Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting a Fussy Toddler to Eat

By Christina VanGinkel

Some toddlers are always ready to eat just about anything you put in front of them, while getting other toddlers to eat can be a trial every single time you set food in front of them. Thinking back to when my youngest, now thirteen years old, was a toddler for example, I do not really recall getting him to eat ever being an issue, but with my now two-year-old grandson, it can be. My grandson seems to go in streaks, eating well for a few days, and then seemingly going on strike for the next couple of days. My daughter has noticed a few things that will get him to eat though, even on the days when he is not so aggressive towards his food. While these tips will not work for every reluctant toddler eater, they can be worth a try.

My daughter noticed that he likes many of his foods rolled. Therefore, when she is having a hard time getting him to eat, if a food can be rolled, she will roll it. This does not always work, but there is something tempting about the rolled food, that will often get him to try the food at least. I employed this tactic just this morning. My daughter had an appointment this morning, so her husband dropped my grandson off early to spend the day with me. I fixed him a breakfast of mini pancakes. They come frozen, but microwave up quick. I thought this would be both pleasing to him, as they are in mini form and quick for me, because they microwave in less than a minute. He wanted them until I placed them in front of them, where he then informed me that he was not hungry, even though two minutes before he had been. I remembered what my daughter told me about rolling his food, so I thought it was worth a try. I picked up one of the mini pancakes and rolled it up. He looked at it, took it from me, and bit it in half. In no time at all, he had cleared his plate of every single mini pancake, each one rolled up before he devoured them. If you notice that your child likes food in a certain shape, see if you can incorporate other foods in a similar way, much the same way my daughter has with the rolling up of the food.

Sometimes, toddlers are taken back by textures of foods. They are often willing to eat bland looking foods, such as mashed potatoes, but will refuse to eat the same potato baked for example. If you discover your toddler avoiding foods of certain textures, try to camouflage the texture before it ever reaches their plate. A baked potato can be quickly mashed on a plate, as can many other foods. Even meat can be cut small enough that texture is not such a big issue.

Wanting to be sure to include foods such as broccoli in his diet, my daughter made it in a soup first, instead of just piling up a big green mountain in front of him. Once he had eaten it a few times, she then told him the next time that she served broccoli as a side dish with a meal, that it is was same green pieces that he had in his soup, just lots of them stuck together. She then cut the pieces up smaller in front of him, to show him that it really was the same thing he has been devouring in his soup the last few weeks. This might not always work, but for her with the broccoli, it did. By allowing him to eat it first, then showing him that it was the same thing helped him accept the fact that it did taste good.

Some kids like to dip their foods and others do not. If your child is a dipper, do not discourage it; just try to offer dips that are healthy. My grandson loves ranch sauce. He also loves to dip fresh baby carrots into the sauce. By letting him dip away, he has developed a love of a very healthy snack food.

Some people might disagree with offering a toddler food other than those the rest of a family is eating, but I firmly believe that it is ok to offer your toddler something you know they will like if they are not eating what everyone else is. Their tastes will change, and as they grow older, they will most likely start to develop a taste for more of the everyday foods you feed the rest of the family, in the meantime, paying attention to your child's likes and dislikes can go a long way towards helping them develop healthy eating habits. My grandson still has days where it seems like he eats hardly a bite, but by knowing his food peculiarities, we are able to offer him some healthy alternatives on the days he might not otherwise eat.

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