Feeding Your Picky Toddler

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Hey mama, is your picky toddler driving you crazy?  I bet you've got some  stories about your picky little one. Here's mine.

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When my oldest was was a toddler, she loved to pretend she was a kitty named Rosie. She would sit under the kitchen table and meow for snacks while I fed her bites of "kitty food".

She would eat anything I gave her when she was in full kitty character, so I always took advantage of that and gave her healthiest snacks I had.

At lunch, when I wanted her to sit at the table with me, she would beg to go under the table and be Rosie the kitty.

She would meow and rub my leg, and  I would pop bites of apples, broccoli, tofu, etc.  into her meowing little mouth.

When I let her do this,  I noticed she would eat all the fruits and  veggies (aka kitty treats) I offered. Why not? 

We both had fun, she got to play and I got to fill her up with nutritious food. 

Plus, I had fun too.

Despite it all, she still grew up to have good table manners. She never eats under the table anymore.

Best of all, we both have sweet memories of Rosie the kitty.

Do you have a picky toddler?

If so, you're probably concerned that your picky eater...

  • loved broccoli yesterday, but spits it out today

  • has such a small appetite, how could she possibly be getting enough?

  • snacks all day then turns her nose up at meals

  • refuses the healthy food you offer, but begs for goldfish crackers and cookies

  • is on a hunger strike until she gets want she wants

Have you ever read The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman?  It's my all time favorite children's book about a mama of seven picky little children.   Children love the rhyming verse and fun illustrations.But the story also speaks to mamas who work hard to please and feed their adorable, picky children. You really should check it out from the library!   Can you relate to this quote from the book?

Poor Mrs. Peters got no rest

But still she did her very best.She'd take the flour from the shelfAnd mutter feebly to herself,"What a fussy bunch of eatersAre all my lovely little Peters."

If you're a plant-based or vegan mom, you may already feel like you spend extra thought and energy on your little one's meals.You give her fresh, healthy, meals and snacks, but...

What do you do when she spits it out, or turns up her cute little button nose?

Check out the ideas below, and please to leave a comment with your own tips for picky eaters!

Let her eat in unusual places

It's more fun to eat strawberries and muffin bites under a blanket fort in the living room.

Why not give her a sandwich or banana in the shopping cart at Target?

Is it really so important that your toddler sit at the table for a meal? 

Toddlers love to play and run and explore. 

This is how your toddler learns and grows. 

Sitting down for a meal at the table just interrupts the fun.

Let her go back and forth

When my my kiddos were preschool age they would ask if they could go "back and forth" for dinner.

This meant they could keep playing and we would call them over for a bite every few minutes and they would go play again.

They loved this and ate especially well when they were allowed to go "back and forth".

**Be sure to have them chew well and swallow before running off to play again. No choking please!!

Let him "help" in the kitchen

He can rinse vegetables in a bowl of water , help stir the pancake batter, or put olives on the pizza. 

He’s more likely to eat the meal he helped make.

Happily eat healthy foods in front of her

Munch an apple in front of her.

Heap your dinner plate with broccoli. 

Eventually, she will do what you do. Maybe not immediately, but in the long term these habits will become part of her.

The secret to getting your little ones to eat healthy?

EAT HEALTHY!

Don't stress when she doesn't eat

Remember if she's not hungry enough to eat a banana, she's probably not really hungry.

To get the biggest bang out of each bite give toddlers nutrient rich and calorie dense foods.

This is especially true for children who need to gain weight. 

Try nut butters, tofu, and smoothies, muffins, coconut yogurt and energy bites.

Toddlers are notoriously fickle, unpredictable eaters. It all balances out eventually.

Be consistent

picky toddler

picky toddler

Keep offering the healthy stuff. It may take a dozen times or more until she willingly eats it.  You've got all the time in the world.  Persist mama. Don't give up!

Don't force it

No harm will come to a healthy child if she misses a meal. Children won't let themselves starve.

Don't give in to her demands for "junk"  

When there is a battle of wills, you need to win. The consequences matter. If she's not hungry enough to eat the healthy food you offer, she's probably not really hungry.

Remember your why

When you're thinking of giving in to the whining and crying, remember the reasons you care so much about what your child eats. 

Is it because you're passionate about a healthy lifestyle? 

Is it because you know building good habits now will set her up for a lifetime of healthy habits and a good relationship with food?

Is it for another reason completely?

Why does this matter to you?

When you have clarity on this answer, it will be easier to stick by your beliefs and not give in.

If you’re not sure of your why, or need more reasons for your why  read 10 Reasons a Plant-Based Diet is Best for Kids

Look at the big picture

The most important thing to remember with toddler pickiness is to focus on the big picture, the long term, and don't worry too much about each individual meal. 

What's important is how she eats over the course of the day and the week.

Try not to be a perfectionist. It just adds stress and makes the problem worse.

Remember, the pickiness of toddlerhood will pass

If you cater to it, you're actually rewarding the unwanted picky behavior and it'll become worse.

So stick it out for the long haul and you, and eventually you’ll see your perseverance was worth it.

 Kick back and soak up your toddler's love of life

At what other time in life are we allowed to run in the house, or sing out of tune at the top of our lungs  in the grocery store making up the lyrics as we go?

She will eventually sit with the family at the table as she matures.

Until then, relax and give the kitty a treat.

Heidi

PS.  Please share you tips how you get your picky toddler to eat!