Picky Eaters can sometimes make us feel at a loss as parents. It is difficult to understand why a two-year-old would prefer to eat just peanut butter on bread for three weeks in a row, and we often worry about whether our toddlers are getting adequate nutrition.
The good news is that toddlers generally know what is good for their bodies and studies have shown that they will select foods that contain the vitamins and minerals their bodies need. So don’t worry; your toddler will not voluntarily starve themselves or purposely eat an unhealthy diet. As long as their choices are healthy, let them take the lead as far as choices and preferences are concerned and let them decide when they have had enough. Toddlers have small stomachs, and they often prefer to eat many small meals throughout the day, so keep healthy snacks available.
Encouraging a wider range of choices
The way to encourage a toddler to try a wider range of foods is to provide different choices at the dinner table by placing small pieces of different food items within reach and don’t specifically draw attention to them. Just make them available, and when you are eating these same items, talk about how tasty they are to your partner but try not to take too much notice of whether your toddler is trying them. Most toddlers will be curious and eventually try something new. Keep trying but don’t get upset or frustrated when your toddler doesn’t try new food items. Mealtimes should be relaxed and enjoyable for everyone including your toddler.
Being creative in the presentation of foods also might encourage a toddler to try something new. For example, a slice of banana for a smile, two blueberries for eyes and a raspberry for a nose, makes a cute smiley face on a plate.
Dips and spread
Dips can be a very healthy and handy choice since toddlers will enjoy dipping veggie sticks, breadsticks or even fruit into cream cheese, guacamole (very healthy) and pureed fruits.
Another thing that toddlers will enjoy is using a plastic knife to spread things onto bread, celery sticks, crackers and rice cakes. Show them how to use the knife and give them a variety of things to spread such as peanut butter, greek yogurt, guacamole and pureed fruits.
If you are still anxious and unsure that your toddler is getting adequate nutrition, smoothies are a great way to include multiple fruits and vegetables. As long as they are sweetened mostly by fruit and perhaps a little honey, these are a good source of daily fruits and vegetables.
Invite a friend over
Toddlers love to imitate, so if you know a little buddy who has a good appetite and who usually tries a lot of different foods, invite them over and supply lots of choices. Your toddler will soon be imitating their eating buddy.
Let toddlers help with preparing food
Toddlers can have great fun using cookie cutters to cut pancakes or bread into different shapes.They can also help to assemble salads by shredding lettuce or placing tomatoes into the bowl. They might even try to taste something whilst helping to prepare food.
It is important that both parents have the opportunity to prepare and present food at mealtimes. Let your toddler know that “Daddy (or Mommy) is preparing our favorite pasta dish,” this can sometimes lead to a family tradition for a specific day of the week. Try to involve your toddler in the preparation. Family traditions and routines make our toddlers feel secure and nurtured.
Relax and enjoy your toddler
Being a first-time parent can sometimes be daunting, but try to keep in mind that we were all little toddlers once, and we all managed to grow up into adults. Enjoy the sweet and precious time of toddlerhood and keep in mind that it will go by very quickly and that in the blink of an eye your toddler with be starting elementary school.