Getting Picky Eaters to Eat


Food is essential to life and you would think that getting kids to eat would be a no-brainer.

But, we all know that it isn’t. So what’s going on and what can you do about it?

“I Hate Peas!”

Mention mealtime around a group of Moms of toddlers and they all roll their eyes. He’ll only eat grilled cheese sandwiches, she hates all vegetables, he just plays with his food, and none of it gets into her mouth. As the Moms exchange their mealtime stories, other parents nod in agreement. If nothing else, it’s good to know that more toddlers are picky eaters than not.

What’s going on with these kids? They are at a stage of development where they are trying to move to a new level of independence. But, being toddlers, there just isn’t that many opportunities for them to take control of their lives. So they decide to control what they will and will not eat.

A wise parent shrugs and allows the toddler to make her food choices. Mind you that doesn’t mean becoming a short order cook. It does mean offering nutritious meals and letting her decide whether or not to eat. A little later in this article I’ll give you some ideas for helping our picky toddlers get a well balanced diet.

Toddlers seem to eat nothing because their need for food is much less than when they were babies. As infants it seemed that they did nothing but eat. They were growing at an alarming rate and needed to continually fuel their growing bodies. Now their growth rate has slowed considerably. Often, parents will find that the child who seemed to eat nothing for months is suddenly devouring everything in sight. Then they notice that this little one is in the middle of a growth spurt and needs more food.

Typically young children have one meal that they favour. And that meal is usually either breakfast or lunch. Problem is, we tend to fixate on what they eat at dinnertime and even for good eaters this is generally the time they will eat the least. Identify the time of day your child is most willing to eat and offer the most nutritious meal at that time. It’s okay to feed a child a supper menu in the morning if that’s what works.

It helps to make food fun. Toddlers love to be part of everything that’s going on in the family so make sure you all sit down and eat together. Having two-year-old Jayden eat by himself is not going to encourage him to eat well but having him join you will. On the other hand he simply can’t sit and visit for a long time so call him to the table when his food is cut and ready to eat. It’s a good idea to use side plates for toddlers so that his small helpings don’t look so lost on the plate. Toddlers have tiny tummies (about the size of their fist) so servings need to be small. A serving of vegetables for young children is one tablespoon per year of age. Now, doesn’t that make it easier to ensure that they are getting the requisite number of servings of fruit and vegetables?

Toddlers like interesting shapes. Cut their bread or cheese into triangles or circles for a change of pace. They also love nibbley food and dips, so veggies with a yogurt, tofu or cottage cheese dip are often a real favorite.

You can also learn to be sneaky. Grated or pureed fruit and vegetables can be hidden in a favourite spaghetti sauce or pudding. Top veggies with melted cheese and all they see is the cheese. Or add fruit to pancakes or muffins.

Dessert shouldn’t be a bribe or reward. If you are serving dessert it’s part of the meal. When we use dessert as a bribe it seems that there is something wrong with the main course, which you just need to choke it down to get to the good stuff. Here’s an interesting thought. It’s not necessary to have a sweet at the end of every meal. Make dessert a rare treat rather than a regular event. It will be better for you too!

Bottom line, relax. If he’s active and alert he’d doing fine and once he gets a little older and starts growing again his appetite will also increase.

How Can I Book Kathy?

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I am going to be in Ottawa in early May and in Calgary in early June and can easily adapt my schedule to fit your needs.

I will also be traveling along the Pacific Northwest in Washington and Oregon in June.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Bringing Parenting Today to your event.

Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

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