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  • Writer's pictureLeah Vizgan

Tips to get your Toddler to Eat

Updated: Jun 13, 2019


Try to always put the veggies on their plate first, then proteins.

After they have had enough of those, then put the potatoes or grains, etc. down.

I you offer the potatoes/carbs first, that’s all they will want. If you put out veggies first, they may or may not eat them but at least you gave it a good try.


Nutritional yeast sprinkles increase acceptance of many foods.


Add a combination of things you know your kid will and won't eat.

For instance, you can put a couple things they won’t eat normally on the plate of things they do like and sometimes they’ll actually surprise you and eat it and sometimes they won't, but hey it's worth a try.


Offer about 2 things u know your kid will eat (ex: cheese and berries) and then offer 1-2 things max that they don't usually eat or haven't been given to try yet, a new thing or something they keep refusing to try.

Don't keep offering different stuff if they won't eat what's on the plate for the current meal.


The big thing is to keep offering things they won't eat at different meal times or different days. Try to go for 1-2 things that are definitely going to be eaten and 1-2 new things. Sometimes you can request "just touch it to your tongue" or "taste it". It doesn't always get eaten but it's less pressure than trying it. Usually after 2-3 times it will at least get a chew.

Plates of "small things":

You can use an ice cube tray for this also where you add a combination of 1-2 things they like and 1-2 things they don't like, haven't tried before or refuse. Then use negotiation.


Negotiation:

They can snack as they please but if they eat the dessert item first, like the cookies and then want more, Tell them yes of course as soon as they finish the rest of the stuff! Your toddler may occasionally try a new item, or they might just chew it up and spit it back out, they might ignore all the healthy stuff and only eat the junk....


When they finish something on their plate that they like and want more of, then you can negotiate on how many bites of meat or veggies they need to eat to get more.


Dipping Sauces:

Kids Love to Dip. Using different dipping sauces can give great success with getting your toddler to eat. It makes eating fun. Anything they can dip in sauce is usually a hit.


For example, use guacamole or sour cream for quesadillas or sweet chili sauce, tahini, hummus, bbq sauce, ketchup and mustard for meats and veggies.

Also applesauce can become a dip.


Try veg tempura and give them their own sauce bowl. Pitas, baked potato wedges, chicken etc.. work well. If you can get them, frozen gyoza or pierogis are great for a quick meal as well (bonus hidden veggies).


Make it a Party with Cake Sprinkles:

Put cake sprinkles on plain yogurt, call it "Party yogurt", they'll love it!


Add melted peanut butter on a little bit of ice cream or apples. Or try spoonfuls of peanut butter or peanut butter on graham crackers.


Sneak Fruits & Veggies into Food they like:


Popsicles!

Use the purée pouches that have veggies and fruit mixed together. Mix it with yogurt and freeze in popsicle molds. Some toddlers will eat anything in popsicle form. You can even add broccoli, and they won’t care! Any time they go on strike against some vegetable, start adding it to their popsicles. It’s really easy and they'll actually love it. Summer weather is here for us, so let the kids spend the day outside playing with the kiddie pool and sprinkler while eating popsicles!


Smoothies:

You can make sure they get fruit and vegetables and other things that they don't eat well by making them drinkable. You could try to get some extra vitamins with adding fruits, veggies maybe protein hidden in there.


Go-To:

When all else fails and my daughter won't eat anything at all, I use our go-to.

Our easy go-to is what she loves to eat and always eats no matter what. For us, that is sweet potato ravioli with alfredo sauce and banana pancakes/waffles.


Quesadillas are also a good go-to meal where you can sneak so much food in.

You can get them to eat spinach and broccoli; even snuck in tofu, and their none the wiser. ;)


Waffles and pancakes are great for hiding veggies!

Purée up some sweet potato or applesauce and mix it in the batter. Also, if they don’t eat it, you can freeze them and throw them in the toaster to try for next time!


If yours likes yogurt, try mixing in half of a sweet potato. Usually this as a base, plus some other fruit or some cereal mixed in is another go-to when my toddler is refusing a balanced meal.


If they will eat noodle dishes, make pasta sauce and blend in veggies and meat or add frozen vegetables to Mac and cheese or add butternut squash purée to the sauce. You can also sub the noodles for gluten free or chickpea noodles.


Use go-to meals when they won’t eat what you having and want to get some dinner in them before bed so they’ll sleep or if their angry-hungry at some other time of day. They may not always go for a particular one of them, but usually they will end up picking one of their go-to's when several are offered.


It’s all about texture or shape:

If they like crunchy, give them crunchy okra and broccoli.

Try cutting their food in different shapes, in little bits vs long and skinny pieces, diced vs shredded... Try giving them things whole instead of cutting them.


Sometimes involving your toddler helps encourage them to eat.

Remind them that they helped. They picked out something extra special at the store. They did some age appropriate prep work - stirring/adding premixed ingredients that I poured into a larger bowl, "cutting" (squishing) tomatoes with a toddler-safe knife, etc. They made it look nice on the plate - stamped his sandwich with a cookie cutter, made a face, etc.

It doesn't always work, but try to put them into the frame of mind to be excited. If they don't like it or want to try it, that's fine. They still did a great job.


‘Lunchable’ type meals they can assemble theirself:

So small tortillas, crackers, toast squares with cheese, meat and cucumber or avocado slices. If you made it for them, they will not touch it. This also works well with make-your-own mini pizzas on naan or pita bread. These take 5 min to make and when they help make them they are more likely to get eaten.


A toddler table

A toddler table may help once they start hating the high chair. Setting the toddler table next to the big table so everyone is sitting together is the easiest way to eat as a family which helps some too.


Picky Eaters:

Most kids are picky about at least 1 food item if not more with each meal and definitely hate certain things but keep offering it to them anyways. Sometimes they end up eating it.


Refusing and Offering Alternatives:

When they ask for something that they shouldn’t have, just keep refusing and offering healthy alternatives, and eventually they may get worn down by the refusal and just eat what is given to them (of course all kids are different).


Don't offer additional options if they refuse what's on their plate. When it's clear their done, whether they actually had eaten it or not, they can have cheese and dessert (fresh fruit). At least they won't starve.


Don't Force Eating:

If kiddo doesn't want to eat his dinner, don't force it and let them just go "hungry" until the next meal. Don't force them to finish their food and sometimes set their plate on the counter so they can graze from it later without actually having to make something new.


Don't get upset/annoyed that they won't eat the (any meat or veggie or whatever they refuse), and remember that toddler appetites can fluctuate and if they flat out refuse to eat anything, they'll still be fine. Once you stop trying to force them to eat what you made, eating time goes a lot better.


Play Pretend & make it FUN:

When you eat, say "mmm mmm yummy this is sooo good" and a lot of the time, they will steal food from your plate that you just so happen to leave unattended in the center of the table. Then pretending that they are super stinkers for doing this makes them really happy.


Pretending food is monkey brains or dragon eggs, or rocks for some reason works, because apparently eating is boring and pretending makes it fun.


Make the plate of food look like a face. Quesadilla the mouth, peppers a mustache, beans and rice the eyes. Sometimes it works and others it doesn’t.


Another option that might help is trying really hard not to care. "Oh, you only want to eat dandelion stems and dirt? That’s fine, we don’t treat our lawn and it just rained."


You may find that they are more likely to try something if they see you eating it first. If they seem interested, give them bites off your plate. They for some odd reason like that more than when given their own serving.


Stopped cooking specifically for them!

Because it just makes you upset when they throw or spit it on the floor and say "yucky". They love doing this because for some reason, they want to crush our soul, just kidding. Have things ready in the fridge that you know they will eat (example: peanut butter, applesauce, hard boiled eggs, and rice) and try to serve one of their go-to foods with every meal.


Pick your battles:

If they like the dish you made them, then great, but if not, they won't starve, either. Every parent is basically experiencing the same struggles. Some kids survive on air, some eat the same dish for a year, some live off chips, others eat great, some eat tons of fruits.


If all they eat for every meal is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, they'll be fine. Even notoriously picky eaters that basically eat only 2 things. will grow up to be a normal eater.


Don't get frustrated, try to go with the flow. Don't force them to eat. If they go to bed hungry, they will eat in the morning. Life goes on.


I read in a parenting book that states

"As long as the kid eats bread, fruit and cheese, that's good enough for now."

Toddlers are weird when it comes to food. Try to offer a variety but you never know if they are refusing to eat it because their not hungry or because they don't like it today.


Eating is something they have choice and power over. We can offer them things to eat and they choose what they will eat.


I think it is all about experimentation and letting them sample and playing to the strengths of what they will eat.


The "Hungry Monkey" book is HILARIOUS and will make you feel much better about not stressing the picky eating toddler stage.


"...raising an adventurous eater is about exposure, invention, and patience. "

Check out this book on Amazon, I highly recommend it. -->



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