How to Deal with a Picky Toddler

in , , by Katie Margaret, June 18, 2018
Ever since I first became a mom, I have become so consumed with feeding my child.  As a parent, one of my big goals for myself is to feed my child a healthy balanced diet.  My obsession with what my baby ate started the day he was born.  I was always wondering if he was getting enough milk.  When it was time for solid foods, I made him his baby food and introduced them slowly.  When it was time for table food I didn't hold back and I introduced him to everything I could.  For the first year, he did great with everything I gave him to eat.  It was so easy.  But then he became a stubborn toddler and all of a sudden, everything I offered him ended up on the floor.  Ever since he turned 18 months, mealtime has been hit or miss.  It's so frustrating for me.  He is usually just eating with his eyes and won't even try what's in front of him.  Jack's 3 major foods that he will always eat are noodles, cheese, and milk.  He's often constipated because of his diet, so I'm always trying to find ways to get him to eat all the healthy things he needs.

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As a preschool teacher, I deal with picky eaters all the time.  Every time I have a parent-teacher conference, one of the concerns that parents will always talk to me about is how their child is eating.  All of us parents just want to have a child that will eat a variety of food, especially healthy foods.  I've learned a lot of great tips for dealing with picky eaters just from my day job.  I'm actually pretty good at getting my preschool kids to eat their vegetables, it's just my child that I can't get to eat anything.

It can be extremely frustrating at times when you have a picky eater on hand, but there are some tricks to help you deal with it.  Here are some ways that I am trying to promote a healthy diet in my home.

Eat together and lead by example
Eat with your children.  Family meals are so important.  Children benefit from them so much.  It's the perfect way to lead by example.  If they see you eating your fruits and vegetables, they will want to try them too.  I recently moved Jack into a booster chair at our table and I love it.  He's eating better and it's so nice to eat as a family.

Don't buy junk food
My husband and I don't really eat a lot of junk food.  We like it and that's why I don't buy it often.  We do buy snacks like Goldfish crackers, but we try to stay away from the fried and fattening snacks like potato chips, Cheetos, Doritos.... pretty much all the yummy things, because we know it will be gone if we buy it.  Plus, I would rather not have Jack eat so much junk food.  We try to snack on fruit, veggies or nuts instead.

Have healthy snacks at your Child's level
I read this in a blog post that I recently pinned, but I've been doing it for a while.  In my pantry, on the lower shelf, I keep a basket of snacks available all the time.  I fill it with apple sauce pouches, raisins, snack bars, graham crackers, goldfish crackers, and other snack type food.  This gives Jack a variety to choose from and allows him to have some independence and choose his own snack.

Take your child grocery shopping with you
Jack has been my grocery shopping buddy ever since he was born.  Now that he's older, I let him help more at the store.  We talk about what we are buying and he helps me pick out the food too.  My grocery store always has fresh fruit as a snack in the produce aisle, so he gets excited about his banana or orange.  Lately, I will say to him "Should we try this?" and he says "try this." When we get home he remembers and asks me if he can try what we bought.

Have your child help prepare food
I love this one because it's so fun to have children help make food.  Every morning, I let Jack drop his waffle into the toaster and he even helps me make my coffee by picking out my K-cup and putting it into my Keurig coffee maker.  As he gets older I will let him be more involved in the kitchen, but for right now we will just stick to breakfast.

Cut the food in a new way
Jack never ate a sandwich when I made them for him, so I just thought he didn't like sandwiches.  Well, the first time mom that I am was cutting his sandwich into little bite-size pieces.  When he started eating sandwiches at school in the toddler room, his teachers kept telling me how well he was eating them.  It turned out that they cut them into quarters.  It was the same way with pizza.  He just wanted to eat his food like a big boy.

Hide the vegetables
Hiding healthy foods has always been a great mom trick.  My little guy usually doesn't fall for it, but every now and again I'm able to trick him and slip some vegetables into his diet.  One thing I do sometimes is blend up bananas and spinach into the pancake mix.  He loves them and just thinks he's eating a pancake.

Give your child a variety of food
At dinner, I always try to give Jack a few different foods to choose from.  I give him the main food that I know he will eat, then some fruit or veggies.  Sometimes he's hungry and will eat the fruit, but most times he just asks for more pasta.  I still try.  These cute little Munchkin Apple plates (HERE) are perfect for separating their food and making the meal look more appealing for a toddler.

  Don't give up!
My number one advice is to not give up on a picky eater.  Unless your pediatrician has expressed concern to you about your child's weight and growth, you shouldn't worry too much.  Picky kids survive and they turn out just fine.  Children go through lots of different stages.  Keep trying and who knows, maybe one day you will have a healthy eater.

Do you have picky eaters at home?  What are some of your tips?

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  1. My daughter is beginning to come into this stage. Good tips! It is always great to hear from someone else dealing with the same dilemmas. Thanks!

  2. I have to be better about hiding the veggies. My little guy can always catch me smuggling things into the mac and! Great tips! Can't wait to try them out!

  3. My kids are addicted to smoothies. And it is super easy to hide veggies in those, if nothing else works!

  4. Really interesting how your little guy wouldn't eat his sandwich when it was cut up small but he would when it was just quartered. Kids are so funny.

  5. These are really great tips! I feel the same way - my guy used to eat great and now just wants to exert his independence more and more when it comes to food. He even refused mac & cheese - he loves noodles & cheese! Kids are funny sometimes. We try to not make a fuss about it and lead by example. Hopefully it will just be a phase!

  6. All wonderful tips! The cutting food in a new way tip worked so well with my oldest. She is particular with the size of her food and doesn't like them in large pieces. Once we started making them smaller she was a lot more accepting to try new things. One tip I have to share is preparing it in a fun way. I don't always have time for this but once in awhile it gets her excited to try new things when I make a face out of her food or even just buying cute utensils or character toothpicks to use. Smoothies helped me when she started eating as well. I put kale, spinach or spirulina powder in there for her to get her veggies. She never noticed and now loves green smoothies.


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