So your precious little one has graduated from milk to solids and you couldn’t be more excited! That is until you realized somewhere along the line your not so little one knows exactly what they want and they’re not afraid to tell you.
I’m talking about picky eaters!
The stress you feel when your toddler refuses to eat anything good is real and although we would love for them to eat everything on their plate, it’s important to help them maintain a healthy relationship with all foods. This can definitely be achieved with these “5 tips for how to handle picky eaters”
1. Get them involved in the Kitchen
Even though my 2 year old son is a picky eater, he LOVES to cook! If he sees me in the kitchen you better believe he’ll be asking me to prop him on the counter no more than 5 second later.
Getting them involved in the kitchen allows for them to see, touch, smell and sometimes even taste the ingredients that are going into the dish. Not only that but you also get some great quality time with your little one that they will remember forever. Yes, there will be messes but when They start to try the food they are cooking (even if they don’t like it at first) it will be worth it! The fact they are trying something is huge!
Some examples of how to get them involved are:
- let them pour in the ingredients
- let them stir (or guide their hands for minimal messes)
- Buy some Nylon safety knives and give them soft veggies or fruit to cut (These are the ones we use: https://amzn.to/3hc1q7D )
2. Give Them the Decision Making Power when it Comes to the Food that YOU provide
Have you noticed how much your toddler loves to be in control? The fact that you’re reading this blog tells me you have. Dinner time with a picky eater can be a power struggle. But it doesn’t have to be!
I love the saying “You provide, they decide”. It means that I get to pick what I put on their plates or in other words they don’t tell me what‘s for dinner, BUT they decide what from that plate they will eat with ZERO pressure from me.
This is hard… so hard! I used to think “Leave them to decide what they eat? If it were up to my son he’d eat the same thing every day.“ And while that may be somewhat true, studies show that sometimes it take over 100 instances of exposure to the same food for a child to even touch the food let alone eat it. The key here is Patience. A good rule of thumb is to always provide “safe foods”. When I cook dinner I will put it on my sons plate but I will also include either some homemade nuggets, avocado or fruit which are all things he does eat. 90% of the time he will only eat the safe foods. BUT I have noticed that when there is no pressure and he feels in control he has gathered the courage to try the other foods on his plate. Once again the key here is patience… It may be a long while until he finishes his whole plate or tries one single pea but at least he’s trying and that’s way more than what he did when I was trying to pressure him to eat.
Remember, your child will be ok as long as he’s eating something off the plate and we must learn to trust that they know when they are full or not.
3. Go All Out with Veggies in Foods they will Eat
My son has the hardest time eating dinner. But Breakfast is his biggest meal. He loves breakfast! Because of this I try to put veggies in almost everything he eats. He usually asks for pancakes every morning so I will whip up a batch of my Spinach Breakfast Pancakes. I also throw in some hemp, chia and flax seeds for extra protein and Omegas.
Another place I can get him to consume lots of veggies is in a smoothie. Thankfully he will drink a smoothie. Along with veggies like Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Edamame, Peas… I will also include a toddler formula in his smoothie to ensure he’s not lacking in any vitamins or minerals (this is the one I use: https://amzn.to/3hba46H )
If your child won’t drink a smoothie try turning that smoothie into popsicles. I bet they won’t reject it then!
Be creative! Blend veggies into your favourite Pasta sauce if your child loves to eat Spaghetti. There are so many veggies with mild taste that can blend into almost anything.
4. Switching to the “Yes” when it comes to “dessert” Foods
In the past, whenever I would call my son over to eat dinner he would take one look at it and say “I want chocolate”. He LOVES dark chocolate. Of course, I would immediately say no and that he could have it once he finished his dinner. It was the right thing to do in order to not spoil his meal…Or at least I thought it was. 99% of the time this landed us in a struggle between my toddler screaming bloody murder and me begging him to just take 1 bite of food. No one walked away happy and dinner was ruined.
That is until I stumbled across the revolutionary idea of saying “yes” to the desserts…
I can hear it already trust me, I had all the same question and concerns you’re having right now. ”They’re just going to eat the dessert every time”.
Well despite my doubts, I started including a very small portion of his desired treat onto his plate and the result was very different every time. Yes there were some days where he would literally eat his treat and walk away from the table and boy was it oh so hard to just stay cool and let him do that. BUT he would later return to the table and eat his food! No power struggles or tantrums! Other times he would look at his plate and eat his food first and then his treat last. I was stunned! It seemed to be that when I started to put desserts and other foods on the same level, his need for eating the dessert instead of the other foods began to change. Now there are times when he will ask for more and I’m still navigating how to do this well but I’ll usually say yes, go to get the item but ask him to try the foods on his plate. 9 times out of 10 he will and when he does I delay getting the treat item until he’s done eating.
This really is a game changer guys. The goal really is to make meal time fun and enjoyable. The more stress your child feels around dinner time the harder it will be.
5. Remember this Won’t Last Forever
It’s true! One day my son’s day of picky eating will come to an end and before I know it he will be wanting to eat all. The. Time. someone once told me these years are survival mode. This isn’t how life will be forever and we have the honor of guiding them through these hard times in love. We won’t always get it right, we aren’t perfect. But you are exactly who and what your child needs. Don’t give up!