Published April 24, 2013
All parents swap strategies for keeping their infants from becoming picky eaters: Make sure you feed them vegetables before fruits (otherwise they’ll just want sweet-tasting food), offer a wide variety of foods, flavors and textures as soon as they can start eating and if you breastfeed, make sure you get a variety of flavors in your diet (so that the flavor profiles are passed on in the breast milk).
Feeding a baby is very simple - before he or she learns to assert independence. While some kids will continue to eat the foods they first ate as a baby, others will say, “No!” and won’t stop saying it until they’re old enough to strike a bargain. So what’s a parent to do if their toddler would rather smash blueberries than eat them? Here are some helpful rules for parents ready to pull their hair out.
They can’t eat what isn’t there.
You may not believe this, but you choose what is on your toddler’s plate. Fill their plate with only healthy foods - the same ones that you put on your plate. In fact, rid your pantry of processed junk with no nutritional value. This will guarantee you won’t break out in a cold sweat whenever a pantry break-in occurs.
Enjoy family meals and serve everyone the same food.
Children want to model the adults in their lives, so watching you make healthy choices will encourage them to do the same. If they want to try something on your plate, go ahead and let them.
Don’t fall into the trap of placating a picky eater by making a separate “kids plate.” Un-doing this, while possible, will only bring tears for both of you. When they’re old enough to understand, have a conversation about being a "big kid" and eating grown-up food like mommy and daddy, instead of baby food. The idea of being a "big kid" tends to make toddlers more agreeable and willing to make changes.
Hide nutritious food everywhere.
Be sure that every single bite on your toddler’s plate is nutritious. Some kids will zero in on one item and not want anything else. Don’t avoid rice because you know they love it - just add vegetables. One easy trick: Finely chop cauliflower and mix it into the rice, since it hides nicely.
Or, go for the bold colors and serve “confetti rice” with finely chopped kale, carrots and purple cauliflower. Add spinach and carrots to meatballs and serve the highest quality foods you can find - especially healthy fats such as butter from pastured cows, coconut oil and full-fat, organic dairy.
Start a “one bite” rule.
Large plates with mountains of different foods can be intimidating. Instead, serve everything in a one-bite portion to make it more appealing. Once your child has had one bite of everything, he or she can choose which one they want more of. This will also keep them from filling up on just one thing and refusing to try anything else. Rave about all the delicious food and make sure you look like you’re enjoying everything, even if you need to put on your best poker face.
Your child will not starve.
This can be difficult to remember when your kid has eaten nothing but a few bites of cheese that day. But rest assured, your child will eat when he or she gets hungry enough. The only cheat here is for toddlers who are still breastfed: They can get away with nursing more instead of eating. If that’s the case there’s not much you can do but know they are getting a lot of vitamins and nutrients through your breast milk, even if all they eat all day is rice. Whatever you do, don’t give up!