You may never have your patience tested as when you are dealing with toddlers. They are generally willful, exasperating, and stubborn. And most will choose what they want to eat, even if it is Jell-O every single day. If you are a parent struggling with how to deal with a toddler who is a picky eater, these tips will help in overcoming it.
Presentation is important: Toddlers love colors, patterns and all forms of visual effects so make the effort to present their food in an interesting manner. If a meal does not look appealing, they are going to assume it tastes gross. Use beautiful serving plates that depict their favorite cartoon characters and objects. Include different colors in their foods to make it more attractive. Add slices of strawberries, bananas, blueberries, etc to their oatmeal.
Create beautiful pictures from their food. For example, eggs can be made into a smiley face, fruit cut and used to spell things. The more interesting you make their food look; the more inclined toddlers get to try them.
Put a limit to giving them their favorites: You complain that your toddler won’t eat anything apart from their favorite food(s) and yet you keep giving it to them. The truth is your child will not be tempted to eat other foods as long as you continue doing that. Fill their plate with healthy nutritious foods at every meal. If you want to include their favorite, add only a little portion. By so doing, they will have to try the other foods if they are really hungry. You may also use the favorite as an incentive to make them eat; tell them they will get the favorite (as a form of dessert) only if they eat at least half of what is on their plate.
Don’t give them food in-between meals: If you keep stuffing your toddler with snacks, they may not be really hungry during mealtimes and will be able to afford not eating. Toddlers have a small stomach and their growth would have leveled out a little. It means they may not eat as much as you assume they would. Stop giving them snacks, even if they did not finish their meal. By the next meal time, your toddler will be more inclined to try that carrot stick they have always declined.
Share your food with them: Children will try a food they see you eating. Sit with them while you eat your own food, let them see you eat that food they won’t eat. You will be surprised to see them pick it from your plate and eat. If you want your picky toddler to try that veggie they always spit out, fill your plate with it.
Dip, Dip, Dip: Children love to play. While you might think that allowing them to play with food is not a very good idea, providing a sauce for them to dip food in is. So what if they play with it at first? After some time, they will make attempts to taste it. So whether it is hummus, guacamole, ranch dressing, or ketchup, provide dips alongside foods such as carrot sticks, cucumbers, pita bread, or fries, as a way to make them try foods they normally would not.
Do not force them: No matter how fed up you are with your child’s pickiness, do not force food into their mouth. Even if it seems like they will never eat any healthy food, all you can do is keep trying. Use more and more innovative ways to present food to them. If they don’t love it, wait a while then try it again.
Do not use punishment as a way of getting them to eat a food.
Make them a film star: Children love attention; in fact, they blossom and revel in it. Make a film out of getting them to eat. Present those foods they refuse to eat on a plate and tell them you are going to videotape them as they eat. You will be surprised to see them clear off a plate of their supposedly hated foods as you videotape and cheer them on.
Make your pantry healthy: It is going to be difficult raising a child to be a healthy and non-picky eater in a house filled with pastries, cookies, pop, and candies. Children generally follow examples set by their parents. If you don’t keep or eat unhealthy foods, they will hardly ask for such. Include every color of the rainbow in your meals. Make water your go to drink. As long as you give them a wide range of fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans to eat from, they can get a lot to choose from.
Appoint them as your sous chef: Many parents make the mistake of sending children out of the kitchen whenever they are about to cook. This is a mistake you should avoid. Allowing them to help while you cook will make them see where their food comes from. Right from the kitchen, they can start to taste that food they have always refused without being forced. They are also more likely to eat out a food they helped in preparing than the one you just brought to them.
Mix in other foods with their favorites: Their favorite food(s) can be a way to get them to eat what they would not. Look for recipes in which you can incorporate other healthy foods in those that they love.
They will not even notice and gradually start to enjoy the new taste. Smoothies are especially great at sneaking in those fruits and veggies your toddler wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. Bananas, yogurt, pineapple, etc will mask the taste of the other vegetables you may add in.
You can also choose to make a hated food in a different way. If they don’t like the steamed version, why not try baking or frying it. You may be surprised if a hated food becomes a favorite by simply changing the method of cooking it.
In conclusion, let me point out that you should not expect the above tips to work immediately, although some may. Most will, however, take some time before you see the effects so keep trying. The most important thing is to make eating a thing of fun for your child and not a form of punishment. Tell them a story at the dinner table, talk about the origin of your main dish. All these with not only help in creating good memories, it will bring you closer to success in getting your picky eating toddler into a healthy eater.