Did your toddler switch from being a baby who ate everything? Or did you always have a picky eater? Parents of picky toddlers usually wonder whether their child is eating enough or getting the right amount and combination of nutrients since he or she barely eats.
While some kids come around in a short while, this isn’t always the case with all children; some children are habitual picky eaters for whom this habit will take a lot longer to break. One thing to always keep in mind with your toddler is that you should be measuring overall food and nutritional intake over the course of a week versus a day.
If your child eats well over a week and has a few days here or there of rejecting most meals, do not worry as much if the child isn’t acting sick, tired or lethargic. In addition, there are times when kids also binge eat on a particular item (e.g. grapes only for breakfast and lunch) - this is quite normal as well so long as the meals are balanced over the course of a week.
Below are two quick and easy tips for improving your picky eater’s feeding habits:
Allow a Little Independence
Your toddler is in a stage where he/she is exerting independence in so many ways and eating is just one of them. At this stage, ‘No’ is also a favorite word so they assume that they can also say “no, “I don’t want it” or I don’t like that”, similar to mommy saying “No”.
You can give your toddler a choice between two nutritious dishes, snacks or drinks – this provides the opportunity to satisfy the longing for independence while ensuring a nutritious meal is eaten.
This does not mean that the child should be given too much independence since that is only a recipe for chaos (i.e. choice of junk foods or request for meals not already prepared). Avoid asking your children questions like, “What would you like to eat?” Asking your child this question may lead him or her to make choices of food that are non-nutritious and a refusal to eat meals different from what was requested.
Make eating fun
Research has shown that most picky eaters only consent to eating certain meals because of the way they were prepared or presented to them. Assuming you prepared noodles or jollof rice for your toddler, you can cut up boiled eggs, meat or veggies in funny shapes and align them around the food or make a smiley face with boiled eggs and peas or corn. This presentation will get the child interested in picking through the food and perhaps eventually tasting and eating a good portion or all of the meal. It has worked for a lot of mothers.
Also try serving your toddler smaller portions of food, in variety (e.g. Jollof rice, peas, beans, chicken and cut-up fruit provide variety compared to just rice and meat). Doing this, your child is sure to eat pretty well between focusing on one or two items or while eating a little of each. This may also help the child pick exactly what he or she likes to eat and gives you an opportunity to learn the likes/dislikes while introducing variety to the meals.
As always, the advice on 9jamom.com does not substitute for professional advice - if you are concerned, talk to your physician immediately. Check out the 9ja Mom Kitchen for some tasty recipes: Flavors babies and toddlers love™!