From temper tantrums to negotiating food at the dinner table with your toddler, all parents have experience with a picky eater! Here are some tips by Nutritionist Peggy K to help ease the frustration, and to ensure that your picky eater is getting the proper nutrition he or she needs!
Let Your Picky Eater Play With Textures
When I started the food journey with my son, he hated purees! I could not get a spoon filled with pear puree anywhere near his mouth. His ninja-hands were so on point that he would knock the spoon out of my hand, while his head turned away from me. I thought I was doomed. Of course, it would be my kid that turns out to be a picky eater. I felt defeated and frustrated.
It wasn’t until I tried baby led weaning that I finally found some success with my picky eater! I would give him chunks of avocado, steamed carrots, peas, an entire apple peel, which he could pick up and gnaw on his own. He enjoyed foods that he could play with, feel, explore, and squish between his little fingers. It’s the sensory experience that got him comfortable with different textures and variety of foods.
In the beginning, there would be some he would eat, and some he would toss. But over time, and on his terms, playing with food is what got my picky eater to try different types of foods! Some kids are the opposite. Some live for purees. I have parent friends who fear years from now they’ll be sending their child off to college with a one year supply of squeezy puree pouches. This will never happen. Your child will eat. Give them the room to play and experiment, without any pressure, and they will eat.
Have a Nutrient Insurance Policy
If your child’s diet of plain bread and noodles has you worried about their nutrition, it’s time to implement a nutrient insurance policy! What this does is that it ensures at least ONE (or even two) meals of the day are nutrient dense enough to provide proper development for your child.
The best place to start with the picky toddler is something they tend to like best – their milk! For picky eaters, I recommend toddlers stick with a toddler formula vs. just plain cow’s milk or milk alternatives. Many milk alternatives such as the nut, soy, and rice, lack the many nutrients toddlers need. Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula provides your child with necessary nutrition. One cup contains 5 grams of protein and 22 vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, B vitamins, iron and folic acid. It’s rich in bone-building vitamin K and in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids (DHA), which is super essential for healthy brain development, that other kinds of milk (including cow milk) lack.
Just by substituting their regular cow’s milk with something nutrient dense like this can give you peace of mind. You can even use the Kabrita Goat Milk Toddler Formula as a base for a smoothie. Just add some frozen berries, a banana and chia seeds for an extra boost of fiber, antioxidants and vitamin C.
Be Consistent With Your Picky Eater
Yes, your little one may throw every vegetable you place on their highchair onto the floor. But keep putting it there. Day, after day, after day. It takes 21 days to develop a pallet for something. Kids need consistency, and quite often, a little time. Even if you think your little one doesn’t like broccoli, keep placing those tiny green florets on her plate. At first, she may immediately toss it on the floor, but after a few days, she may hold it in her hand a little longer, squish it, smell it, before throwing it on the floor. Then she may put it in her mouth, make a funny taste, then spit it out. But after some time, she may just surprise you by eating the ENTIRE floret!
It’s about being consistent and still offering the food, even when they reject it at first. Many times it’s the parent that gives up on veggies before the child has time to make up his mind about them. Be consistent and continue to offer. And if after 3 weeks your child STILL doesn’t like it … then move on! It’s ok! We as adults have food preferences, and so does your little one. If there are only two vegetables your kid likes, that’s fine! Stick with those and slowly offer up others over time.
Be Sneaky With Your Picky Eater
While we want our toddlers to develop healthy eating habits and to LIKE vegetables all on their own, it’s not always going to happen that easily. Simple swaps and additions can quickly add extra nutrients to your toddler’s diet.
Mixing cauliflower puree into homemade mac and cheese; blending sweet potato and carrots into a tomato sauce; adding hummus into a cheese quesadilla for added protein and fiber; adding spinach to smoothies; swapping out regular sliced bread for a sprouted grain bread; making ‘jam’ out of pureed strawberries and chia seeds. It can be the smallest substitution or an addition of an ingredient that can make the most significant difference.
Be Patient With Your Picky Eater
As a parent, I know how difficult it can be when your little one refuses to eat or has a picky pallet. But the best thing you can do is: Be. Patient. As hard as it may seem, the one thing you do not want your child to see or feel is any frustration or anxiety around eating – this will only exacerbate any issues around food.
Mealtime and food should be a positive experience for all. Try eating together as a family and try to eat the same meals! Leading by example is the best way to get your little one to eat healthily! Keep offering the same foods you eat (and this may give you an opportunity to clean up your eating habits too!). If she still refuses, don’t cave by making her a PB&J sandwich (or the ONLY thing she eats). It will create the never-ending cycle. She will always know you’ll eventually give in, while you continue to be her sous chef, and the picky eater wins! Just be patient. Be consistent with what you offer and be patient. It may seem easier said than done, but you can do it!! You are amazing!
Peggy Kotsopoulos is a Manhattan-based, Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Culinary Consultant focused on teaching real health through lifestyle and dietary choices that are easy and delicious!
Kabrita non-GMO Goat Milk Formula is designed to maintain the natural comfort of little ones during feeding transitions, such as weaning, supplementing or changing formulas due to skin or tummy troubles*.
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*Not suitable for cow milk protein allergy