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17 Tips for How to Get a Picky Toddler Eat Healthy Foods
One of the most common frustrating experiences that parents of toddlers deal with is trying to get their child to eat healthy foods. At this age, kids are starting to learn to define their wants and likes. This often means that they will refuse to eat the foods that they need to eat in order to stay healthy. As a parent, you want to make sure that your child eats right but you don’t want to create a big power struggle over every meal. So, what can you do?
Here are seventeen tips that you might try for getting a picky toddler to eat those healthy foods that you want to make sure the child is eating.
1. Offer choices. The best way to get kids to eat healthy is to give them a choice between two or more healthy foods. The majority of kids will be willing to choose one of the items offered, giving the child some control over his or her meals without sacrificing nutritious food choices.
2. Take the time to get to know which healthy foods your child likes. Many parents offer their toddlers only a few healthy foods and then get frustrated that the child won’t eat them. If you give your child the chance to taste a bunch of different foods that are healthy then your child will naturally like some of these goods even if he doesn’t like most of them. Once you know what he likes, you can include that regularly in meals.
3. Don’t be averse to bartering. “You can have one cookie after you eat three carrots” is a fair way to go when trying to get your toddler to eat balanced meals. However, this should be a standard thing and not a now-and-then bribe. In other words, the rule in your house should be that you need to eat a certain amount of good food to get some junk food; it shouldn’t be something that you offer only when you’re desperate to get your toddler to eat right.
4. Add a treat to each healthy food. Let your child put cream cheese or peanut butter on the celery. Lots of dips and sauces can make your kids enjoy the taste of their food without taking away too much from the nutritious value of the meals.
5. Get rid of the junk food. Another option is to just not have unhealthy food in the house. If it’s not there and your child gets hungry, he is eventually going to eat.
6. Make healthy foods fun. Eggs and avocados can become boats. Carrots can become swords. Broccoli is an obvious tree. Healthy breads can be cut into cute shapes with cookie cutters. Make it okay to play with food as long as some of it ends up getting eaten.
7. Hide healthy foods. You can often include some healthy foods inside of other foods without your child realizing it. Finely chopped vegetables can be added inside of a pasta sauce that your child likes, for example.
8. Include your child in cooking. When the toddler helps to prepare some of the foods that go into a meal, she is more likely to take an interest in eating those foods.
9. Make sure you have a lot of healthy drinks on hand. Kids who are picky about their food are sometimes less picky about their drinks. Fresh-squeezed juices, smoothies rich in fruits and nutrients and other drinks can all add some healthy well-roundedness to your toddler’s diet. Be aware, however, that kids shouldn’t replace all meals with liquids so having these too close to a normal mealtime is a bad idea. It’s just another option to consider when your child isn’t eating enough healthy food.
10. Educate yourself in healthy eating. One problem may be that parents are limited in the breadth of healthy foods that they offer. Educate yourself in a diverse range of healthy foods and keep more options in the home.
11. Have meal time with friends a few days per week. Kids in a group who are all fed the same meal are more likely to go ahead and eat what’s being served so they can get back to playing. Trade a couple of meals per week with your friends and their kids.
12. Make a routine out of meal time. Turn off the TV and the computer when it’s time to eat. Sing a song about mealtime or say a little prayer with your child about the food. The more routine the meals are, the easier the meals will go and that routine can often make picky eaters calm down enough to be at least slightly less picky.
13. Ask your child what she likes and dislikes about certain foods. You may discover that she doesn’t like broccoli because it’s green; add yellow cheese and she may not feel the same way since it’s not a taste issue. Or she may not like broccoli because it’s mushy; cook it for less time and she may like it.
14. Pay attention to your child’s moods. Is your child more picky in the afternoon than the morning? Or more picky on preschool days than weekends? You may want to address underlying problems other than the food issues themselves.
15. Make some healthy foods off limits. This is a trick but it can be a good last resort when toddlers won’t eat healthy. Basically, you make it a point of saying that some foods are “grown up foods”. When your child sees you eating broccoli that she’s not allowed to have because she’s not a grown up, she’s going to want it even if she never wanted broccoli before.
16. Ask your doctor about a children’s vitamin. If you really think that your child isn’t getting the nutrition he or she needs, maybe vitamins are in order until the picky phase passes.
17. Relax. Ultimately, the picky eater is probably just trying to exert some power in the household and some power over his own eating choices. If you relax and don’t make a big deal out of it then the power struggle is gone and the mealtime problems go away a lot more quickly.