Toddlers are known for their challenging feeding behaviors. Picky eating creates tremendous worry for parents. The go-to solutions of bribery and constant snacking is the exact opposite of what should be done. Just remember it is important to keep yourself centered, knowing that these eating habits are completely normal.
A good start to addressing the picky eater is to create well-structured mealtimes and offer a healthy variety of foods. A simple shift in how the mealtime experience is viewed can make a big difference. Rather than becoming fixated on whether your child cleans their plate, focus on placing your child in an environment free from distractions (such as the television) and offering a selection of nutritious foods.
Your job as a “mealtime partner” is to decide which foods are offered, and when. Your child’s job is to choose how much they should eat. Mealtime should be seen as another opportunity for your toddler to learn. They will experience different textures, new tastes, and an array of colors. How exciting! At times they will eagerly participate in the experience, and at other times, reject it altogether. It may take your toddler up to 10 times to accept a certain food type. Additionally, they sometimes fall in love with a particular food only to turn around and have great disdain for it a week or two later.
Tactics such as bribes and threats place a tremendous strain on mealtime. In fact, studies have shown that forced eating prevents your child from recognizing when they are naturally satisfied. This places them at a greater risk for developing childhood obesity. Additionally, compensating for less food intake during a particular meal by offering unhealthy snacks or sugary drinks, will create a pattern of poor eating habits.
To help make mealtime a more enriching and fun experience check out the links below for tips on how to effectively manage the picky eating experience.
A note of safety:
While building your toddler’s menu, be mindful to avoid choking hazards. Under the age of 4 years old, the following foods should not be offered whole:
Chunks of peanut butter