By Megan Block
The biggest struggle of my day lately is getting my 2-year-old to eat. Up until a month ago, she ate everything I prepared for her without a fight. Now, a typical mealtime consists of whining, crying, kicking and throwing her food, followed by a huge headache for mom! “Snackies” she says, as she tries to pry open the cabinet to find the hidden stash of fruit snacks. If only fruit snacks delivered all the nutrition she needs! Here are some tips to get our tricky toddlers eating right:
- Offer healthy options: As parents, the best we can do is try! It’s important to remember that kids will take in what they need because it is truly out of our control whether they eat or not. Offering healthy choices will allow our kids to make a decision on their own, but we know that their options are either eat healthy or don’t eat. Begging them to eat will create a power struggle and likely end in frustration.
- Don’t forbid foods: If your child wants something, allow them to have it as a small treat during the day or after a meal. Forbidding foods — fruit snacks in my case — will make your kids want them more just because they know they aren’t allowed. This then creates a struggle for you. You’re still in control here if you politely ask your child when they would like their treat. Remind them that after this they won’t have another opportunity for their treat until tomorrow. Once they understand this, the struggle is over.
- Be a healthy teacher: Do as I say, not as I do? We all know that doesn’t work when there’s a toddler in the house. The best way to teach our kids to eat healthy is to eat healthy ourselves. Make sure to include lots of fruits and veggies on your own plate and express their deliciousness while eating them. This is a great way to simply enjoy our own food without putting pressure on our kids to enjoy theirs.
- Find out what they’re willing to eat: Who knew a toddler could meal plan! Try sitting down with your child when they are calm and ask for their help in making a list of foods they would like to eat. Doing this will help your child develop decision-making and problem-solving skills while also increasing the likelihood of gaining cooperation during mealtime. Tip: try using images of the food.
- Enlist their help in cooking: Start by printing out a few recipes that you’d be willing to try and let your child choose from your selection. Next it’s time to hit the grocery store. As you’re pointing out the foods you need, try explaining briefly how those foods help our body and why it’s good to eat them. Then get cooking! Remember to stay patient and encourage your child as they help. Tip: try this on a day where you aren’t rushed or stressed about getting dinner on the table.
Do you have any tips on getting your picky-eater eating? Share your stories in the comments section below.