Recently a friend of mine said that her toddler was in a “beige” phase, meaning that he would only eat beige food. Now, that is an interesting color to choose. Yet, what parent has not had their toddler refuse to eating anything besides mac-and-cheese or chicken fingers.
Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. In fact, they are picky about just about everything. In terms of food, there are many reasons for this. They are developing their palate. Toddlers are often fearful of new experiences. They are constantly on the go, barely able to sit long enough to eat. Refusing something, anything, is your toddler’s way to assert their independence.
The good news is that your toddler will not starve themselves, that in fact is a really hard thing to do. Your responsibility as a parent is to provide the food, healthy options as much as possible. How your child eats, how much, and when, is really up to them.
Here are some tips to help your picky toddler.
1. Expose your children to various foods as early as possible, before the picky eater stage sets in. This builds their palate, encourages their interest in food variety, and gives you more options once the picky stage begins.
2. Provide variety at mealtime. Make sure you have a fruit, vegetable, protein, etc. Do not worry about the “clean plate club.” In fact, this can actually lead to unhealthy eating patterns. Rather, allow your child to choose what they will eat within the acceptable provided options.
3. Offer choices. If you have broccoli and cauliflower both available to prepare as the vegetable, ask your toddler what they would prefer. Notice that a hot-dog is not an option within that choice.
4. Encourage your child to try new foods. My niece knows that “aunt Paulette” says you must try something new and if you do not like it, you can spit it out. I admit, this was my devious attempt to get her to try bagna cauda, a traditional Italian dip/spread that sounds disgusting yet is oh so yummy. It is probably unrealistic for a toddler to like this dish yet the lesson stuck.
5. Involve your toddler in meal preparation. Toddlers love to be around their parents and under their feet. Have them wash the vegetables or sprinkle cheese on a dish or have a make-your-own pizza night. Your child will be more likely to try what they have prepared and this plays on their seeking independence.
6. Dip it, Spread it, Top it, Drink it. Toddlers love to be hands-on and messy. This plays into that. Veggies with cheese, a yogurt dip, or a fruit or vegetable smoothy should all please your picky toddler.
7. Share. Face it, nothing is better than what is mom’s or dad’s. It is okay to let your toddler try something off your plate or to share your food. This is you being a good role-model, as children are more likely to do what you do rather than what you say.
8. Get creative. Make pancakes shaped liked a smiley face. Or make mac-and-cheeese with mushrooms and other vegetables. Just do a Google search for lots of kid-friendly recipes to introduce new foods in traditional kid-favorite foods.
9. Keep trying. Many experts believe that it can take up to 10 exposures to a new food before a toddler will accept it. So do not give up.
10. Do not give in. If your child refuses to eat what you have prepared and you go ahead and cook them that mac-and-cheese that they were asking for, what are you teaching them? You are teaching that refusal is a way to get what they want. Although as a parent you, of course, want your child to eat and you feel that it is your responsibility to feed them, however, remember, they will not starve themselves. They will eat when they are hungry enough.
And take heart, as picky-eating is normal within child development, your child will most likely outgrow their “beige” phase.
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