How To Deal With Picky Eating Toddlers
You probably thought that I will tell you how to fix your child’s picky eating, so you can relax and be proud of your adventurous little eater. But that’s not what I’m planning on doing at all.
There are so many different posts and articles about how to help your child stop their picky eating and you know what, there will be tons of parents scoffing at them and saying how they don’t work. And that’s because for a lot of kids don’t wish to part with their picky eating ways. But there is still a solution. One that will lead to much more peaceful eating times. You ready?
YOU need to get let it go! Plain and simple. Stop stressing so much about your child’s picky eating and get back to enjoying your life. And let your child enjoy theirs.
I understand why you want to stuff your child full of broccoli and why you worry about them only wanting to eat pizza. You want what’s best for them and want them to be healthy. It’s not a secret that a whole foods plant based diet is the healthiest way for us to eat. Unfortunately, a lot of toddlers and children will be resistant to it. Many kids hate vegetables and will stealthily pick out any offending substance from their food. They might even throw an epic tantrum in for good measure.
But let’s step back and take a deep breath. First, I think most of us are confused about the appropriate portion sizes for our little ones. This makes us force way more food down their throat than they can handle. And the huge portion intimidates your child and makes them even more picky.
How much should your picky eating toddler eat in a day?
Here is a sample of what your child (up to 3 years old) should be consuming in a day
My suggestion would be to set aside some time, get some measuring spoons and cups, and put out all the food your child should be eating in front of you. Does it look like more or less food that you expected they should be consuming in a day? Keep in mind, that every child is different and depending on their size and appetite, they will require more or less food.
Now that you have a good visual of approximately how much your child should be eating in a day, let’s think about how we parents can chill out a bit and be more responsive to hunger and fullness cues.
How to keep your sanity while feeding your picky eating toddler?
Let’s imagine this scenario: It’s lunch time and you made a delicious sandwich with a delicious soup for your little one and they refuse to even take a bite. Just as in any situation in which we feel our blood pressure rising, the first step is to take a deep breath and then follow that up by 10 more. Once you feel more calm, try to asses the situation.
Has your child eaten today? Is this a food they generally like to eat? Do they appear as if they are sick or teething? If they have eaten already, then release them from the table. They’ll go play or do whatever and may come back at a later time to eat their lunch or not. Either way is fine. If it’s generally a food they enjoy and they are not eating it, they’re either sick or truly not hungry. On the other hand, if they refuse what you put in front of them but request their favorite food only, then they’re not hungry and you can let them go about their business.
The important thing is not to engage in a power struggle with a toddler and not to give in to their demands. Both will save your sanity and ensure that your child does not learn how to wear you down (and believe me, they will because you are out of practice and they are at the peak of their career).
Also, don’t get into a habit of giving them lots of snacks if they don’t consume their normal meals. This sets you up for failure and will ensure that your child only wants “snacks” and not actual meals. In addition to snacks, don’t let your kid drink milk between meals, if they’re being especially picky. And be very careful, if you give milk with a meal. Many foods are not compatible with milk and will cause an upset stomach. I personally, only give my sons milk upon waking and right before bed.
Coping with your child being a picky eating toddler
Now that you have cleared out potential roadblocks on the road to eating success, help yourself stay calm in this situation. If breathing isn’t doing it for you, distract yourself or educate yourself even more on what to expect from your toddler. Do anything you need to stop obsessing about what’s going into your child at the moment. Unless your child has a true eating disorder (which your pediatrician can help you identify and treat), they will eventually eat.
And I can’t stress enough that if you provide nutritionally dense foods for them at every meal, then you won’t worry as much about them missing a meal. (Check out my blog post to find some ideas for easy and nutritional foods for toddlers).
Another trick that I employ with my son (the older one) is having his favorite meal as a back up for those days that he’s eating poorly. I am fortunate enough that his favorite food is hummus, so I pair it with tomatoes and sprouted bread. Voila! Child is not going hungry and ate something that was good for him.
Also, don’t stress if your child doesn’t like meat. It’s actually pretty normal for a toddler to not enjoy eating meat. Their body doesn’t need much protein, so they are really not lacking any nutrition if they’re not eating meat. As they get older, they will most likely change their preferences. Just remember that your child, not you, knows if they’re hungry, how hungry, and what foods they find pleasing.
So compile a list of your kid’s favorite foods and find the most nutritious versions of them. Feed those to them and you won’t have to worry so much about your picky eater. Less worry equals less fights and more fun for everyone.
Quote of the Day
“Toddler: a small creature who is only hungry after you throw away the food she refused to eat the first eighty times you offered it to her” – www.hollowtreeventures.com
Mental Health Tip of the Day:
If you are feeling so angry that you can’t help but yell at your child, STOP and WALK AWAY. When you are a safe distance away, check in with yourself: why are you angry and what can help you calm down. Take a few deep breaths and collect yourself before coming back to your child and talk to them in a normal voice. Nothing gets solved by yelling.