If you’re the parent of a picky toddler, you know what it’s like to stare down mealtimes with dread. All too often meals become battlegrounds while your child refuses anything but their preferred few foods. Mealtime can be stressful and chaotic when dealing with fussy eaters, but don’t give up hope! With a few clever tips, tricks and strategies, it is possible to not only make grocery shopping easier but also get your little one excited about trying new foods.
As difficult as it may seem right now, teaching healthy eating habits that last well into adulthood starts in childhood. Here, we cover some ideas for parents on how to set clear expectations surrounding food choices. Plus, helpful tips to engage children so they want to try something new at mealtime!
Tips for Fussy Eaters
It is reasonable for your toddler to develop their own taste preferences, so don’t expect them to like everything on offer. Give them a day or two before trying the same taste experience again, to see if they develop a renewed interest. Fussy eaters trying new foods can be a challenging event – try not to get overwhelmed!
Be aware of not letting your own preferences and dislikes for foods influence what you offer your toddler. This can be difficult to do. However, there are real advantages to allowing fussy eaters to make up their own minds about what suits them.
If you feel your child is not eating very much, it may be a good idea to keep a food diary and record their intake over a few days. What’s important is that they are growing and not dropping down or following a flat line on their percentile or growth charts.
It is normal for toddlers to pick and graze and eat only small amounts for some meals. But it can be worthwhile taking a look at their intake over the course of a week, rather than just concentrating on the amount they have eaten on an individual day. After all, foods they miss out on one day can be made up through the week.
Tips to Get Your Toddler to Eat
- Get them involved. Ask your toddler to help choose what to make for dinner or if they can give a little hand in preparing the meal. This not only makes mealtime more engaging, but your fussy eaters will enjoy having a say in what they are having for dinner.
- Have regular eating habits, such as eating at the table and always putting your toddler in their high chair for meals. Habits help to ritualise mealtime so that it becomes something your little one can expect and eventually look forward to.
- Think about portion sizes. Keep in mind that your toddler’s stomach is smaller than yours, so don’t expect them to eat as much as you. Their meal size should be around 1/4 – 1/3 of the size of an adult meal.
- Make it DIY. Put out a plate of balanced food and let them choose what they want! What about a plate of toddler tapas? Steamed veggies, sultanas, cheese, fruit chunks, sandwiches, dips and yoghurt all make a great smorgasbord of food for picky toddlers.
- Keep them company and make eating a social occasion. Get a few toddlers round for a tea party or a picnic. Toddlers are great imitators. They will often eat in the company of other children and be less picky, perhaps even trying new foods.
- Be a good role model. Let your toddler see you eating a wide variety of different foods.
Introducing New Foods to Your Toddler
Introducing new foods to fussy eaters, especially toddlers, can be a challenge. However, there are some tips that may help make the transition easier.
Consistency is key when introducing new foods to children. It can take up to 10-15 tries before they become familiar and comfortable with it. Serve the same food consistently, but in different forms and consistencies. For instance, if you’re introducing sweet potatoes, try mashing them or roasting them in wedges for variety.
When introducing a new food to toddlers, particularly fussy eaters, combining it with something already familiar can help ease them into trying it. For example, mixing steamed broccoli into macaroni and cheese might be more appealing than offering plain steamed broccoli.
Making food fun can also help fussy eaters become more open to trying something new. Consider presenting foods in different shapes and colours to engage their curiosity, or creating a “taste test” of similar items (like different types of melon) that have slightly different tastes.
Involving fussy eaters in the mealtime experience is also important for getting them to try new things. When toddlers are served the same thing everyone else is eating, it encourages them to do the same and makes them feel included.
Finally, serve picky toddlers a full plate but make sure they aren’t too hungry or full when trying something new. An empty stomach can often make toddlers more open to trying something different, while a full stomach might lead to them rejecting it.
By following these tips, fussy eaters and toddlers should become more open to trying new foods. Consistency, combining with familiar dishes, making food fun and involving fussy eaters in mealtime will help ease them into trying something different. With patience and understanding, they may even come to enjoy the new food!
Facts About Fussy Eating
Fussy eating is a common problem for many parents. It can be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that this behaviour is only natural and normal for children at certain stages of development. Try to avoid getting frustrated or making your toddler feel bad about not wanting to eat certain foods.
During the toddler stage, it’s common for their taste preferences to evolve rapidly; even if they were enjoying a particular food previously, they may become averse to it seemingly overnight! This could lead to confusion when trying to introduce new foods. Don’t worry, as this is completely normal and gets easier with time.
Willful children, testing boundaries and even distractions may also be contributing factors to toddler not eating. It’s important to remember that toddlers are learning how to feed themselves and make choices at this age. Sometimes, if they feel too controlled or pressured, they may resist and refuse to eat certain foods. Give fussy eaters some control by allowing them to choose from several options of toddler meals to find something they enjoy!
Supplementary Milk Drinks
Supplementary milk drinks, such as Alula Alula Gold Toddler Milk Drink, are suitable to include as part of a toddler’s daily food intake as a nutritious supplement when intakes of energy and nutrients may not be adequate.
Our website also features some yummy recipes that your picky eater will love which feature our Toddler Milk products as an ingredient, enabling parents to get additional nutrients in each meal! Try our Banana Strawberry Smoothie or Corn and Ham Mini Quiches
If you are concerned about your child’s growth see your healthcare professional.