It’s the battle of the century: On one side of the table, you have your toddler with an “I’m not touching that plate of food with a 10-foot pole” expression on his face. On the other, there’s you and your “Don’t even think about getting up from this table until you finish that broccoli” glare.
Who will win?
Read on to find out how to make mealtimes more peaceful.
Toddlers can’t control much in their lives, but they can decide what they’ll eat, so think of this as an exercise in independence. Thankfully, picky eaters usually don’t stay that way. Try these tricks to curb fussy feeding habits:
Give your child a say in meal planning. Bring your child to the supermarket to pick out food and let him or her help you prepare it. You can also offer options such as, “Do you want beef or chicken tonight?”
Put out a variety of foods. Don’t make a special plate if he or she doesn’t like what you serve.
Offer new foods repeatedly. Most toddlers don’t take to new foods right away. Try giving new foods at the start of the meal, when your child is most hungry. Concerned about your child getting enough nutrients? Consider sneaking diced vegetables into spaghetti sauce or casseroles. But always offer vegetables in plain sight, too.
Don’t bribe. If you promise your child cookies if he or she eats their veggies, you’re telling him or her that the final, sugary treat is more important than all the healthier food that came before it.
Go with their quirks. Some children won’t eat a sandwich that’s cut on the diagonal, while others won’t touch it if it still has the crust. If it means they’ll eat the food, respect their wishes.
Avoid forced feedings. Don’t make your child clean his or her plate, as this can result in overeating. Toddlers should eat three meals and two or three healthy snacks a day, or about 1,000 to 1,200 calories. When it comes to portions, the American Academy of Pediatrics says to serve one-fourth to one-third of an adult portion, or a tablespoon of each food for each year of your child’s age. But sometimes children just aren’t hungry and will skip a meal. Don’t worry. They’ll make up the calories at another meal.
Your mealtime atmosphere can help mold healthy eating habits:
Eat together. Kids are more likely to eat healthfully when they have regular family meals.
Keep your table happy. If mealtimes are peppered with family arguments, your child will have negative attitudes toward food.
Minimize distractions. Turn off the TV, and don’t allow toys or books at the table.