Fast-forward to toddlerhood. Your daring little taster now refuses anything but grilled cheese, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese (usually the processed boxed kind). And, oh yeah, that grilled cheese had better be cut into triangles!
It may be comforting to know that you are not alone. Parents around the world are tearing their hair out as their little darlings refuse anything remotely nutritious. What can we do as parents without resorting to trying to force food down our kids?
To start, don’t make it a war. You can’t force a child to eat peas. Well, you can, but frankly it’s not worth it and will make you both miserable in the end and cause friction evertime you are at the dinner table.
Instead, try to focus on some of these tips to help maximize your child’s nutrition:
- Make the best of what your toddler eats. For grilled cheese, use whole wheat instead of white bread. Try to start out early, many kids when they get a taste of white bread won’t go back to whole wheat bread. Check the label to make sure whole wheat is the first ingredient listed. If your toddler refuses any chicken that’s not in nugget form, read ingredient labels to look for the highest quality available.
- Add flavor. This is a big one for us. Ketchup is a favorite. There are many meats and foods our oldest wont eat with kitchup. Perhaps your child will down those carrots if they’re doused in that yummy red sauce. Other toddlers love dipping. Put out a cup with a favorite sauce or dressing, and let your toddler dip to his heart’s content.
- Hide the yucky stuff. Make pancakes containing pureed sweet potatoes. Finely chop vegetables into pasta sauce. Just be sure to conceal the forbidden ingredients so your toddler doesn’t catch on to you. We use this tip with our youngest and mix in the food he does not like with the stuff he does like.
- Try to make eating. Decorate pancakes to look like a face. Use banana slices for eyes and blueberries for a mouth.
- Keep trying. What your toddler might hate one day, she might love the next. If you put the same food on your toddler’s plate every day, maybe she’ll eat it. Or take a break, and try again in three or four months. She might surprise you.
- Consider moderation. How much junk food you allow your child to eat is up to you, and no amount of cookies are healthy. Keep in mind, however, that keeping junk food completely off limits could turn it into the coveted forbidden fruit. It’s up to you, but perhaps it’s not so evil to let your child eat some birthday cake when the time is right.
- Set the example and be a role model. If your diet consists of fried chicken, your toddler will likely want the same. Let him see you eat healthy foods. There’s no guarantee that he’ll want to eat broiled salmon just because you do, but at least you’re setting a good example.
- Ask your pediatrician if your toddler should take a multivitamin. She may not need one, but if your toddler’s diet is truly lacking, a multivitamin might be in order.
If you are worried about your childs eating habits, always remember to seek the advice of a health care professional. They tend to see this alot and may have some ideas not mentioned here. Plus they can tell you if there is anything you should be worried about.
Remember that as exasperating as food fussiness can be, it’s common amongst young children to be fussy eaters. Your toddler, like so many others, will somehow grow healthy and strong – even if it takes the macaroni and cheese diet to get there. Our job as parents is to try to educate ourselves and do our best to make sure our children have a well rounded diet. It just might take a little bit of cunning and ingenuity.