5 Tips for dealing with Picky Eating in your Toddler

5 Tips for dealing with Picky Eating in your Toddler

5 Tips for dealing with Picky Eating in your Toddler

I don't love referring to kids as "picky eaters" because it can often be used as an excuse or internalized (by our kids) as a permanent state of being. Which, I can assure you, it is not! "Picky eating" is a behavior - and like any other it CAN be changed. It can be addressed and tweaked. Especially if you understand why your little one has such strict standards for what they will and won't eat. 

But knowing that picky eating can be changed, doesn't necessarily make having a picky eater at home any easier. Here are 5 tips you can use to tackle picky eating at home.

Name it!

Don't underestimate the power of language when it comes to helping your little ones try new foods. Imagine, for a minute, I gave you an unknown food and said "Here, eat this. it's good for you." Would you put it in your mouth right away? Me either! I'd want to know more about it, so I can set expectations for what I'm about to taste. Draw connections between textures and flavors for your kids and help them identify the ones that they love (and are still learning to love). "It's crunchy like your favorite cracker." "It tastes sweet like ice cream." You can use our handy list of more than 100 descriptive terms for foods to help you get started.

Start Small

Most of the time we make the mistake of preparing a whole meal with a new food which inevitably leads to refusal  from our picky eaters: "That's broccoli. I don't like broccoli. It touched my pasta, so I can't eat my pasta. Make me a sandwich." {If you're lucky, you might get a 'please' in there. Maybe.} Instead of pasta with broccoli and sausage - all mixed into a delicious jumble - start by serving a small floret of broccoli alongside their favorite pasta. Removing this pressure to eat something unfamiliar - and by pairing it with an old favorite -  makes tasting a little easier. Starting small will pay off in the long run!

Serve very small portions of food when first tasting

(If you're little one is afraid of the very process of tasting something new, "small" should take on a whole new meaning. In the case of real fear, not just usual toddler stubbornness, your goal should be getting them comfortable with the tasting process. So when you think small, think about the head of a pin. Seriously. Start that small to build their confidence with the process. Worry about the food later.)   

Give it a Special Space

Whether you use a separate "no thank you" bowl or a tasting plate - like the Nudge - that is specifically designed with space for those new learning to like it foods, signaling to your kids which foods are just there for practice will help them feel safer tasting something new. And, for those kids who don't like those unknown foods to get anywhere near their favorite dishes, these options will help prevent rejection.  

Set a Good Example

I don't like mushrooms. I will eat them. I even prepare them sometimes (ok, fine. Rarely). As a result, my kids are not exposed to them and guess what ... they hate them. Extensive research shows that the most effective way to encourage your kids to have healthier eating habits is to let them see YOU having them.  So, if you want your kids to practice tasting new foods here's a simple idea: do it together. Here are 5 easy ways you can model healthy behaviors at the dinner table.

Involve Your Kids in Dinner Prep

Kids who spend time around food - buying it, cleaning it, preparing it - are more likely to eat a variety of foods. They are also more likely to be willing to taste something new(or to do it "accidentally" while preparing it) and to have healthier eating habits as they grow. So find ways to get your kids into the kitchen with you. This low pressure situation will do wonders for their interest and willingness to try. But, as always, be patient. Even older kids can be reluctant tasters, so this - like everything in parenting - will take patience and persistence!