Many battles have been fought in history but if you are a parent of a picky eater, none is more frustrating than the battle to ensure your child’s proper nutrition and growth.
You read, receive unsolicited advised from family, Google search, trick, distract, bribe and beg to no avail. Can a child survive on just fish crackers and chicken nuggets you wonder? This epic war line is drawn: the determined parent versus the headstrong toddler! Who shall reign supreme?
Rest assured you are not the only parent who has battled with the picky eater. Remember that as determined and stubborn as your picky eater is, you still have the advantage of being the adult. Follow these tips to help overcome and outlast the picky eater:
1. Your child will be OK - At times, it may seem that it is physically impossible for your picky eater to survive with the amount they have chosen to eat. Rest assured that most kids get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets over the course of a week. Try offering small, frequent meals on the go instead of expecting them to eat a meal in one sitting.
2. Who’s in charge here? – For most toddlers, this period of time in their development is all about exploration and testing authority. You push a toddler, they will push back. Therefore it may help you as a parent to not push the food issue.There is nothing wrong in letting your toddler think they are the ones in charge of food decisions. We all know who really is in charge! Let them choose the foods they want to eat.
3. The team approach works - Involve your child in food decision matters. Recruit siblings to make family meal times more successful. Take your child to the grocery store and have them pick out foods. Involve your child in the cooking process. They are more likely to try what they cooked as they will take pride in it.
4. Watch the liquid calories - It is easy for a toddler on the go to fill up with milk and juice. They can tank up and move on. Limit the amount of juice in your child’s diet, as juice offers mostly empty calories. It is much healthier for your child to eat fruits and drink water. Never use these liquid calories as a substitute for meals. Your child is more likely to try new or different foods if he or she is hungry.
5. Stick to a routine - Toddlers respond well to routines. Offer meals and snacks at the same time every day. Family meal time at the table is important for your child, but the battle should not continue for hours after everyone else is done eating. Remember, you cannot force a toddler to eat by drawing lines of war. They may be little but they can be fiercely determined little creatures. You will have many more opportunities later in the day and week to ensure adequate nutrition.
6. Make it fun - A plate full of broccoli trees, carrot swords and pasta tennis rackets anyone? Your toddler is more likely to try foods if it is fun for them. So cut up food differently, be creative with the names, put it in interesting containers, dip it, make it into a fun shake…variety is the spice of a toddler’s life.
Lastly, remember that this too shall pass. In this epic battle of parent versus picky eater, the parent shall reign supreme with the aid of knowledge and guidance. Just don’t tell your toddler that!
About this Angie's List Expert: Dr. Prasanthi Reddy practices pediatric health care at Rainbow Pediatric Center, which has been serving the health needs of children in Jacksonville, Fla. since 2004.
As of March 12, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.