Ask parents of a toddler and they will tell you — their child is stubborn about eating healthy foods.
One of the biggest worries that parents express about their little ones is whether or not they are getting a good balance of nutrients.
And since toddlers often specialize in testing their boundaries, convincing them to eat something that they would rather not can be a bit of a battle.
With a little patience and creativity, however, parents often find that their previously picky eater can be transformed into a happy little eater.
Know the Facts
Talk to your child’s pediatrician or a pediatric nutritionist about proper toddler portions.
Many parents worry needlessly that their toddler doesn’t eat enough when in fact, healthy portions can be quite small.
For example, it is perfectly normal for a toddler to eat only 1/4 to 1/2 slice of bread, a small fistful of dry cereal, pasta, or rice, 1/4 to 1/2 piece of fresh fruit, a few spoonfuls of yogurt, or just a few bites of meat or other protein. You will have a better success rate if you offer several small meals rather than expecting your toddler to eat a substantial amount at a sitting.
Parents can sometimes look at the tiny portions and forget that they are filling only tiny tummies!
Make a Mess
Toddlers are hands-on learners, so take advantage of their natural desires to get involved and to get messy. Plant a garden — even a small plot will do — and let your child help out.
When choosing what to grow, allow your toddler to make a few of the selections and then show them how to sow the seeds and tend to the growing plants.
While you work in the garden, talk with your toddler about how delicious the veggies will be once they are ripe. If you are excited, they will be, too!
Once you have a batch of fresh produce, try to prepare them in a variety of ways and again, let your toddler be a part of the fun.
Munch some of the veggies raw and scour recipe books for recipes that your child might like.
There are a number of great cookbooks designed for children; ask your local librarian or book seller for suggestions.
With proper supervision, your toddler can help with some aspects of food preparation including stirring and measuring. Remember to give him the most important task of all — chief taste tester!
Every now and then, despite your best efforts, you will come across a toddler who flat out refuses to eat anything that looks remotely healthy.
If this describes your little one, you may have to be a bit sneaky. You can shred vegetables such as carrots and zucchini into meatloaf or meatballs and they will never guess what they are eating.
Purchase whole grain bread, pasta, waffles, and pancakes. Revamp some of your recipes by substituting natural, unsweetened applesauce for the oil in home baked goods.
The resulting treats are moist and delicious, and your toddler will never miss what’s missing (and neither will you!).
Try not to turn mealtime into a battle; your child will pick up on the tension that you feel and will become all the more determined to be uncooperative.
Don’t make a big deal out of their refusal to eat everything that you offer, simply clear the plates when the meal is over and try again next time.
If your toddler requests a snack shortly after refusing to eat what was offered, calmly tell them that you’ll be eating again soon.
If you allow them to fill up on empty calories between meals, they will quickly learn to hold out for their preferred snacks.
Look in the Mirror
Children learn from what they see, so be sure that you eat a well balanced diet including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and lean sources of protein.
If you are living on a steady diet of snack foods, it will be all but impossible to instil good eating habits into your little ones.