issue and toddler may become fussy or even the picky eater.
For some parents, this can turn to a greater problem when kids start to reject to eat anything from a certain food group (like meat or vegetables).
Here we share some tips how you can, as a parent, try to influence this type of behaviour from child’s early days.
We have been blessed with adventurous eaters so far. For us, the food transition was straight from breastmilk to table food. My mom had bought me a food mill so I could grind baby food at the dinner table, but the whole concept was very unappealing to me. I had a friend mention baby led weaning to me, which is where you just offer table food and baby will gradually transition from nursing to eating in their own time. My older son’s first food was an apple wedge — he didn’t do more than gnaw on it and suck the juices, but he loved it. From there, we did carrot and celery sticks, which were coincidentally great for teething. Whatever he could pick up and put in his mouth from that dinner’s meal he was allowed to try and eat. Yes, it was messy at times. But I am so glad I never had to make baby food, or force my child to eat it. We had a few moments where mom and dad watched REALLY closely to make sure our son could actually swallow what he got in his mouth. But overall it was fantastic. We never had to cut grapes or hot dogs into tiny pieces, because along the way, my son was taught how to bite normal table food into small chewable bites. Now, at 3, we still have no set limit on what my toddler has to eat — he must eat two bites of every item in front of him, but after that, he can be done if he wants. Most days, he eats almost all his food. Favorite foods? Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sushi (yes, with raw meat or fish eggs too), venison meat, shrimp… the kid will even eat liver. I attribute it to the gradual introduction of table foods. If we do ever have a day where he doesn’t want to eat — we revert to the two bite rule. Additionally, if he says “I don’t like that” or something similar …especially before trying it, he is required to immediately have a bite or two before eating anything else. That tactic usually shows him that the food isn’t that “bad” …and teaches him not to be rude about food.
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I think the most important thing is not to pressure them into eating things. Just keep presenting them with healthy options and eventually they’ll eat healthy food. As Betsy says, it takes 10-15 exposures to a food before they’ll accept it (actually that’s generally adults as well.) It’s normal for toddlers to go through a fussy stage. You just have to keep your cool and not let them brow beat you into only giving them the foods that they like. (Easier said that done!).
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I found the best advice I was given was that you cannot control what your child eats or how much they eat. All you can truly control is what you present them with. My son always really seemed to enjoy eating foods off a plate with a face on it that we could add different foods to make hair and eyebrows and beards/mustaches! Make food and eating FUN!
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It’s also important to remember that toddlers through preschool aged children taste things very strongly. They usually enjoy each type of food separately, not combined. And creating simplified versions of the family’s meals will help them develop their list of foods they enjoy
author at Mommy Crusader and her Knights and Ladies.
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How your family behaves at meal times has a huge impact on how your toddler will eat too. We have always had our children sit at the table at meal times. They are to sit with us even if they aren’t eating. The reason we have this rule is because, my husband and I are the only adults in the house. If we didn’t make them sit with us it would mean getting up and going every few minutes to check on the child/children. As the kids grew, they learnt our eating habits. They saw us enjoying food and they were interested in too.
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Toddlers love trying new things as long as you make it fun! It doesn’t mean you have to go out of the way to prepare something elaborate. Just present usual food in new forms, such as rolls, or a quiche, or pasta sauce. And even if your toddler has favourite foods, introduce them to new ones often. Their tastes are still changing, so they might develop new favourites! I also try to introduce new dishes from our table into my toddler’s meal. This will help in transitioning him to our table food.
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I have one very picky toddler. What has worked for us is always offering new foods without pressure. I offer a combination of new foods and something that I know he will eat. If he tries the new food, great! If not, I don’t comment or coerce (as long as he doesn’t throw it on the floor). Eventually he has started sampling a few new foods. Be patient and consistent!
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Instead of feeding my babies store bought baby food, I mashed up soft food that the rest of the family was eating. My children are not picky. I believe the best way to raise a non-picky child is offer a wide variety of foods from a very young age and make food exciting and encouraging them to try new foods. If they see mom and dad eating heathy foods, they are more likely to want to eat them too. Make food an adventure, let your toddler help pick out new foods in the produce section, and make it fun. Talk about food a lot with your toddler and children and about why we need to eat healthy foods. In our house, healthy eating is a way of life. Offering real foods, every day for every meal will help your child enjoy the taste of real foods as opposed to processed foods. If your little one shows a dislike for a certain food, i.e. asaparagus, continue to offer the food on a regular basis and encourage them to eat it. Try preparing it in new and different ways, too!
author at A Virtuous Woman. Follow Melissa through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
I have only one picky eater in my house and I think it’s in her genes. I have brought all my children from breastfeeding to table food. With my second child even though she is still the picky eater I have always continuously presented her with the foods that we’ve eaten. I allowed my babies to help pick the food in the Grocery store. One great way I have found to help is during the summer months I take them to the farmers markets in our area and all the fresh veggies and fruits are right there to try. If something peaks their interest I usually let them try it there and buy some to take home and prepare. My babies also were more into eating from my plate than their own. If it was something that they did not like, if I let them try it from my plate they were more likely to eat it. Another thing is as they get older letting them help prepare the food (shucking corn, picking peas, ect) made them want to try the food that they helped prepare.
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Remember to cut down on flavourings when cooking for kids. Including salt and sugar, or any artificial flavour enhancers. Babies and toddlers feel very strongly how food tastes and strong or too complicated flavours may turn them down and make food less attractive. And it’s better for us, parents as well to get back to more natural taste of food. I have a toddler who happens to be a picky eater and refused meat and most of the vegetables. In fact, her complete menu could be counted on fingers of one hand! We have used number of tricks to get my toddler to become a better eater and we are slowly getting there!
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Mihaela runs Best Toys 4 Toddlers blog and loves to come up with new ideas how to use old toys her 2 daughters keep leaving on the floor to slip over. She loves them despite the fact that they call her mommy few hundred times a day, and it makes her nuts.