Picky Eaters: Tips from our Pediatricians to help your child eat better

Picky eating is often normal for toddlers. After the rapid growth of infancy, a toddler’s appetite tends to slow down.

Toddlers also are beginning to develop preferences for certain food. A toddler’s favorite food one day may be different another day, or a snubbed food might suddenly become the one he or she can’t get enough of. For weeks, they may eat 1 or 2 preferred foods – and nothing else.

While we understand this can be frustrating but this is typical toddler behavior. Just make healthy food choices available, with time, your child's appetite and eating behaviors will level out. In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you get through the picky eater stage.

1. Family eats together. Share a meal together as often as you can. This means no distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you've served. Try to include at least one food your child likes with each meal and continue to provide a balanced meal, whether he/she eats it or not.

2. No forcing the toddler If your toddler refuses a meal, avoid fussing over it. It’s good for children to learn to listen to their bodies and use hunger as a guide. If they ate a bi, for example, they may not be interested in eating much the rest of the day. It's a parent's responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don't, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.

3. Do not bribe the child to eat. Tempting as it may be, try not to bribe your children with treats for eating other foods. This can make the "prize" food even more exciting, and the food you want them to try an unpleasant chore.

4. Variety: the spice. Offer a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits, and include higher protein foods like meat and fish at least 2 times per week. Help your child explore new flavors and textures. Try adding different herbs and spices to simple meals to make them tastier. To minimize waste, offer new foods in small amounts and wait at least a week or two before reintroducing the same food.

5. Try again. Just because a child refuses a food once, don't give up. Keep offering new foods and those your child didn't like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a portion of food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry.

6. Make food fun. Toddlers are especially open to trying foods arranged in eye-catching, creative ways. While we understand not everyone is a chef but try your best to make foods look good. Kids this age also tend to enjoy any food involving a dip. Finger foods are also usually a hit with toddlers. Cut solid foods into bite-size pieces they can eat themselves, making sure the pieces are small enough to avoid the risk of choking.

7. Involve kids in meal planning. Put your toddler's growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let you child pick which vegetables and fruits to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or farmer's market.

If you are concerned about your child’s diet, talk to us, we can help troubleshoot and make sure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients to grow and develop. Keep in mind that picky eating usually is a normal developmental stage for toddlers.

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