How to Combat Picky Eating with Your Toddler

AKA how to not pull your hair out at meal times.

I’ve said it plenty of times… My little Hunter (now almost 20 months old…where did the time go!?) has never been the best eater. In fact, we’ve had issues from day one with breastfeeding. Still to this day, he’s not the biggest or best eater (unless it involves pizza or cookies) which quite honestly drives me batty. I’ve never been a picky eater which probably explains why picky eating is one of my biggest pet peeves. I swore I would do everything and anything to make sure my kid wasn’t picky. Well, wouldn’t ya know it, I’ve done everything I can think of and I still have a picky eater on my hands! Not to mention I value good nutrition so I really want my child to truly LIKE vegetables and beans and a wide variety of nutritious foods. Someday…maybe someday is all I can hope.

I’ve done research, I’ve read books, I’ve done a lot of trial and error, and I’ve discovered a few things that have helped with my picky eater of a cute boy. I want to share so that maybe, just maybe it’ll help some of you that have a picky eater on your hands as well.

Offer a variety of foods at each meal time.

I always offer 1-2 foods I know Hunter will eat along with 1-2 new foods or foods that he hasn’t liked in the past. He almost always eats the stuff he’s most familiar with first. Rather than give him more of what he likes right away, I give him some time to look at, play with, and (hopefully) taste the other foods that are new or that he hasn’t liked in the past. Sometimes it ends up on the floor (which he gets in trouble for), sometimes it ends up in his belly, and other times it doesn’t even get touched. I feel a little bit more hopeful every time it ends up in his belly.

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Let him/her use silverware.

By about 18ish months, toddlers should be learning to use forks and spoons. Of course it’s still messy, but you should see some progress in this area. I notice that if I forget to give Hunter a fork or spoon, he’ll sometimes just play with his food and not act very interested. Once I give him a fork or spoon, it’s like he suddenly gains a bunch of independence and LIKES to eat. The use of silverware has helped us a lot with picky eating.

Give him/her a dip!

If he doesn’t seem interested in a particular food, I let him play with it for a bit and then give him a dip – ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing, red wine vinegar, etc. I try to make it fun and show him by saying, “dip! dip! dip!” and then gobble it up! Dips have been a HUGE success for us. Ketchup is the answer to my prayers. Winking smile Some food combinations with the dips may seem weird, but I don’t say anything and let him be. I’d rather him eat whatever it is with dip than not eat it at all!

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Try, try, try again.

I’m sure most of you have heard this advice, but I had to include it because it works (at least sometimes)! I think finally by about the 24th time of offering Hunter beans, he’s finally acting remotely interested in them. He still won’t eat them like he loves them, but at least a few make it into his mouth. That’s progress in my book. So, keep trying! It’s frustrating to know that some food is going to waste, but it’ll (hopefully) pay off eventually.

Try a variety of cooking methods and textures.

I’ve learned that my child does not like steamed vegetables. I swear it’s a texture thing with him. Vegetables still aren’t a very popular food with him, but I have noticed that he’ll actually eat some if I roast them or even serve them to him FROZEN (thanks for the tip, Kristen!). Kinda weird, but hey, whatever works. Not to mention that it’s super convenient and easy. Hunter will happily munch on frozen green beans while I’m preparing dinner. Frozen peas are another hit. Roasted veggies can sometimes be a win too. Kale chips and roasted sweet potatoes are hit or miss, but every once in awhile he’ll go crazy about them.

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Sneak in veggies where you can.

I’m all about being sneaky with the veggies. Of course I’d prefer if he truly enjoyed them, but it’s rare that he does, so I do the next best thing and sneak them in where I can. I add veggies to eggs, macaroni ‘n cheese, smoothies, yogurt (pureed veggies), breads, pancakes, you name it!

Stand your ground.

These little people are smarter than we may think sometimes. I started realizing that Hunter was learning that I’d give him something else if he didn’t eat what I initially gave him right away. I’ve started making him sit in his highchair with the food I give him for about 20-30 minutes. At that point if he still hasn’t eaten anything, I clean him up and get him out of his high chair like dinner is over. Shortly after (like 30-60 minutes), I’ll offer him a substantial snack to make sure he gets enough to eat. My hope is that he won’t have the expectations that I’ll give him something else at dinner time, but the snack afterward still gives him some calories. It makes sense in my head. Winking smile

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I’m obviously FAR from an expert, but the above tips are some things that have worked for us and my hope is that they can help you too! Being a mama is tough work. Let’s help one another out, right?

I hope you guys are having a wonderful week! ONE more day and it’s Thanksgiving! Woot!

Were you a picky eater as a kid? Are you picky now?

Are/were your kids picky eaters?

Any tips or tricks that have helped with your picky eaters?

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