Lately, we've been teaching classes on palatetraining and introducing solids. A couple of the moms have already been through the process of introducing solids and are combating the dreaded...PICKY EATER! Here are some of our recommended strategies for getting over that hump and getting your toddler interested in a more diverse menu.
Cut Back on Snacks
That bag of chips may stop a meltdown but cut down on the "between meal" extras. Your child will be more apt to enjoy something new when their tummy isn’t already full of snacks.
Use the 2:3 Ratio and Limit Choices
If you’re stuck in a pizza or hot dog rut, try placing one new healthy option on a plate with two regulars. Don’t feel you need to prepare a four-course meal with the hopes your child will try a few healthy bites. An overabundance of options overwhelms little ones. Stick to the 2:3 plan and introduce new options in small portions one at a time.
Don’t Sneak It In
While it’s tempting to present cauliflower as “mashed potatoes” or add apple sauce to brownies, food should be identifiable. When your little one finds something they like, they can ask for it again.
Keep At It
It might take up to 15, yes...you read that right...15, tries before your kid will actually try a new food. Is it any wonder we give up? Try this...offer the new food during a low-pressure eating time, like an after-school snack. Try baby carrots, zucchini sticks or edamame instead of pretzels or goldfish.
Check with your pediatrician about how many ounces your little one should really be drinking each day and pay attention to how much they’re receiving. A liquid diet could be filling up their tummy before food is even served.
Embrace Peer Pressure
Your daily school report shows your child is eating things you’d never dream of trying at home? Invite a kid who eats everything over for lunch and let the peer pressure go to work.
Enlist Their Help
Instead of a trip to the grocery store, plan a trip to the farmers’ market. Let your little one pick out the fruits and veggies that look interesting to them and gather ingredients for making meals together. Children are a lot more interested in eating something if they know what’s in it and help make it!
Resist the temptation to use an iPad to entertain your little one during dinner. Keep meals focused on the meals. Talk to them about what they’re tasting and if they don't like it, ask them why. It may be too hot or cold or a texture thing. Sometimes the most obvious answer is overlooked and it's an easy fix.
Teach Table Manners
Even if your using paper or plastic plates and paper towels for napkins, teach your child how to set the table, sit up straight, eat with a fork and knife and put a napkin in their lap. Which is rule #1 in our house. Be consistent, and soon good table manners will become second nature.
Don't Force A Clean Plate
It’s frustrating when your little one shuns a fruit or vegetable, but try not to scold for an unfinished plate. It’s more important for them to understand the feeling of satiety than to overeat. If they don’t eat enough, it lets them understand true hunger cues and not just snacking out of boredom.
Lead By Example
Eating thoughtfully yourself...your kids are watching you. Eat slowly, stay off your devices and your kids will take your example.
If all else fails, we highly recommend contacting a nutritionist to help steer you towards useful and healthy options specific to your family. We love Cheyenne Richards, RDN with Nutrition Rites. She has a great program called Toddler Chow that focuses on the ins and outs of early childhood eating.
Hang in there...xo Ann