Do you ever dread mealtime with your toddler? I did. Myra was extremely picky and I used to get so frustrated trying to figure out what to do. She loved cheese (mac and cheese, cheese sticks, cheese and crackers etc…), but all that dairy made her constipated. I knew I had to find a better way to get her to eat. Through a lot of trial and error, and even more patience, Myra eventually started eating more ingredients. She’s still picky, but she’s made major improvements over the past few months.
If you’re going through it with your little one right now, just know that it’s temporary.
Here are some nuggets of wisdom that helped me out during the picky eater stage:
- Change your thoughts. OK, I know this doesn’t seem like a practical solution, but it’s an important one. There’s no need to add stress to mealtime. Kids pick up on the energy around them. If you’re stressed and anxious it definitely won’t help the situation.
- Eat with your kids. I made an effort to eat at least one meal a day with Myra, even if she didn’t eat that much we’d keep offering food. She also had to sit at the table with us until mealtime had ended. This introduced more structure in the day. Like many kids, Myra responds really well to structure, it builds her confidence.
- Make the meal visually appealing (but not distracting). I tried to add color to the plate as often as I could. I also started cutting her bread in little heart shapes (I used a cookie cutter I got for about .98 cents at Walmart).
- Add in something that they’ll love. Myra loves fruits and ketchup, by having it on the plate she was a lot more likely to sit at the table without immediately pushing her plate away.
- Adjust your expectations. The reality is that a lot of food is going to get thrown away (unless you eat it). It’s all part of the process. Some days are wins and she completes the meal, some days are misses and she’ll reject a lot of it, but the key is to remain consistent and keep offering (not forcing).
- Give options. I definitely don’t think kids should dictate what they eat, but I like offering options like “would you like broccoli or green beans”, or “would you like kiwi or strawberries”.
- Include your toddler in meal preparation. I found that by having Myra help with plating and preparing items she was more likely to eat the meal because she felt a sense of pride and ownership, it also taught her patience.
- Let them take the lead. When Myra was around 9 months old I found that when she got to hold the spoon she was more likely to eat. At that age she couldn’t exactly feed herself anything other than finger foods and crackers, so I’d give her crackers to feed herself, then have her hold the spoon with me when I fed her pureed food.
- Give yourself a break. The mom-shamers out there will have you think that if you don’t feed your kids a plant based organically grown meal, you’re somehow damaging them and setting them up for obesity and diabetes. While it is important to feed your little ones a healthy meal, don’t beat yourself up if you need to pull out the chicken nuggets or some french fries every once in a while. The key is to promote a healthy diet overall not micro manage every single meal.
Here are a few meals that were a hit in our house this week!
Whole Grain Bread
Whole Grain Bread
Mashed Potatoes with Eggs