It’s common for toddlers to switch up their eating habits, so don’t be shocked if they refuse a particular food one day and accept it the next.
If you’re trying to get your toddler to accept particular foods, form good eating habits and avoid carrying picky eating into adolescence, consider the tips below:
- Serve meals regularly and limit grazing or excessive snacking throughout the day. Meals should be served at the table with other family members, promoting routine and predictability.
- Don’t let toddlers drink their calories.The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends approximately 2.5 servings of dairy per day if your toddler can drink milk, and also discourages juice and soda consumption due to their lack of nutritional value and relationship with childhood obesity.
- Offer new foods alongside familiar food your toddler favors. Promoting food diversity and introducing new foods can open up a range of options for your picky eater.
- Let toddlers explore their foods, even if they make a mess.Encourage playing, touching, smelling, licking and even taking small bites.
- Don’t bribe your child to eat healthy food using unhealthy food.The goal is to get your child to enjoy and crave healthy foods instead of simply tolerating them.
- Their meals should be well-balanced, offering plenty of fruits and vegetables. You decide what your toddler eats, but let them decide how much they want to eat. Your pediatrician will review growth charts to ensure your toddler is getting the right amount of calories.
- Set a good example by eating a nutritious, diverse diet. You are your toddler’s most important influence.
- Don’t stock junk food in your home. If this isn’t an option, make sure this food is hard to access for your toddler.
- Discuss benefits of healthy, nutritious eating.Talk about making healthy choices and eating fresh food instead of processed snacks.
- Use toddler-sized portions. A serving size for a toddler is about ¼ of a single adult portion. It’s normal for your toddler to take a few bites and feel full. Set a timer for five minutes and slowly extend meal time up to 15 minutes.
- Minimize distractions at the table while eating. There are many negative effects that can come from eating while watching television.
Despite negative initial reactions, your child will likely learn to accept the food with time and repeated exposure. Getting a toddler to eat a balanced diet is a long process requiring patience and perseverance. When your children mature into healthy adults, they will learn to appreciate your efforts.
Dr. Samira Armin is a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Pediatrics Humble Fall Creek.