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Dealing with a picky eater can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can try to encourage healthy eating habits and make mealtimes more enjoyable. Try our Toddler Picky Eater Solutions and see if they help.
Keep in mind that patience is key when finding picky eater solutions. You have to stay calm because if you’re upset, it makes the problem worse.
I have dealt with dozens of different kinds of picky eaters in my decades as a home daycare provider. Knowing how to deal with picky eating is an important part of running a home daycare and an important part of parenting too. Here are some solutions to consider:
- Be a Role Model: Children often mimic their parents’ eating habits, so try to model healthy eating behaviors. Eat a variety of foods, including fruits and vegetables, and show enthusiasm for trying new foods yourself.
- Create a Positive Mealtime Environment: Make mealtimes pleasant and stress-free. Avoid pressuring or scolding your child about their eating habits, as this can lead to mealtime anxiety. Instead, make mealtime a time for family bonding and conversation.
- Offer a Variety of Foods: Provide a wide range of nutritious foods at each meal, including fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Offer foods in different colors, textures, and shapes to make them more appealing. For our lunches at daycare, we almost always have 3-4 sides the kids can choose from, one fruit and the rest veggies and I tell them they get to pick 2. It helps them eat more because they get to choose what they prefer. Our food program guidelines make us serve food even if the kids don’t want it, so if they don’t want any or one like one thing I offer, I just ask them to pick and they don’t have to eat it. I don’t put pressure on eating. If you want to be hungry, that’s okay.
- Offer Small Portions: Serve small portions to avoid overwhelming your child. You can always provide seconds if they ask for more. This way, they can try a little bit of everything without feeling pressured.
- Get Creative with Presentation: Make food visually appealing by arranging it in fun and creative ways. Use cookie cutters to create interesting shapes or make smiley faces with healthy ingredients. Fun presentations can make food more appealing to toddlers. Here are some fun snacks you can check out to get inspired! (They are healthy)
- Involve Your Child: Let your child participate in meal preparation or grocery shopping. They may be more interested in trying foods they helped choose. You can also let them help you cook. Kids love cooking! And you can take it a step further if possible and let them help you GROW food. It’s so much fun!
- Stay Consistent with Meal and Snack Times: Try to establish regular meal and snack times to create a routine. Avoid allowing your child to snack constantly throughout the day, as this can decrease their appetite at mealtime.
- Offer Healthy Snacks: Keep healthy snacks readily available, such as cut-up fruits, vegetables, yogurt, or whole-grain crackers. This way, if your child gets hungry between meals, they have nutritious options to choose from.
- Limit Sugary and Processed Foods: Minimize the availability of sugary snacks, sodas, and highly processed foods at home. This can help your child develop a taste for healthier options. And they won’t always be full of the wrong things when meal times come.
- Be Patient: It may take several attempts before your child decides to try a new food or develops a liking for it. Be patient and avoid expressing frustration if they reject a food.
- Don’t Use Food as a Reward or Punishment: Avoid using dessert or treats as a reward for eating other foods or as a punishment for not eating. This can create unhealthy associations with food.
- Consult a Pediatrician or Nutritionist: If you’re concerned about your child’s nutrition or growth, consider seeking advice from a healthcare professional or a pediatric nutritionist. They can provide personalized guidance and rule out any underlying issues.
Picky eating can be frustrating to a parent, but I’ve been working with kids since I was in high school and I’ve kept well over 100 students in my home daycare. I’ve seen it all. And there are a few things I know to be true. Remember these when trying to find picky eater solutions for your kids.
Kids will not starve, they will eventually eat. They go through phases where they just don’t want to eat that much. And that’s okay. They will hit a growth spurt and they will be hungry all the time.
Another thing is that being upset about their eating compounds the problem and makes them feel more uneasy at meal times. So just let it go, it will be okay.
Many picky eating problems stem from sensory issues, so if a child doesn’t like a certain texture of food, let it go. I have sensory issues of my own and the stuff that gagged me as a kid (pudding, jello, yogurt, etc) still gag me now.
No amount of cajoling made me able to eat it. I was punished a lot for not eating certain things and I ended up hating those things for life. So just be calm and let it go when kids don’t like certain foods.
Your child will get there. If you are concerned about nutrition, there are ways you can add it to foods that your child does like. I like to add a lot of things to breads, soups, spaghetti, pizza, and more.
I make green powder from our garden greens to use all year, it just looks like spices and you can’t taste it. And I hide fruits and vegetables in the kid’s favorite foods. It gives me and their parents peace of mind, but it doesn’t change the flavor or texture of the food.
By hiding I don’t mean, trying to trick them. I mean, showing them it’s there but it still tastes like what they like. I may let them have a bite or two before I show them so they realize it does taste good to have shredded zucchini on the pizza under the sauce or something like that. But you’ll find what works for your family and you’ll succeed.