Even for my toddler.
They can be SO PICKY.
I always thought picky eaters were the product of poor parenting.
::hangs head in shame::
Yeah, I’ve had to eat those words.
Along with so many others! It’s a wonder I’m hungry at all.
You guys, I totally get how hard it is to fight food battles at every. single. meal.
The temptation is to cave. To give them what we know they like and avoid the whining and protests.
I’ve done it.
I have decided that eating well is a battle I’m willing to fight.
I cannot let my 3 year old decide what to eat.
I’m the grown up! It’s my responsibility to teach her how to eat.
Just like I wouldn’t let her decide how often to bathe or when to go to bed or how often to brush her teeth, I cannot let her exclusively decide what she will and won’t eat.
Everyone is allowed to not like certain things and everyone should decide when they are full, so I absolutely take those things into account.
It’s also very important to me that meal time is a positive experience for the whole family. Food is a gift to be shared and enjoyed and I want to set the tone for that in our house.
As hard as it can be to get our little ones (I started this with Grace at 2 years old) to eat healthy foods, it’s important and POSSIBLE.
I too had a child who argued about almost every food I set in front of her, but after implementing these tips, I’m happy to report that I have a pretty good eater on my hands these days!
Without further ado, here are 10 tips to get your toddler to eat clean, healthy foods!
1. Eat clean yourself – if you make a commitment to eating clean, your child will see you eating and enjoying heathy foods and this will set a tone for them to want to do the same. They always want to share (mooch) what we eat anyway, so let’s make sure it’s healthy!
2. Let them help – I’ve found that letting Grace help me prepare meals is a great way to increase her interest in eating them. She loves to feed things into the juicer, dump the contents of measuring cups and use a big spoon to stir.
3. Presentation! – making their meals look pretty really helps kids get excited about eating good food! Skewering anything onto a toothpick makes it instantly more fun to eat. Making fun shapes or faces with fruits and veggies also helps.
4. Establish “rules” – make sure to establish “house rules” for meal times. Let them know they don’t have to finish, but they do need to try each thing on their plate. A rule in our house is that if dinner isn’t eaten, it comes back out the next morning for breakfast. Grace has quickly learned that it tastes better the first time around. Also, I don’t suggest offering treats as a “reward” for eating the meal, but you can stress that mealtime comes first and that any treats are eaten after we fill our tummies with healthy foods.
5. Be consistent – stick to your guns. Remind yourself that eating healthy food is in your child’s best interest. You are creating good habits and setting them up for a healthy life. You may grow weary, but stick to the rules you come up with. After a while, your child will learn that you mean what you say and that you aren’t a pushover.
6. Keep offering – I know it’s easy to get frustrated when you consistently give your child healthy meals and they consistently reject them, but keep offering things. After offering bell peppers to Grace about 4 or 5 times, she tried them and liked them! Same with cucumbers. I was shocked but so glad I kept trying!
7. Variety! – Kids, like adults, enjoy variety. Don’t make the same old healthy lunch everyday…try to incorporate new items to keep your child interested. I’m not talking about a new exotic fruit every day of the week, but try not to put apple slices on their lunch plate every time. Swap in pear or orange slices for easy variety. Same with veggies…carrot sticks can get boring so offer bell peppers, cucumbers or even a small salad.
8. Don’t keep alternatives around – having a kitchen full of granola bars, goldfish crackers, macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets is going to make it tempting to give up. Try not to have that stuff around and watch how much more motivated you become to get them to eat what you DO have in the house :)
9. Think of kids around the world – this one was really helpful for me. I’d imagine toddlers in Japan eating all manner of interesting seafood & exotic produce and it would dawn on me that they eat it because it’s what they are taught to eat. There’s no stash of chicken nuggets in the freezer to bail them out of eating raw fish :)
10. Stay positive :) – I know it can be rough. I really do. But try to have a good attitude about it…they will come around! Making meal time a positive experience is so good for the whole family. This can mean letting your toddler leave the table without eating anything instead of yelling and forcing them to eat. It’s ok, you can bring the plate back out for the next meal and try again :)
These are things that have worked well for us. It’s not perfect over here all the time, and Grace still initially whines about almost every dinner, but she willingly eats a variety of healthy foods now and even surprises me from time to time. Fish is one of her favorite things and I never would have guessed that when we started out!
I could have written so much more about this, so if you have questions please leave them in the comments. I’d love to dialogue about this!
Stay tuned for a bunch of healthy lunch ideas! It’s time to think outside the sandwich and I’m going to share a bunch of clean lunches that Grace has eaten and enjoyed :)