Being a parent to a picky eater can be so distressing and this is one of the most common things parents are asking about in my Kaboutjie Community on Facebook group. So I thought it is about time to research this and put together a comprehensive post on tips for getting picky eaters to eat healthy food.
Toddlers Are Often Picky Eaters
It is important to remember that toddlers are notorious for being fussy eaters. Keep in mind that babies grows at an incredibly rapid pace and when they get into toddlerhood the pace of their growth slows down a bit – this means that they might not have a great appetite. Add into this that toddlers are starting to develop food preferences.
This preference for foods can be a frustrating time for parents since toddlers might decide they like something one day and refuse to eat it the next day. They may also refuse to eat anything except a certain food for days or even weeks at a time. While this may be upsetting for parents, when you understand that this is a normal process that your child will go through it can make it easier to cope.
A baby that ate everything that you put in front of him may very likely turn into a fussy eater as a toddler.
Family Meal Times
There are so many benefits to sitting down as a family to eat your meals. You don’t have to do it at every meal, but try and make at least one meal a day where the family all sit down together without any distractions such as the tv or devices.
Put the focus on good table manners and being together as a family rather than forcing anyone to eat everything on their plates.
Make A Healthy Balanced Meal
Make a healthy balanced meal for your family and give your toddler the same meal every time. Do not make separate meals for different family members and do not allow your child to have anything else to eat after the meal if he does not eat all of his food.
For example I dish up the food for the entire family and put it on the table. I make sure that the meal is balanced and even if one family member does not like something I still put it on the plate.
It is up to that person if he wants to eat it or not and I don’t make a fuss. ‘
However if anyone wants a second helping or if they want to eat something else (such a piece of fruit) after the meal I only allow it if they have eaten everything on their plate.
Make Food Fun
There are so many quick and easy ways to make meals fun and more exciting – all you have to do is check out Pinterest and you will come across so many awesome ideas!
Here is a fantastic post that shares Christmas themed veggie platters for kids.
Make Platters For Kids
While it is important to have a sit down meal with the family at least once a day, it is important to note that toddlers are not good at sitting still or eating well. So give them a chance to play and eat when they need to.
Make a platter of healthy finger foods and leave it somewhere safe where your toddler can get to it when he is hungry and leave it alone. You may find that without any pressure and being able to make his own choices that your toddler actually eats quite well by the end of the day.
Cooking with your child is fantastic on so many levels. You get to spend quality time together, you are teaching your child new skills and the best part when it comes to picky eaters – you may find your child is more likely to eat food that he has helped to prepare.
Grow Your Own
Plant your own veggie garden. If you don’t have a garden there are plenty of things that you can grow easily in pots. Have your child help you in the garden and help you when it comes to picking the produce. Get your child to help you prepare meals with food that you have grown yourself and you may find that there is a great amount of interest.
Tell Your Child What “Superpower” Each Food Provides
Your child needs to get in the right amount of vitamins and minerals – explain to your child what each type of food does for his body. My son just loves the Nutriday Yoghurts because on the packs it says what it does for the child, ie strong bones, strong teeth, strong heart or strong eyes. He checks each pack and chooses which he thinks he needs most at the time.
It will also make your child aware from a young age how important it is to eat for your health and not just for taste.
Plan Meals Together
The more control your toddler thinks he has the better! When shopping and making meals ask your child what vegetables he would like for supper.
I still let my kids (long past toddler stage) choose one meal a week where they decide what we eat and it makes them so happy. It also makes my life easier because that is one meal I don’t have to think about.
Hide Those Veggies
While it is important to get our kids to eat veggies happily of their own free will sometimes they just don’t want to eat it and that can be worrying for parents.
There are plenty of ways to hide veggies in dishes such adding grated carrots chopped celery and other vegetables to your kids bolognaise sauce.
Something I love is superfoods powder which you can add to yogurt, smoothies, juice or milk – it is a great way to boost your child’s nutrition in an easy way.
Offer A Variety Of Foods
Make sure to always add something new for your kids to try – whether it be a new vegetable or adding different spices or herbs to the food.
When offering a new food make sure to pair it with something your child is familiar with and likes. Wait a few days before offering that same food again.
It is important that your child has a variety of tastes, colour and textures to try.
Treats and Bribes
If you buy a dessert for the family don’t refuse to give your child the treat based on what he eats and don’t use desserts or treats as a bribe.
Relax and Trust The Process
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, toddlers and young children are usually picky eaters. If you have a child that eats well consider yourself very lucky.
Keep in mind that while you want your child to eat well and it may distress you if you think that your child is not eating enough it is also important that your child has a healthy relationship with food. The way that your child thinks about food is important and putting on too much pressure may not work in your child’s favour long term.
If your child is a fussy eater but is healthy and putting on weight, follow the above tips to get your child to eat better and try not to worry too much about it for now.
What tips and tricks do you have for a picky eater? Share them in the comments!