Dealing with a Picky Eater

Around two years old, most children will enter a picker phase of eating than their previous habits. As their taste buds develop and they begin to discover their independence, toddlers start to become very picky eaters who can leave their mothers feeling like short order cooks while trying to please them.

Picky eaters can be frustrating for anyone charged with attempting to get a balanced and varied selection of foods into their diet. The pickiness can continue well past toddlerhood as well, leaving parents at a loss. Take on your picky eater with a few tricks and tips to bring him to the table.

Don’t Give In

If your toddler knows that you are going to offer an alternative when he rejects what you have prepared for dinner, he will more likely to hold his ground and refuse to even try what’s on his plate. Your toddler isn’t going to starve himself – if he’s really hungry, he will eat what’s in front of him. Stick to your guns even if it means that your little one goes to bed a bit hungry for a few nights. Eventually he will realize that you aren’t going to bow to his picky eating ways anymore, and will start eating what is offered.

This is a very difficult task for most parents, who can’t stand the thought of their child going to bed without a good meal in his tummy. However, if you continue to give in and provide an alternate meal, you will encourage him to continue demanding something else and leave you cooking several meals to please everyone. It isn’t easy, but it will teach your child a valuable lesson.

There is Room for Compromise

Even with your stance on no longer playing the short order cook for your toddler, you can still make some concessions to provide meals she is more likely to find appetizing. Before you prepare dinner, talk to your toddler about what she would like to eat. The answer might consistently be “macaroni and cheese”, but there are even ways to work with that. Try serving a baked casserole of cauliflower and cheese or mixing a vegetable in with a homemade batch of macaroni and cheese for a healthier version than what comes from a box. You can also serve the requested food as a side dish. Once your toddler starts eating, she will be more likely to move on to the other foods on her plate after she has satisfied her craving for the cheesy stuff. It won’t always work, but at least it will get her to the table and eating without demanding something else.

Casseroles are a good option for picky eaters because they combine healthier foods with the ones toddlers love, such as pasta and cheese. Mix one up in a tomato sauce and she might not even notice the vegetables.

The most important thing to remember when dealing with a picky eater is to keep offering healthy foods. If you remove those foods from the menu, you encourage the picky eating habits to continue and set your child up for a lifetime of poor nutrition.

By finding some common ground but continuing to offer a balanced children diet, you give your child the message that healthy eating is important to you and you aren’t going to give up. Even if it takes her a long time to give those foods a try, at least you will know you didn’t give up, or give in.

The Best Time to Offer Your Preschooler New Foods

Getting a preschooler to try new foods can be difficult. By the preschool years, your child has developed his personal taste and preferences for certain foods, and will be resistant to trying new things. The best way to make your child more likely to try new foods is to present them often, so that trying new things becomes common. To increase your chances of success, be sure to choose the right time to offer a new food. Your child’s likelihood of eating something new depends on a number of factors, and timing is an important one!

Hungry, But Not Too Hungry

It seems logical to think that a hungry kid is more likely to give something new a try; and overall, it’s an accurate assumption. But beware of serving new foods to a kid who is too hungry. If your ravenous little one comes to the table and sees something he doesn’t recognize it could cause more meltdown than compliance.

Try offering new foods when your child is hungry but not really starving. A kid who just needs to eat something doesn’t want to encounter a food he has to think about. You do want him hungry enough to be willing to eat what’s in front of him, however, and this can be a fine balance. Don’t try new foods if dinner is late to the table or you have been really busy or rushed that day. Aim for days when the schedule is more relaxed, and the new food is served on time.

Too Tired, Too Cranky

Gauge your child’s mood before deciding whether it’s a good time for a new experience. A tired or cranky child is unlikely to eat a new food. If she missed her nap that day, or woke up unusually early, it might not be a good day. Try to avoid days where her routine has been disrupted by unusual activities such as a visit to the doctor’s office. Disruptions to the daily schedule can make your little one cranky and unwilling to cooperate with yet another new experience.

Don’t offer new foods when your child isn’t feeling well. She probably won’t be in the mood to try, and especially if her little tummy isn’t quite right, it isn’t a great idea to put something new into it.

The Best Time of Day

Is your preschooler a morning person? Or more chipper around dinner? Look for the time of day when she is most open, happy, and compliant to introduce new foods. If your child often wakes up happy, try to introduce new foods at breakfast. If she is decidedly not a morning person, it’s better to keep breakfast a little more routine.

Dinner is often a good time to introduce new foods because it is the meal where a family is most likely to sit down and eat together. This means that your preschooler will have the opportunity to see her parents and siblings giving the new fare a try, which will encourage her to do the same.

A child who is in a good mood, well rested, and hungry but not ravenous is a child more likely to give something new a shot. Serve up new foods at the best time of day and with the best timing during the week for your child; this will be individual to each preschooler, so don’t worry about what other parents are doing. Pick the time that works best for your child.

Giving Rejected Foods Another Try

When your baby starts to reject baby foods, it might seem like you are never going to be able to serve up a healthy and balanced baby food diet. But giving up too soon on rejected baby foods is a mistake many new moms make. If your baby refuses a food the first, or even the second and third time, it doesn’t mean it has to be off the menu forever. Trying a rejected food repeatedly will help you to provide your child with all the nutrition she needs while helping to develop a wider palate and appreciation for different tastes and textures.

How Many Times Should I Try?

It can take a baby up to ten tries to really decide if she likes a certain food. Trying only a few times and then removing it from the menu will mean she misses out on a lot of foods she might eventually really come to enjoy. It is frustrating to a parent to have a food rejected over and over again, but your persistence will be rewarded. Not every food will eventually be accepted, but a good portion of the foods that you might have crossed off your list are likely to wind up on your child’s regular menu.

Trying Again Later

If you have tried repeatedly without success, it might be a good idea to put the food aside – but don’t give up on it altogether! If you stop offering the food for a few weeks and then bring it back, you might be surprised at the results. As your child’s experience with tastes and textures grows and changes over time, she might find that a food she previously refused is suddenly more appetizing.

Early on, your baby will have an affinity for baby foods that are a little sweeter and very smooth. Some foods simply can’t be pureed to the same level of smoothness as others, and some are much more bitter than the sweet taste a baby is naturally predisposed to like. As she tries more foods and expands her taste buds a little more, those baby foods that seems too chunky or not sweet enough will come back into the running.

Never Give Up

Even if you have tried over and over again with no success, there is never a reason to take a baby foods entirely off your list unless your child has an allergic reaction to it. You might need to wait a long time between attempts, but keep the food in mind to try again even a few months down the road. When your child moves on to table foods, he will be more likely to try things he might not have enjoyed in pureed form.

This is especially true if you make a point of letting your child see you eat and enjoy the food in question. Seeing the food in it’s whole form and realizing that mommy and daddy are eating it can completely change your child’s opinion. This is a great time to reintroduce foods your child repeatedly rejected earlier. These foods might be a lot more appetizing when served on a plate as part of a big kid meal than they ever were when pureed on a spoon!

If you want your child to have the most balanced children diet possible, be sure to continue offering foods that have been rejected. The more often you try, the more likely your child will one day decide it’s not so bad after all.

Children and the Vegetable Challenge

There is no food group that is more likely to cause a child to push away his plate than vegetables. They are the food that parents most commonly struggle with getting their child to eat.

All babies are born with a sweet tooth; they prefer sweet foods because breast milk, the food they are naturally inclined to like, is sweet. Most vegetables are not known for being sweet, however most babies eat vegetables fairly easily when they start solid foods. Many parents find that the trouble with vegetables starts a little later in life, generally in the toddler years. Unfortunately, it can carry over well past toddlerhood and become a battleground for many years to come.

Serving Vegetables Kids Like

A big part of the reason kids won’t eat vegetables is that they either don’t look very appetizing or are cooked poorly, leaving them limp and flavorless. Many vegetables already tend towards a bitter taste, which doesn’t go over well with young kids, and overcooking them can make it worse. Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and spinach are all likely to become bitter and unappetizing when overcooked, and they can be very hard to get kids to eat.

To avoid overcooking vegetables, try steaming them rather than boiling or microwaving. Not only will you preserve all the nutrients, but your vegetables will come out with beautiful color and a far less bitter taste. Even so, the right cooking method probably isn’t enough to get your kids to even try them to find out if they like them.

Add flavor to vegetables with sauces, dips and glazes for a taste your kids are much more likely to enjoy. Broccoli and cauliflower work beautifully with cheese sauces. Carrots can be easily glazed with a little honey. Creamy garlic sauce is a friend to green beans. Raw veggies served with a tasty dip are a great way to get older kids to dig in, and the cooking process hasn’t had a chance to affect the flavor or texture.

Hiding Vegetables

There are all kinds of recipes, even entire recipe books, out there aimed at teaching you how to hide vegetables. Some use a system of purees that you can hide in all kinds of foods.

Hiding vegetables isn’t the best way to teach your child healthy eating habits, but as long as you continue to offer the whole veggies, there is nothing wrong with a little creative cooking to ensure your child’s good nutrition isn’t being lost to picky eating.

Some vegetables are easy enough to hide in plain sight; you can mix mashed cauliflower in with mashed potatoes, for instance, and most kids will never know. The average kid won’t recognize the chunks in his pasta sauce as carrots, or the little green strips as spinach. But some are a little trickier. Finely diced vegetables can be easily added to meatballs, and your kids will never even see them.

Even if you choose to hide vegetables in your child’s food, remember to keep offering them; it’s important to their future healthy eating habits that they learn to give vegetables a try on their own. Hiding them while taking them off the menu in more obvious ways will make you child believe you no longer care if she eats them, which can lead her to believe it’s ok to skip them altogether. Hiding vegetables works for the short-term but doesn’t do much for long-term success.

Teach Your Child to Try New Foods

Children aren’t generally known for being adventurous eaters, and once they decide what they like, it can be difficult to convince them to try anything new. Raising a kid who is willing to try new things isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. It takes some effort on your part and a commitment to teaching your child that different isn’t scary. The good news is, the sense of adventure with new foods can also translate into a child who is open to new experiences in other aspects of life as well.

Make It Personal

Introduce your child to the cuisines of different cultures by using friends as a starting point. Ask friends of different cultural backgrounds to help by inviting them to dinner and asking if they would help you to prepare a meal from their background. Explain to your child ahead of time that your friends are going to share some special food that is important to their culture and heritage.

By bringing friends into the picture, you aren’t asking your child to try something new for no reason; instead you are making a special night of it and sharing something new and exciting with company. The food is no longer something random and strange, but something with personal meaning that your child can relate to people who are friends. After the big night, you might find your child not only amenable to the new food, but actually requesting it!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Introduce your child to new fruits and vegetables by growing a garden of fresh, healthy choices in your own backyard. Make it a family project and give your child a job to do in every stage of the process, from choosing what to plant to sowing the seeds, watering the plants and harvesting the results. A child who is invested in the process of growing food will be far more interested in eating the food when it reaches the table.

If growing your own fruits and vegetables isn’t possible, you can still reap some of the benefits by taking your child out to select fresh produce at a farmer’s market, or even at a berry picking farm or orchard. Choosing what will wind up on the table from the wide variety available will encourage your child to pick new things and give them a chance.

Serve New Things in Old Ways

Taking a new food and preparing it in a familiar way is a good way to get your child to at least give the new choice a try. Toss vegetables in a cheesy sauce and serve them up just like macaroni and cheese. Make a pizza from flatbread, veggies and a little cheese sprinkled on top, and bake to crispy perfection. Serve pita chips with hummus instead of tortilla chips and salsa. Making simple substitutions with new foods will introduce them to your child without the scariness of something entirely foreign.

Make It a Habit

Try new things regularly so that it becomes part of the routine and doesn’t take your child by surprise. When adventurous eating becomes a part of your family philosophy, it will become easier to get your children on board.

Remember that the more your kids see you trying new things, the more they will want to try them as well. Make it a group effort and you will wind up with a child who is up for anything, and not just at the table. You will also raise a child who is a little more open to new experiences in life.

Fruits or Vegetables: Which Does Your Child Prefer?

Just like grown-ups, children will develop a preference for certain foods. At around 2 years old, a child’s taste buds begin to change, resulting in the picky eating phase that is common to many toddlers. They have also realized that they have control over few things in life – and eating is one of them!

Many children prefer fruits to vegetables naturally; they are sweet, and babies are born with a predisposition to like sweet things due to the sweet taste of breast milk. Not all children will carry this sweet tooth into later life, however, and some will decide vegetables are more their thing. Even more commonly, they will come to like some fruits and vegetables while disliking others.

There is nothing wrong with developing a personal sense of taste, but it’s important to make sure your child is eating a balanced children diet as well. If your little one has a distinct preference for one or the other of these two nutritious choices, it isn’t the end of the world, but you should make sure you try to keep them both on the menu.

When Your Child Will Only Eat Fruit

Luckily, fruit is generally a pretty healthy choice for a child, and is certainly better choice than some of the other favorite foods kids have a tendency to choose. Your child can get a great source of vitamins and minerals from fruits, as long as the choices are varied. Eating only bananas won’t provide all the needed nutrition. Keep offering different fruits, but don’t give up on vegetables.

Sometimes, a child who likes only fruits will be more likely to try vegetables if you add a little sweetness to the mix. Try cooking carrots with a little honey; they are already naturally sweet, and the added sweetness of the honey might just put them over the top for your little one. Throw a sweet fruit in with the vegetables; try dried fruits mixed with green beans or peas, or combine sweet potatoes with apples.

If your child doesn’t like the texture of vegetables, try serving them raw or only slightly steamed instead. Keep a close eye out for possible choking hazards, but give fresh veggies and dip a try. If your child prefers fruit because it is crisp, cold, and uncooked, trying fresh vegetables might help.

If Your Little One Prefers Vegetables

It’s a rare child who chooses veggies over fruits, but it certainly does happen! If your child prefers vegetables, there really isn’t a whole lot to worry about as the nutrition provided by a diet rich in various vegetables is very well balanced.

Still, don’t skip the fruits. As with a child who prefers fruit, it’s a good idea to keep the diet as balanced as possible to ensure the best sources of nutrition. Keep offering fruit, and again try mixing it into the vegetables. Fruit makes a wonderful, convenient snack – try serving it with a yogurt dip to make it more fun.

Throughout childhood, your child will likely have several changes of heart as to what foods are on the in list and which are out. It is a time of developing tastes and opinions, and your little one is discovering personal preferences and learning how to express them. The best thing a parent can do is to keep offering different foods. The more often your child sees a food, the more likely it will eventually make it onto the “like” list.

Kids and Changing Food Favorites

One day, he couldn’t care less about bananas, and then all of a sudden he wants to eat them all day, every day. And then as suddenly as it started, it ends and bananas are no longer welcome. Does this sound familiar? It’s not at all uncommon.

Children often go on short-lived jags where a particular food is their absolute favorite thing in the world. For a while, it seems they just can’t get enough, and then they move on. The same foods may come and go, or it might be a new food every time. While these food jags aren’t normally problematic, there are a few potential issues to be on the lookout for.

Too Much of a Good Thing

If your child has decided that a certain fruit, such as grapes, are the top food of the day, you might be pleased that he is eating something healthy without any sort of prodding whatsoever. Certainly it’s one of the better choices for a food obsession, but it is possible to have too much of even a healthy food.

Certain foods when eaten in large quantities can be detrimental to a child’s health. They may cause diarrhea or the opposite, constipation, or simply gas. On the worse end of the scale, it is actually possible to get too much of certain vitamins, which can wind up causing health problems. There are good reasons why nutrition experts recommend a balanced and varied children diet, and eating too much of one food is only one of them.

Missing Out on Other Foods

When your child decides that one particular food is the only thing she is interested in eating, she may give up on eating other important foods in favor of her current pick. Even if she has decided she wants to eat nothing but broccoli, she needs more than what this admittedly very healthy food can provide. Eating all types of different foods from all of the food groups is necessary to keep the body healthy, energetic and strong.

If your child is on a food jag, don’t deny the food, but consider offering it as a secondary choice after she finishes the other foods on her plate. She needs to get the right nutrition, especially when she is growing and developing so rapidly, so make an effort to get around the food jag and get other options into your kid’s diet.

An Unhealthy Obsession

Most kids would rather eat chocolate than vegetables, but going on a junk food jag is never a good idea. While it’s ok to ride out an obsession with a healthier food, if your child suddenly decides she is eating nothing but French fries you will have to step in and put an end to it. Luckily, most food jags tend to involve relatively healthy foods most parents wouldn’t hesitate to allow their child to eat.

Most of these food kicks won’t last for a long enough period of time to do any real damage to your child’s health, and as long as the food in question provides nutrition without a lot of empty calories, it’s generally ok to let it go. Keep an eye out for any signs of a problem, however, and continue to encourage your child to try other foods and move away from the favorite a little bit. It’s likely the jag will end on its own before it can be a problem, but vigilance is always a good idea.

Favorite Snacks for Babies and Toddlers

When your baby has graduated from breast milk or formula and is eating three meals a day, snacks will become an important part of the daily routine. A small, healthy snack twice a day, usually mid-morning and mid-afternoon can be a healthy addition to your child’s diet as long as you make smart choices that will both please your child and provide important nutrients.

Look for snacks that are kid-friendly, provide sustained energy, and that are easy for your older baby or toddler to eat. Snack time shouldn’t take a long time, or a lot of preparation, so having snacks ready to go will make it easier to choose right.

Favorite Snacks for Older Babies

When your older baby is ready to start snacking, he probably still won’t have all his teeth or be able to chew some of the snack options grown ups enjoy. Still, there are plenty of snack options for babies that are healthy, easy to eat and great tasting too.

Your baby’s favorite snack might be one of his first finger foods. Cheerios, the popular early choice for babies learning to pick up foods with the thumb and forefinger, will continue to be a much-loved snack for some time. They are easily portable, don’t require refrigeration and are made with healthy whole oats. Other similar dry cereals will work just as well, just be sure to watch out for sugar content by reading the nutrition label on the cereal box.

Add some protein to your baby’s snack with small pieces of cheese, which will be very popular with older babies. Use caution to cut the pieces small enough to avoid a choking hazard – try cutting thin strips rather than cubes or chunks. Yogurt is another excellent snack option for older babies that adds protein.

Bananas are an excellent snack choice that babies love. One of his first baby foods, he can now handle slices of banana, which are easy for him to hold and also soft enough to prevent a choking hazard.

Favorite Snacks for Toddlers

Once your toddler has cut her molars, a whole new world of food opens up, and that translates to snacks as well. Favorite toddler snacks will be a little more advanced than those you offered her as a baby. Now is the time to look to all kinds of fresh fruits and vegetables, and take previously loved snacks a little further.

Popular snacks with the toddler crowd include thin cut apple slices – add some peanut butter or a yogurt dip for a little extra protein, berries such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, and grapes (cut up as they are still a choking hazard). Your toddler may also be ready for some raw veggies, such as thin carrot sticks and cucumber slices.

Toddlers still love cheese, and you can now offer slices paired with healthy whole grain crackers. Mix it up with different types of cheese for new tastes. Try melting cheese on the crackers in your toaster oven, and topping it with a small chunk of tomato for a different twist on a traditional snack.

The ability to self-feed with a spoon makes a cup of yogurt or applesauce an even more appealing snack for both mom and toddler alike. She will love feeling like a grown-up eating her own snack, and you will be free to get other things done!

Snack time for babies and toddlers is a great time for fun foods that are both healthy and delicious. The purpose of snacks is to keep your child going in between meals, so keep them small – remember it’s just a snack, not a second lunch!

Appropriate Serving Sizes for Toddlers

Toddlers are obviously much smaller than grown-ups, and it stands to reason that they will therefore require smaller servings of foods than an adult would. Many parents, however, serve toddlers much larger portions of foods than they should really be eating. This doesn’t matter all that much if they are having a double portion of vegetables, but when it comes to portion sizes of some other foods, it can lead to serious problems.

Serving Sizes and Labels

The nutrition label of most food products states what a serving size should be for that particular food, but beware! The serving size usually stated on the package refers to a 2000 calorie per day diet, and most toddlers need about half of that. In fact, on average a toddler’s serving of any food should be about ¼ of what a standard adult serving should be. Don’t go by the label; instead learn how to properly measure the appropriate amount of food for your toddler.

The Right Serving Size for Toddlers

For each food group, you can learn to recognize what a serving size looks like by taking the time to measure out your toddler’s food for a while. Eventually, you won’t need to measure as you will easily be able to recognize what constitutes an appropriate amount. Here are some easy measurements you can perform to start serving proper portions.

For dairy foods, your toddler needs the equivalent of about 16-20 ounces of milk in a day. Not all of the dairy servings need to come from milk, but if your toddler is fond of milk you might find that no other dairy is really needed. If your toddler doesn’t like milk, you can replace a serving of milk with a serving of cheese or yogurt. The average serving size for either milk or yogurt is about ½ cup, or 4 ounces. ¾ of an ounce of cheese will also make up the equivalent of one serving of dairy.

Proteins such as meat or beans aren’t needed in large quantities. A serving of meat for a toddler is about 1 ounce. Other protein sources that make up a serving include ½ an egg, a few tablespoons of beans or a tablespoon of peanut butter. Your toddler only needs two servings a day, so keep a close eye on how much protein you are serving.

For grains, you can measure out ¼ cup of cooked cereal such as oatmeal, or ¼ cup of rice or pasta. ½ of a slice of bread or the same amount of a tortilla make up another serving of grains.

Fruits and vegetables can be the hardest to get into your toddler, but it’s a bit easier when you realize how small the serving size actually is. A serving of fruit juice can make up one of your child’s fruit servings for the day, but should be no more than 6 ounces. For the rest of your child’s servings, about ¼ cup of cooked or fresh fruits and vegetables provides a serving. This is equivalent to about half of a banana or other whole fruit.

For foods like candy, baked goods and other snacks, there is no real serving size as they are not part of your child’s balanced diet. Add these treats with caution and bear in mind that a small amount is as much as your child needs. A toddler doesn’t need a whole cookie, and will likely be happy to get anything at all!

Teaching Healthy Eating Habits to Toddlers

If there is one thing that doesn’t come to mind when you think about toddlers, it’s healthy eating. Toddlers are well known for being picky eaters, and even those who ate whatever you put in front of them as babies have a habit of turning on you when the toddler years start. The healthy eating cause is not lost; there is hope for even the pickiest toddler. It takes a real commitment to healthy eating as a parent, and a little extra patience, but you can teach your toddler healthy eating habits.

Just Keep Trying

The biggest mistake parents make is to give up and simply not offer the healthy foods anymore because their child doesn’t like it or won’t eat it. By removing the vegetables from your toddler’s dinner plate, you send the message that it’s ok to skip them. As frustrating as it might be to see those healthy foods simply left on the plate meal after meal, day after day, consistency and perseverance are vital to getting your toddler to eat better.

Make sure that every meal includes a serving of fruit or vegetables, even if your toddler immediately announces that he doesn’t like what is on his plate. Although you can’t make him eat it, you can make sure he gets the message that these foods are a part of the diet in your house, and they aren’t going away.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Toddlers are famous imitators, and they want to be just like mom and dad. So it stands to reason that the number one way you can teach your child healthy eating habits is to adopt them yourself. Your toddler needs to see that you are eating the same healthy foods you have piled on his plate. The more often he sees you eating your vegetables, the more likely he is to emulate you.

Even if you don’t particularly like a certain vegetable or fruit, don’t let your toddler in on the secret, or soon you will hear from him that he doesn’t like it either. The best lesson in healthy eating is the one you don’t try to teach directly; instead it is found in the day to day habit of watching you eat healthy foods. You not only need to eat the right foods, but avoid the unhealthy ones. You can’t very well tell your toddler he can’t have potato chips before dinner if he sees you snacking on them.

Don’t Offer Bribes

While the habit of offering a sweet treat after dinner in return for eating her peas might work in the short-term, in the long run you will find this backfires. Eventually, she will stop falling for the bribe. Or worse, she will come to expect that there will always be a treat in return for eating what is on her plate. This doesn’t teach your toddler healthy eating, it merely teaches her to expect a reward for what should be a normal behavior. This can translate into other aspects of life, and before you know it you will find yourself bribing her to do everything from take a nap to put on her shoes.

If you really want your toddler to make the choice to eat healthy foods, you will have to do it the long way, with patience and determination. Stick to serving healthy foods, eat them yourself and eventually your toddler will get on board too.

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