Feeding Your Fussy Toddler
My two year old is as feisty as toddlers get, but one thing is for sure — food is her friend. It wasn’t so easy with my two older kids, who were both pickier eaters. With some trial and error (and a lot of frustration), I found ways to get them on track. Hopefully, these hints for feeding your finicky toddler will help you, too.
Many parents think their kids are fussy eaters, but it’s all part of being a normal toddler. Youngsters quickly realize that they have some control over mom (or dad) and think it's fun to see their parent go nuts when they refuse the green beans.
At this age, toddlers go through “food jags,” a period when they get stuck on a particular food they love. Heck, if you just gave me pizza for the first time, I’d also want it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It’s a normal phase that a kid will outgrow after a few days or weeks, depending on the child. So what can you do to help? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Create a relaxed eating environment and eliminate all distractions (this means turning off the TV).
- Eat together.
- Offer a variety of foods.
- Continue offering foods even after your child rejects it. It takes 10 to 15 times before kids typically accept something.
- Don’t force feed your child.
- Allow kids to participate in the cooking process (i.e. opening packages and stirring foods).
- Keep portions small -- the rule of thumb is one tablespoon per each year.
There are many food issues I address with all my young clients, but one of the biggest has to do with what they're drinking. Toddlers shouldn’t be guzzling sodas, juice drinks, lemonade and iced teas. They may beg for them and throw a fit, but you’re just filling their little bellies with sugar, which doesn’t leave much room for healthy meals. If they are drinking juice, stick with four ounces of 100% fruit juice a day. Other than that, water and milk are best.
As simple as it may sound, all toddlers should be drinking from a cup -- NOT A BOTTLE! Think of your toddler as mini-children and no longer babies; they need to learn how to hold and drink from a cup (all my kids were off a bottle by one). Sippy cups or straws are some easy ways to transition to cups that are less messy.
An occasional or small daily sweet treat is fine, but toddlers need plenty of calories that contain vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients for proper growth and development. If you find your toddler reaching for junk food, here are some things to try:
- Opt for a few healthier treats -- granola bars, yogurt, whole wheat pretzels, animal crackers -- and don’t stock up on them.
- Don't bribe or reward your child for eating with sweets.
- Sometimes junk food comes from various people, so it’s important to set guidelines and communicate with grandparents, caregivers and partners.
Concern #4: My toddler doesn't like any fruits or veggies.
When parents tell me this, I whip out my box of food models. I sit on the floor with the child, and we play with the fruits and veggies, naming them and counting the strawberries. Sometimes it’s a matter of making it part of their everyday meals. Here are some hints on eating fruits and veggies:
- Offer more of the fruits and veggies they like.
- Slice the foods into bite-sized pieces. Children tend to avoid foods that are too big to fit in their mouths.
- Try offering up a dip on the side -- kids love to dip!
- Create dishes that are prepared with veggies such as soups and sauces. I find some of my toddler clients like veggies in soup as opposed to cooked as a side dish.
One of the most important things to remember -- don't be too restrictive or controlling when feeding your kids; it'll only backfire, as this interesting MSN article explains.
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