Ever find yourself coaxing or threatening your toddler to eat all her veggies. Your not alone, in fact it is normal for toddlers to go through a picky eating stage. Between the ages of 2-3 years many toddlers start to show their independence and one of those ways is with food. Your child’s rate of growth also slows down and so does their appetite. Feeding toddlers can be challenging, instead of turning mealtime into a battleground learn how to support your toddlers independence.
1). Your role as a parent!
Parents play an important role in helping establish healthy eating habits. According to Ellyn Satter, feeding expert and dietitian, division of responsibility is one of the most important factors when it comes to feeding toddlers. It’s the parents role to decide what, when, and where food is being served. Thus, provide healthy, well balanced meals and snacks regularly without pressuring your child to eat.
2). Your child’s role
It is your toddler’s role to decide whether to eat and how much to eat. Letting your child decide how much to eat allows them to recognize and respond to their satiety signals. In the long run, your child will learn how to be an intuitive eater which will lead to a healthier relationship with food.
3). Establish routine
Infants and toddlers thrive off of routine. Toddlers need 3 meals with snacks between meals. Offer them at predictable times. Healthy snacks are a good way to make up for lost nutrients through out the day. Make sure snacks are not too close to meals so they have the opportunity to work up an appetite.
4). Avoid rewarding or bribing your child
Sure we are all probably guilty of this one, even myself, and it may work in the short term. Bribing your child or rewarding them with food may lead to a negative food relationship and interfere with your child’s ability to recognize their satiety cues.
5). Get your child involved
Research shows that getting your child involved in meal planning can help with picky eating. For younger kids, allow them to help you clean the vegetables, mix salad dressing, or crack the eggs. Take them shopping, avoid busy weekends and chose slower times of the day. Get them involved in the meal preparation. Now for older kids, allow them to choose one meal of their liking per week but encourage some healthy lines. The more involved your child is, the more likely they will eat the food. We would like to plant a mini garden this year and get Miss E to help water the plants and of course eat them.
6). Offer choices but limit them
Help support your toddler’s independence by offering a few choices within the same food group. For example, your child asks for a snack give him the option of blueberries or watermelon. Avoid open ended questions such as what would you like for a snack? Remember you are in charge of what’s being served and they decide if and how much to eat.
7). Continue to offer foods
Research shows that it can take 20 times before your child will accept a new food, and it may take more than 20 times. Do you remember a food you once hated as a child but now love? I used to hate beets now roasted beets are one of my favourite fall vegetables. Offering a new food with familiar foods may also help to encourage your child to try a new food. Don’t get discouraged if your child turns a food down, remember they decide if they are going to eat it. Avoid hiding vegetables, this does not teach your children to love them. Kids are smart and will most likely catch on. Patience is a virtue when it comes to feeding our kids.
8). Be a good role model
As parents we play an important role in our children’s well being . Up to the age of five, parents have the most influence when it comes to eating. Your toddler will be more open to eating vegetables and fruit if they see mom and dad eat them regularly. Always beware of your actions around your children, they are always listening and watching. I often serve salads at dinner, for the girls I will serve the same vegetables minus the greens, my oldest is now requesting salad, as long as she can add her own dressing of course. Makes this mama very proud.
8). Try family style meals
Serve food family style and allow your child to choose what foods he or she feels like eating for dinner. Giving your child the opportunity to chose his own meals once in a while may reduce the pressure. Turn off the television and remove all distractions. Research shows kids that eat together as a family eat more vegetables, fruit, and variety. This is a good opportunity to also teach your toddler/child table manners.
9). Avoid labelling your kids as “picky eaters”
Avoid labelling your child’s behaviour or comparing them to another sibling or friend. Kids have feelings just like the rest of us and comparing or labelling their behaviour does not improve their relationship with food and may backfire.
10). Avoid being the short order cook
Do you make meals to suit everyone’s food preferences. Do you find your self making your child a sandwich because they don’t like what’s being served. Stop! Being a short order cook only fuels the eating behaviours your child is experiencing. Include foods you know your child will eat but do not make a separate meal. Remember your role when it comes to feeding.
A healthy diet is important but your child’s food environment is equally important. Relax and enjoy. Remember tomorrow is a new day!
1). Ellyn Satter.org
2). Jill Castle
4). Sarah Remmer