Welcome to the fun world of feeding a toddler! Sometimes “Toddler” and “Food” don’t go together as easy as we would like.
We all want our toddlers to eat healthy foods, so we know we are giving them the best possible start to life. A healthy range of vegetables, fruits, proteins, calcium, minerals and vitamins. It sounds so simple and sometimes it is, but I often hear how hard it can be and the term “Fussy Toddler” is used so much these days. I also use it. In fact I have a “Fussy Toddler”.
But what does this mean? They are not eating the foods you want them to right? Really the label is quite unfair, they are little humans, learning about what tastes good and what doesn’t, at that particular time. Some babies love everything! Some babies do not. They are free to pick and choose, just as we are with what we eat. But the question is what can we do to help them love all the good things?
Firstly I am no expert and this blog is just my opinion and observation. Most parents worry their toddler isn’t eating the right foods. We often cook away amazing dishes in hopes our little ones will gobble it up, only for them to turn their noses up at it or clamp their mouths shut.
It can be a very frustrating and distressing phases – if we let it be. I have been through this and right now I am still going through it to some degree!
So what can we do?
First understanding the basic facts. Your toddlers will eat if they are hungry. They will not starve themselves. They have a built in survival mechanism. Behaviour phases and food phases are closely linked. Also they are the best regulators of their appetite.
If you feel stressed about your toddler not eating the food you prepared, if you are hovering over them telling them to eat, if you feel anxious when it comes to meal times and you are anticipating a struggle – guess what? They feel it too. I also found the older they get the more clued on they get.
So first step is to take it down a notch. Don’t stress, don’t worry and get yourself into a calm and relaxed frame of mind. Food time can be fun!
Offer lots of variety. If you are past the puree phase you will be into finger foods and general foods. Toddlers can eat what you eat, with some exceptions to choking hazards foods (Raw vegetables, sausages, whole grapes etc.)
One thing I love to do is a mini grazing platter! I offer a range of foods (usually 5) and with at least 2 things I know they will eat. The idea is exposure. Sometimes they will try it, snub it, feel it or throw it! All of these things are normal. Then one-day the food they avoid may be the food they try! Try different sandwich fillings, cut up different fruit, oven bake your vegetables for different flavour, make omelettes or mini quiches, make healthy muffins and slices, dice cheese with some dried fruit, try different cooked pasta shapes, rice cakes, scrambled egg or yoghurt with fruit! Also I love to use shape cutters! Its a great way to serve food with some fun and learning!
Another idea I love is making fresh juices. I add in some fruit and lots of vegetables like celery, carrot, cucumber, zucchini, beetroot etc. When it’s mixed in with apples and oranges it all tastes yummy. Get your minis to help you to! Having them involved with food prep is fun and learning for them. I also add in some vitamins, powdered collagen and greens to give the juice an extra boost.
Toddlers also do what they see. Are you sitting down and eating with them? I find that when I sit down at the table and eat a small amount ( if its not your meal time) then they are more likely to sit longer and try more! Try not to talk about eating or food, instead talk about daily things. This takes the pressure of them to eat.
Also, are they grazing the whole day? I have a grazer. But we can’t expect them to sit and eat a full meal if the were snacking half hour ago! I had just implemented no snacking after 4pm so it gives them the best chance to consume dinner.
So to recap; DE stress, Have fun, Platters, Juices, Variety without pressure to consume, Keep an eye on snacking times.
I hope this helps!