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How to Manage a Picky Eater
March 27, 2014 • Posted by Alexandra Supel

If your child refuses to eat new foods or constantly asks for one food all day everyday, you might have yourself a picky eater. As your toddler’s cognitive development advances, she/he becomes more aware of how foods feel, look, taste, and smell. It is normal that around 1 to 2 years your child begins to demonstrate some independence and show preference to certain foods. Although some pickiness is normal, it is important to continue trying to introduce new foods into your child’s diet. Here are a few pointers, tips, and ideas to try next time your baby or toddler is finicky at the kitchen table.

Your toddler doesn’t want to try new foods because he/she is trying to be independent and “no” is his/her favorite word:

  • Give them the option to choose which new food they will try. By allowing them to choose instead of making them try what mommy or daddy wants, they will feel independent and more likely to go along with the plan.
  • Try including your child when grocery shopping and preparing meals. Toddlers are more likely to eat something when they see how it’s cooked. It’s also a great time for bonding in the kitchen!
  • Although the “just one bite” rule is great, remember not to push it. You’re trying to implement these foods for the long run and by creating a tense situation your toddler is more likely to create bad memories with that food.

If your toddler gives you the excuse “I’m not hungry”:

  • If you’re worried your child isn’t eating enough, but their growth rate is normal, your perception of how much food they need might be slightly off. Keep in mind that a serving for young children is a tablespoon per year of age—basically, a bite or two of the heaping helping of peas you may have piled on her plate.
  • When your toddler IS hungry, use it to your advantage and try introducing foods then. Children are more likely to eat whatever is in front of them if they’re very hungry. Try to start with some veggies and later give them some of the foods they already love.

If your toddler says it’s “yucky”:

  • Toddlers have more taste buds than adults, making them more sensitive to tastes. When textures and bitterness don’t agree with your child’s palette, try serving the vegetables differently. For example, roasting vegetables brings out natural sweetness and changes the textures to make it tastier for your child.
  • Sourness always combats bitterness, so try adding lemon juice to vegetables, such as broccoli, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, and green beans.

General tips:

  • Introducing new foods can be challenging, so relax and be patient!
  • Be a good role model for your child. Your toddler may be more willing to eat new foods if she sees mommy, daddy, and siblings eating the same things.
  • Don’t bribe your child with sweets, because it teaches him that some foods are more valuable than others.
  • Establish regular meal and snack times to regulate your toddler’s diet. A toddler should have 3 meals and 2 snacks a day. Don’t allow him/her to eat throughout the day, because he/she will be less willing to eat during actual meal times.
  • And of course, healthy eating habits start at home, so remember to eat healthy homemade meals and maintain a peaceful environment at the kitchen table.

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