10 Top-Secret Tips All Parents Need for Getting a Picky Toddler to Eat
One day, your child is gleefully eating pureed peas. Now your toddler won’t touch peas, or anything else green for that matter. In your panic, you might cave in and serve only mac and cheese. And soon, that’s all your little one will eat (or maybe pizza and chicken tenders too).
Bending over backwards to please our picky toddlers doesn’t help anyone though. Sure, it might save you some agony on an already-exhausting day. But every time you cave into these demands of your picky eater, you further enhance this habit.
Not to worry though as it’s not too late. You can use these 10 tips to get your picky eater to eat it all!
1. Make meals and serve them
The best way to shake a child out of a picky eating habit is to simply make the meals you want and serve them up. Children will not ever starve themselves. They will always eat when they’re hungry, something any pediatrician will tell you. And while none of us like the idea of our kids not eating, they will eventually come around. Choose meals with ingredients you know your toddler eats (perhaps a side of potatoes?) so they’ll at least eat one thing.
There is one exception to the rule of everyone eats what they are served and that is if you choose to make a spicy meal. In this situation, you should always have a non-spicy dish that your child can eat.
2. Involve your toddler in meal planning
At the supermarket, ask your child to help you pick out the foods. Give them some choices so they feel like they’re in control. For example, you can ask if they’d prefer carrots or broccoli. When they feel like they have the control, they will be much more likely to eat the things they’ve chosen.
3. Sneak in healthy foods with ultimate stealth
Don’t become a short-order cook on behalf of your child! Instead, get them to eat those things they turn their little button noses up at by hiding them in things that usually appeal to them. For example, with spaghetti, blend extra veggies into your sauce using your immersion blender. You can do this with homemade pizza too as well as plenty of other dishes. Spinach is really easy to sneak when you blend it right!
4. Gradually work in new foods
Getting tired of serving the same menu each week? Jazz it up by including a new dish. To make it seem familiar though, serve it with something that your toddler normally gobbles up. This way, they’ll be more likely to try that new thing while feeling comfortable that they have something to eat if they don’t like it.
5. Be creative with plating
Some moms have found success with getting kids to eat fruits and veggies by artfully arranging them on their plates. Making a rainbow or a face will make it fun. Another way to appeal to your picky toddler is to serve healthy foods with a dip. Hummus is so easy to love as is a nice homemade ranch dressing. Plus, all that dunking will keep them busy and munching all in one!
6. Have them try it once
With new foods, asking your child to give it a taste once is a good idea. Be sure to tell them that if they try it and don’t like it, that’s fine. Keep your word on that too because if you say, “That’s ok. I’m sorry you didn’t like it, but thank you for tasting it for me,” it makes your child more eager to do it again when there’s another new food to taste.
7. Let them help cook
Another great tip for parents of picky toddlers is to involve them in the cooking process. You can let them stir things, count ingredients, or help pick fresh herbs from your garden. When your child is involved with the way the food is prepared, they are much more likely to give it a try without a fuss.
8. Use similar foods to entice them to try new ones
When you find success with one new food, you can try introducing foods that have a similar color, flavor, or texture to your picky eater. Perhaps your toddler gobbled up all the pumpkin pie during the holidays. It would open the door for mashed sweet potatoes or even mashed carrots, adding even more accepted foods to their plate.
9. Pair for the palate
Foods are better when they have contrast. A bitter vegetable like broccoli is better when it has a little shredded cheese on it to counter that bitterness with a salty taste. Since toddlers like sweet or salty things, use this to pair sweet and salty flavors with other ones to make them more appealing to the toddler palate.
10. Refrain from bribery
Many parents fall into the trap of creating a prize out of foods to get their kids to eat foods they refuse. But doing so will only set a new routine, one that involves you bribing your child every night with the allure of dessert and treats. Take bribery off the table and you’ll soon notice with these other tips, your toddler will start eating other foods without a fuss.
Naturally, it will take time to get a picky toddler to eat. Don’t force things to happen immediately and simply work them in slowly. Before you know it, your picky toddler will turn into a child that happily gobbles up all the nutritious foods they’re served!