My toddler is a fussy eater! How many times I’ve heard that.
If you are a parent, you know that life stopped being easy years ago. You don’t know when things will get your way or will just be a big disaster (this is the most likely option); this is particularly relevant when we talk about food.
In theory, during their second year of life, children increase the range of foods they eat, they show more interest but they are actually choosier about what they eat. Parents commonly think their children are not eating enough, but it’s important to understand that growth rates slow down at this age, and their appetite decreases with it.
Toddlers usually want to eat what people around them are eating, and will reach out and grab foods and drinks that are common for them, or those that Mum and Dad are eating (adults seems to know what is safe to eat!). Under this premise, you are their main model, and that’s why we need to set a good example when choosing our own food.
There are a couple of tricks that we can try to keep our sanity:
- Allow them to determine what and how much they wish to eat. Don’t force them! Give them the chance to know their body.
- Offer a variety of healthy foods, with different textures, shapes and colours for their three meals and snacks. Let them try what they want!
- Present regular small portions (try to make them look attractive).
- Provide nutritious snacks such as soft fruits, cheese sticks, yoghurt, cereal, sandwiches, grated carrots or apple with sultanas.
- Do not draw your attention to the new foods you may be offering. If they reject them, remove without fuss and try again another day.
- A great idea is to have a “spiting bowl”. This is a tool to help them in the process or trying new foods, touching, smell and taste them. You can say something like: “If you don’t like it, you don’t need to eat it. But try it first”
- Prefer water during the day, avoid juices, cordial, sodas, etc.
I know many children who love processed foods, chips, nuggets etc. (my boy loves chips!), so the trick is: BE AN EXAMPLE! If you want your children to eat better, don’t buy processed foods, everyone in the family should eat the same healthy food, and definitely we need to avoid fast food places with indoor parks and happy meals! There are so many natural parks to go, and places where to do picnics and play outside; is a matter of avoiding temptation.
But in the meanwhile, try not to get stressed around food and the eating routine. I know is not easy, but they are clever enough to know that starving is not a good idea, so believe in them and one day at a time, you will find your equilibrium.
Do you have any other good suggestion for struggling parents, carers and educators? Leave me a comment!
Lilia has a Bachelor degree in Nutrition and Dietetics and a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition; passionate about Sports Nutrition, performance enhancement, exercise science and weight management. Lilia always works toward the fulfilment of her client goals, prioritizing their health over nutrition trends.