My Toddler Is A Picky Eater


Eating is as much an emotional and relationship issue as it is a physical issue.  We work with parents and children on nutrition from the psychological vantage point. Later on in this series we’ll hear from some nutritionists, but for now, let’s talk about our children and what’s happening.

There are a lot of picky eaters these days, and there are almost as many “explanations” of why a child is a picky eater as there are children.

  • “I remember being forced to eat___”
  • “I’ve tried everything but___”
  • “Aren’t all kids like that?”
  • “He’ll outgrow it.”
  • “I do what I can, but fast food is all I have time for after work.”
  • “A chubby baby is a healthy baby.”
  • “I know he eats a lot of junk, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting anything. Look at him! He looks really healthy.”

As a result of those and many more inaccurate assumptions, we are a nation in nutritional trouble, with a huge percentage of our child population overweight or malnourished, or both. Even that healthy looking boy referred to above is developing future physical problems.

O.K., let’s assume you agree and know what is healthy to eat, but sometimes “Turning over a new leaf” isn’t simple. There is a possibility that you’ll run into resistance when you mention there is going to be a change, and we all know a toddler can resist. So, what are the guidelines for change?

  1. Make sure mealtime is social time. Talk, smile, have eye contact. Put away the iPad, and turn off the TV.
  2. Offer the same foods you’re eating. Young children are great “copiers.” That means, of course, that you need to be eating healthy foods.
  3. Don’t ever force your child to eat–not even to just “taste”. Have a variety of food at each meal, making sure you’ve included at least one familiar “liked” food.
  4. Don’t fix “special” meals as an alternative.
  5. Offer a new food repeatedly. Some experts suggest it may take 15 times of seeing a new food before a child will even taste it.
  6. Give very small portions of new foods. One or two green beans is enough. There can always be more, but large amounts discourages a child from trying.
  7. Maintain a relaxed, optimistic attitude.

The important factors here are consistency and avoiding a power struggle. If your toddler is upset because dinner isn’t white bread and ice cream, remember that it is change that is difficult, not your child. Also remind yourself that he or she learned to eat white bread and ice cream from some adult, –possibly you, so be patient and forgiving.

The age of picking things up and putting them in his/her mouth (the age of the toddler) is the perfect age to introduce all kinds of food.

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