Picky Toddler? 5 Tips to Get Them Eating Healthier Today!
Toddlers are infamous for being picky eaters. I remember being so proud when my one-year-old would eat pretty much anything with delight and thought I was a supermom for getting my child to be such a good eater - packing him with fruits and veggies every day! Then slowly but very surely as he got older he got pickier, and it would be a 3x daily battle to get him to eat something other than frozen dinosaur nuggets. I was so distressed about his eating habits and would feel so guilty every night as I would list in my head everything he ate that day. So I dug my heels in, did some research, talked to other moms, picked my battles and did some guess and check about what would work for us - and now? Mealtime is no longer a struggle! By no means are we perfect, but we are getting better. Here are some tips and tricks that have really helped us!
1. Make Every Meal Count
Try to pack as much nutrition into every meal as you can. Sometimes it is easy for kids to fill up on liquids and snacks and then they won't have enough room for the good stuff. Try to limit snacking in between meals and if they do need a snack try to pick something healthy like sliced cucumbers or a couple strawberries. We love to make smoothies for breakfast or a snack and it is a great way to sneak in something healthy! Here is a super simple smoothie recipe that is toddler approved.
2. Make it Fun and Give Them Choices
If you think about it, toddlers don't get to decide much or have much control in their day to day. Giving them choices gives them a little control and you won't believe the difference it makes. Try to not let it be open ended like 'what do you want for lunch?' and instead 'Do you want a turkey wrap or the taco soup from last night?' And, even simpler things like 'red cup or blue cup?' We also try to make little games, not expected every meal but sometimes: 'Oh that bite gave you a strong arm, now you need to have another bite to make this arm strong, now another bite for a strong leg' It's silly but toddlers are silly and they eat that stuff up (pun intended).
3. Don't Put Treats on a Pedestal
Keep treats on the same level as other foods just have them around a lot less. If we put sweets and treats on a pedestal or vegetables as a consequence then they might connotate that in the future. For example, my toddler doesn't even like black licorice but he will go crazy wanting it and begging for it because he thinks its an 'all and mighty' treat! I am really working on this one! Instead make the reward something healthy like if they eat all their pasta they can have their apple and peanut butter as a reward.
4. Sit and Eat with Them
This is HUGE for us. At dinnertime it is really important for us to eat as a family, but I also think it is important for breakfast and lunch too. Sometimes, earlier meals can be during busy times when you are trying to get a lot done - so it is easy to just set your toddler's food at the table and go run and put a load of laundry in or prep for dinner. I find kids eat so much better if you just sit with them for 10 minutes and especially if you eat at the same time. They tend to not get up and be distracted as easily, not to mention it's great bonding time for the family!
5. Give Yourself a Break
You can't be perfect all the time. These days moms are made to feel guilty about a lot of things and in this area you need to give yourself some grace. So sometimes you get your child a happy meal on nights when you have a million things going on. Or some days you pick your battles and let them have three cheese strings for lunch. It is hard, we've all done it! Stop feeling guilty. As long as you are providing healthy choices most of the time and trying your best, don't burden yourself over a few chocolate chips as a bribe to stay in the cart for goodness sakes! Those are just a few little tid-bits that might help out with your picky toddler, do you have any other secrets? How do you get your toddlers to eat and healthy? Written by Cassie Tremblay