Mastering Fussy Eating: Avoid These 5 Mistakes with Your Toddler
If you have a toddler, it’s very likely that you’re pulling your hair out over their fussy eating. The reassuring thing is that it’s a normal stage that many families go through. Children typically experience a so-called “neophobic” phase around 18 months old, during which they start questioning what’s on their plates, especially if it looks unfamiliar or is mixed in with other foods. How we deal with this stage as parents can play a crucial role in helping them establish good, healthy eating habits. In this article, we’ll discuss the top five mistakes to avoid with your toddlers and what to do instead.
1. Don’t hide vegetables
Yes, we know vegetables can be challenging for toddlers, so it’s very tempting to “hide” them so we feel better that they are eating it. But hiding vegetables means they will never get the opportunity to learn to accept them. Instead, serve vegetable fingers at each meal, without pressure (see more below), consistently. One day, they may just surprise you! (And then you need to make sure you don’t react out loud!)
2. Don’t talk about new food too much
“This broccoli is SO nice and it’s going to make me so strong.” We’ve all done that – we know we shouldn’t pressure them or force them, but it’s oh-so-tempting to say SOMETHING. But toddlers are smart, they can sense your intention – anything like “just 2 spoonful” or “broccoli before desserts” can all be seen as pressure. Very often, the best course of action during mealtime is actually to talk very little about food. Sounds counter-intuitive, but moving the conversation away from food actually helps move the pressure off too!
3. Don’t give up too quickly
You’ve just spent hours cooking a new recipe only for them to reject it? It feels all too familiar and can be so frustrating, if not infuriating! “Why bother” you think to yourself, “just give them what they want to eat.” We get it – but you may just be giving up a little too early! It can take some children up to 15-20 times to try something new before they would readily accept it. Exposing them to a wide variety from the first days of weaning helps, but even more important is the consistency with which you offer. So the best advice there is just to keep calm and carry on (offering)! Remember, during these tricky times, exposure and acceptance are key, so if they touch, smell, or lick the new foods, they are all progress!
4. Don’t serve different meals when they don’t like something
If your child refuses to eat what you’ve cooked, it may be tempting to give up and offer something else so they don’t go to bed hungry. However, this strategy can teach children that mealtime is a battle of wills, and they may become more stubborn about what they will or won’t eat.
Instead, establish a routine that what is offered today is what’s on the menu today. If your child would like something else, you can agree on a different time when you’ll serve that. If you’re worried about your child going to bed hungry, establish a routine where you offer a light snack, like a banana, before bed, regardless of how well they’ve eaten at dinner. However, make sure the snack is filling and not something they would rather have than dinner.
5. Use food as a reward or punishment
It’s tempting to use dessert as a reward for finishing dinner or to take away snacks as punishment for misbehaviour, but this can create an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, offer desserts and snacks as part of regular meals and establish non-food rewards for good behaviour.
6. Not being a good role model
Children learn by example, so it’s important to model good eating habits yourself. Make sure to eat a variety of healthy foods and show enthusiasm for trying new things. Also, make mealtime a positive experience by sitting down together as a family and enjoying each other’s company.
Are you tired of spending endless hours in the kitchen trying to get your little ones to eat healthily? Why not try our “baby standard” offering. It’s a simple yet effective way to ensure that your child is getting the necessary nutrients without any fuss. Plus, you can always add 1-2 things you know they already enjoy and serve the new food on the side, or even share it with them! With our approach, you can say goodbye to mealtime battles and hello to happy, healthy eaters!