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Gentle by nature

Picky Eaters

Picky Eaters

Why is my toddler a difficult eater?

Your toddler is getting solid foods for a while now, but it still remains a fairly new experience for her. She may still be getting use to the taste, the colors and various textures of the different foods that she is getting. Although young children normally requires consistency and familiarity with things like sleep habits or playtime, when it comes to their food they become highly unpredictable.

Your toddlers eating habits may vary from day to day. Foods that he liked yesterday might be refused today and vice versa. It is also known that toddlers need time to get used to new foods and might refuse to try them until you have offered them several times. This selectivity might be partly the result of their lowered nutritional requirements , due to their slowed down growth rate. It will also be the result of your toddler becoming more independent and learning to make her own choices.

Although a picky eater can be very frustrating, it is also a time where you can teach your child and help her to try new types of food. By offering your child a variety of healthy, delicious foods at different times a day, she can try them at her terms and develop a taste for these new, healthy flavors. This will create a solid basis for the future where your little one will eat different types of healthy foods.

Tips and tricks

These tips (courtesy of will help you deal with your picky eater.

  • 1. Respect your child's appetite — or lack of one
    If your child isn't hungry, don't force a meal or snack. Likewise, don't bribe or force your child to eat certain foods or clean his or her plate. This might only ignite — or reinforce — a power struggle over food. In addition, your child might come to associate mealtime with anxiety and frustration or become less sensitive to his or her own hunger and fullness cues.

    Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child and give him or her the opportunity to independently ask for more.
  • 2. Stick to the routine
    Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. You can provide milk or 100 percent juice with the food, but offer water between meals and snacks. Allowing your child to fill up on juice, milk or snacks throughout the day might decrease his or her appetite for meals.
  • 3. Be patient with new foods
    Young children often touch or smell new foods, and might even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. Your child might need repeated exposure to a new food before he or she takes the first bite.

    Encourage your child by talking about a food's color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good. Serve new foods along with your child's favorite foods.
  • 4. Make it fun
    Serve broccoli and other veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters. Offer breakfast foods for dinner. Serve a variety of brightly colored foods.
  • 5. Recruit your child's help
    At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods. Don't buy anything that you don't want your child to eat. At home, encourage your child to help you rinse veggies, stir batter or set the table.
  • 6. Set a good example
    If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child is more likely to follow suit.
  • 7. Be creative
    Add chopped broccoli or green peppers to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated zucchini and carrots into casseroles and soups.
  • 8. Minimize distractions
    Turn off the television and other electronic gadgets during meals. This will help your child focus on eating. Keep in mind that television advertising might also encourage your child to desire sugary or less nutritious foods.
  • 9. Don't offer dessert as a reward
    Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which might only increase your child's desire for sweets. You might select one or two nights a week as dessert nights, and skip dessert the rest of the week — or redefine dessert as fruit, yogurt or other healthy choices.
  • 10. Don't be a short-order cook
    Preparing a separate meal for your child after he or she rejects the original meal might promote picky eating. Encourage your child to stay at the table for the designated mealtime — even if he or she doesn't eat. Keep serving your child healthy choices until they become familiar and preferred.

If you're concerned that picky eating is compromising your child's growth and development, consult your child's doctor. He or she can plot your child's growth on a growth chart. In addition, consider recording the types and amounts of food your child eats for three days. The big picture might help ease your worries. A food log can also help your child's doctor determine any problems.

In the meantime, remember that your child's eating habits won't likely change overnight — but the small steps you take each day can help promote a lifetime of healthy eating.