Toddlers and picky eating

You might have heard of the French paradox – no, not the one about French people’s heart health and their love of cheese. There’s another one out there that might surprise you. In France, the land of creme brulee, tartes, madeleines, and macarons, modern legend says that most children happily eat their vegetables at every meal.

Are you having a hard time imagining Baby choosing peas over pastries? You’re definitely not alone! Lots of parents struggle with convincing their toddlers to eat all the food on their plates.

It’s understandable if you get frustrated when Baby refuses food. But unfortunately, forcing Baby to finish every bite won’t give them the opportunity to enjoy vegetables and fruits on their own, which is the ultimate goal. Here are some ways to try and turn Baby into your family’s official foodie.

Give Baby a little more control

You don’t need to let Baby fill the grocery cart with whatever they can grab from the shelves. However, asking Baby to pick out the fruits and vegetables they'll be served later might increase the chances that they won’t see the food on their dinner plate as a USO (unidentified steaming object).

You could also plan a few dinners a week where Baby can choose what goes into the meal, and in some cases, even make it on their own. Examples include pizza, salads with quinoa, burritos, pasta, and tacos. Even smoothies could be a choose-your-own-ingredients type of adventure.

Differentiate between pickiness and preferences 

Picky eating at Baby’s age is caused by a few different things, including sensitive taste buds (our taste is strongest when we’re young), a desire for control, a need to test boundaries, and maybe even nostalgia for baby food. But sometimes toddlers reject a food simply because they don’t like it. We all have foods that we like or dislike more than others. Getting a sense of what foods Baby prefers might make it easier for you to serve something that they want to eat.

Don’t force Baby to clean their plate

You don’t want Baby to associate mealtime with anxiety and/or parental pressure. Asking them to take a bite or three of each food is fine, but demanding that they finish everything will backfire on you eventually. Try to keep the mood around the table light, even if you do have to grit your teeth when Baby spits out your eggplant parmesan.

Mix things up

Maybe Baby hates raw carrots, but loves them cooked. Or maybe they isn’t interested in cucumbers unless they’re sliced and served with a little dip. In the same sense that certain foods appeal to you more when they’re presented or cooked in different ways, you can probably find the best ways that Baby likes their food options.

Aim for multiple exposures

Toddlers require lots of tastings before they can decide if they like a food. The first four or five times, Baby might reject cauliflower right away. But that doesn’t mean they are necessarily tasting it. Don’t give up on their palate the first several times you serve a vegetable – you could be surprised farther down the road.

  • “Fussy eaters.” NHS choices. National Health Service, July 5 2015. Web.
  • “Picky eaters.” UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. University of California San Francisco, 2002-2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Children’s nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, September 6 2014. Web.

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