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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dealing with Children Who Are Picky Eaters

Having a picky eater can be frustrating. Heck, BEING a picky eater (this is coming from experience) is frustrating and a little embarrassing. There are quite a few things that can be done to help prevent it, or to overcome the picky toddler stage.

Preventative

Constantly offer your little one foods of all sorts and varieties. This means that they don't eat the same meal all the time. It's one thing to pull out the old classic macaroni and cheese once a week or so, and quite another to have that each day for lunch. If you get your children used to trying new foods, it will continue to be less of a struggle. On the opposite end, if you only feed your child the same foods, they could start to prefer ONLY those foods.

Overcoming picky stages of life

At a certain point in toddlerhood, your child might start to be picky. This comes from a smaller requirement for calories as their bodies are settling and growing less, physically. It is ever so easy to just want them to eat something, anything. They are probably starving! The poor thing.

Kids won't starve themselves. Offer them a variety of healthy foods (maybe 2 or 3 items) and let them eat whatever from those options. I like to give a variety that includes protein, vegetable, and dairy, and follow up with a fruit. If he absolutely refuses to eat something, he must at least try it before I give him something else. I require the little guy to try 2 bites of something, and then he can decide whether or not to eat the rest. The first bite is often swallowed so quickly because he "doesn't like it", that it is barely (if at all) tasted. The second bite helps him to actually taste the food and give him a chance to like it.

They say kids won't officially "like" something until they've tried it ten times. So keep offering it, and keep having them take little bites.

At least for my little guy, if he sees his parents eating it he'll want to eat it as well! Much easier to get him to try something we are eating.

Do not make mealtimes stressful. It is easy to get frustrated and want them to JUST EAT THE FOOD but we don't want to create food issues for them later in life. This was an issue for us. We just wanted him to eat more healthily, and he seemed to refuse everything except chicken nuggest and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Mealtimes became a battle of wills, and if it gets to that point with a toddler, parents have already lost. Just set the expectation ("If you eat 2 bites of this, you can have chicken nuggets", or whatever motivates the little one.

Make meal times more fun! 

Toddlers love to dip food, see if you can disassemble a meal a bit, and have the little one dip part of it. Think toasted cheese "sticks" in tomato soup, veggies in ranch or hummus, quesadillas in sour cream.

Cut foods into fun shapes - circles, triangles, hearts; depending on the food (and maybe your knife skills) the sky is the limit!

Have themed meals. One of my favorite ideas to have come across is movie night with a themed meal! I admit, I have trouble coming up with largely varying ideas (SO FAR!) but it gets easier as time goes on. Work that creative side!

Cars is always Nathan's movie of choice. We can make apple wedge "cars" with grape-half "wheels" (set on the plate to resemble cars). Baby carrots can be called traffic cones. Slice up some bell peppers, red, yellow, and green, and place in cups alongside one another to represent a traffic light (plus ranch, or something to dip!). You could even fold up some deli meat into a car-ish roll and slice some cheese into circle wheels. It might be silly but it definitely is fun.

Have toddlers help make the food. This is not only to get them to learn what goes into meals (and thus be more likely to eat them) but also, down the line, kids learn to be more independent and helpful around the kitchen.

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