Frustrated with picky eating? You may have noticed that your toddler or older child has started to say “no” to foods that they used to eat. It can feel so defeating!
Picky eating is very common, especially with toddlers and preschoolers. Some adolescents also have trouble with being particular about what they eat. Feeding toddlers and kids are hard. You are not a failure as a parent if you have a picky toddler or child.
Every day, millions of parents come to us for support. It can be stressful when your toddler stops eating the foods they used to or when your child outright refuses to eat certain foods.
These 11 tips work! They will help you with your child. This means that they have been working on this for a long time and have a lot of experience.
Expert Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters
We are confident that these tips will encourage your child to eat more food.
If you want to learn more about how to overcome picky eating, we have a free 14-page picky eater guide that we would be happy to share with you. The following guide provides a step-by-step approach to improving mealtimes today.
Start “no-pressure” meals
If you’re struggling to get your toddler or older child to eat, try serving “no-pressure” meals. When your child is ready to eat, let them decide how much to eat or whether they want to eat at all. You may not believe it, but giving them a choice helps them to learn to like more foods over time!
Here are some examples of what pressure looks like:
- “Just try one more bite.”
- “You have to eat it, or you can’t go out to play.”
- “You will make mom very happy if you try a bite.”
- “You can have dessert as soon as you try this food.”
It can be difficult to take the pressure off your child when they are not eating. No, it may not be comfortable at first, but it does get easier. The objective is to establish a comfortable and appealing dining space for your kid to develop a taste for unfamiliar foods.
Say, “You can eat it when you’re ready”
“I no eat.” “I don’t want it.” “That’s disgusting.”
Kids of all ages love to tell you their opinions about meal options. It’s easy to get into a fight with them about food and try to make them eat a certain amount. But, doing so can make them pickier.
You could say, “You can eat it whenever you’re ready.”
Let your child get down from the table after they have stayed there for an appropriate amount of time. Sometimes kids just aren’t hungry, and that’s okay. The kitchen will open soon, and one meal won’t have a large impact on the variety of food she eats in a week.
Just do yourself and your child one favor. You should make sure there is at least one food that they usually like on the table. That way, there is something they can eat.
Have open and closed hours for the kitchen
If you allow your picky eater to graze all day, they will likely never feel hungry enough to try new foods.
Children should have specific times to eat instead of being able to eat whenever they want. When you are finished snacking or eating, close the kitchen. Creating a meal schedule for your toddler or older kids can create structure and make life easier for everyone.
Kids need three meals and 0-3 snacks per day, depending on the child. If you want to improve picky eating, try serving kids meals and snacks on a routine every 2-4 hours.
Sit down to eat
Sitting down helps picky eaters eat. It can be tempting to let a toddler eat while running around the house or a 7-year-old eat in front of the TV. these approaches These approaches can work in the short term, but they don’t help with picky eating in the long term.
Instead of having kids run around while they eat, have them sit down at eating places. It helps prevent choking, and it also can help kids slow down and listen to their bodies, which allows them to eat better.
Grown-ups set the menu
Many parents of picky eaters are concerned about their child’s nutrition or growth. So if your child is picky about what they eat, it’s understandable that you would want to give them food that they will actually consume.
You should not force your children to eat, but provide them with healthy options and let them choose.
This also means that you are serving food that you know your child usually eats, in addition to anything else that you are serving. This way, you will know that your toddler had some good choices even if they do not eat dinner.
Add some fun with food activities
Kids love a little fun in their meals. Food activities can be a powerful tool for parents. If you cut a sandwich into triangles instead of squares, or try a new utensil, that may make a child more willing to try new food.
When it comes to getting kids to eat healthy, involving them in the cooking process can make it more fun and therefore more likely they’ll want to eat it.
Let your child help with preparing food by letting them cut the food into a new shape, using an age appropriate knife or cookie cutter, and with supervision.
It doesn’t have to make a big mess. If your toddler starts to throw food, it is okay to set boundaries. If that happens, you can stop the play.
Keep serving it
We are constantly saying “expose, expose, expose” if you follow us on social media. Giving kids a variety of foods to try, even if they have not yet developed a taste for it, is a good way to expose them to new things. One of the most important things you can do is show kids the foods you want them to eat.
Parents of toddlers or older kids often say that they know their child won’t eat a certain food, so why bother serving it. However, if you never serve it, they will never eat it.
You don’t have to force your children to eat all their food, but you do need to keep offering it to them if you want them to eat it.
Perspectives on Feeding: Picky Eaters
Parents who are struggling to keep their healthy babies may find valuable tips from specialist pediatric dietitian, Dr. Bahee Van de Bor.
Introducing new foods to toddlers
Offer it every single day, for 10 days. If you only try feeding them the food once a week, it could take up to 10 weeks for them to eat it. You don’t have to offer the food in the same way. There are many things you can do with a carrot. For example, you could stir fry the carrots one day, you could steam it the other day, you could put it in a stir fry one day, you could roast it, or you could pop it in a smoothie. So you can present it in lots of different ways as well, just to make it a bit more interesting and exciting and maybe one way… One cooking method might be more appealing than others, you might… It might help you discover that “Oh, actually, my child likes carrots with herbs or with this particular spice or whatever.” And so, it could be quite a nice fun adventure, but if you are focusing on helping your child become familiar and get them to start trying something new, then do offer it, every single day, for 10 days.
Baby-Led Weaning and Other Approaches to Feeding
One great thing about baby-led weaning is that it is more of a baby-led approach; however, you need to be careful that you do not get too caught up in it. If you only let your baby eat foods that they can hold with their hands, they may start to feel like wet textures are unfamiliar to them and this can lead to picky eating habits later on. So with baby-led weaning, the principles are that the baby is joining family meals from when they start weaning, and so it should be ideally a mix of textures, both wet and dry texture, so it’s perfectly okay to help them.
Put the spoon near their mouth and let them eat on their own if they are old enough. They may end up eating with their hands or fingers, which is perfectly fine because it’s messy and fun. It’s great that they are able to feel really good about that… Having a wide variety of textures is also great because it means that the baby will be able to join in on family meals. There should be no added salt or sugar for infants in family meals, but other than that baby-led weaning is fantastic. You can offer wet textures like yogurt or anything with a sauce as part of normal meals. It is important for them to experience a variety of textures.
What Makes Kids Picky Eaters?
The reasons for picky eating habits in babies can vary, and it often depends on when the baby begins showing these tendencies. But if it’s around that 18 to 20 months mark, that’s a perfectly normal time or normal phase where babies may start to reject foods that are familiar to them, or even reject the possibility of new foods and that’s all down to just evolutionary times where pre-historically, babies may pick up some poisonous berries, and so it’s this innate behavior where they just automatically suddenly started to become worried or worry about potentially unfamiliar foods.
This is a normal phase that all children go through and they will eventually outgrow it. A small proportion of babies may struggle with mild picky-eating in toddlerhood if they do not have enough exposure to different textures or if they have undiagnosed reflux or prolonged vomiting. The negative association with pain may cause them to believe that feeding is also painful. If the child is only eating a few specific foods and not trying new things, they may be picky eaters. This is more common around the age of three, which is when parents may start to worry and take their child to the doctor. So the parents are not as worried about how much food their children need, but more about the quality of the food. Could a lack of certain vitamins or minerals lead to health problems?
18 – 20 Month Phase
We know that kids that age are unreliable eaters. If they eat well most days, but there are a few mealtimes where they are generally overtired from school or nursery, so they might not eat as well then. The nursery usually reports that the children are eating well, so there is no need to worry. I would continue to offer family meals and a variety of foods. If you’ve started to notice that meals have become stressful, or that your baby is showing signs of distress when it’s time for a meal, it may be time to start thinking about making some changes. Look for signs that your baby is unhappy at the table, such as moving their face away or showing signs of distress.
If you find yourself spending a lot of time trying to feed your child, or if you have gotten into the habit of feeding them instead of letting them eat on their own because you think they won’t eat what they need, then those are signs that there might be a problem. Meals shouldn’t be a chore, and picky eating shouldn’t be a problem. If a child is generally happy with touching and trying different foods, but demonstrates preferences for some foods or textures, there is no need to worry. However, if the child is consistently unwilling to try new foods or textures, it may be time to seek help.