Toddler meal ideas for picky eaters
Above all things, we want you to know this: Picky eaters are normal children. Any child development book that talks about eating probably mentions the issue of picky eaters. This childhood behavior, though, often pushes parents over the edge. So, the first tactic to managing your child’s picky eating habits is first to understand those habits.
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Picky eaters don’t eat the same way adults eat. As adults, we tend to eat two to four meals a day, perhaps with some snacks in-between. In many ways, we’re conditioned to eat this way, and we tend to follow that same routine every day. In fact, we often eat because it’s time to eat, even though we’re not really hungry. Children, on the other hand, eat when they’re hungry — plain and simple. So the result is that your child may tank up at one meal a day and tend to pick at her food the rest of the day. She may eat like a horse one day and barely touch her food for the next day or two. Or she may get stuck in a rut and only eat a couple of different things.
Whatever the case may be, there’s plenty of room for individuality. The point isn’t to be overly concerned or troubled by your child’s picky eating behavior — in fact, the more focus you put on the eating habit, the more little Jenny resists eating and thinks negatively of food in general. Except for rare cases, your tot is fine and ends up eating like an average adult. So, why are children, picky eaters? There are some explanations. Your child may lean more toward one reason or the behavior simply may be caused by a combination of events. Understanding, however, leads to easier management, so consider the following issues:
- Appearance: Children, like adults, are visually driven when it comes to food. However, children have to learn what looks good to eat and what doesn’t look good to eat. The cheesy lasagne may look great to you, but it looks like a bunch of goo to your toddler. So, when your dish is rejected, don’t take it personally.
- Immature emotions: Let’s face it; toddlers haven’t exactly mastered the management of stress and frustration. In light of this fact, don’t be surprised if your child unleashes a torrent of emotions concerning food. Illogical? Yes. Childlike? Yes. But it’s still important to teach what is and what isn’t polite early on. Work with your youngsters concerning table manners. If your little ones don’t like food, a simple “No thank you” is enough.
- Lack of schedule: It takes time for children to become scheduled eaters.Your child may eat a lot of one item and not eat again all day. In other words, children want to eat when they’re hungry and not based on a certain time of day. That’s why one of your most important jobs is ensuring mealtime consistency. Even if a child isn’t hungry or doesn’t eat much at a meal, you should still offer food at the same time every day, instead of asking, “Are you hungry yet?”
- Smell: Smell is a learned response. In other words, it takes a time to figure out what smells good and what smells bad. Your child may immediately reject something in the kitchen based on smell, even though it smells good to you.
- Texture: Don’t forget that food provides many different textures. For example, a raw carrot and a cooked carrot are very different with regards to texture. Children often like one texture and reject another, even though the food may taste like something a child would typically want. Texture takes the time to get used to, and a child’s taste buds have to mature.
In the end, the final reason that children are picky eaters is unknown. In fact, some researchers believe that pickiness is even “wired” into your children as a preventative measure that helps them from eating something poisonous.
Picky eating typically peaks around the time a child enters preschool (4 years old) and tends to decline after that. Again, this norm isn’t a hard and fast rule that you’d be able to observe. Either way, as the parent, you’ll contend with picky eaters and the important tactics help you battle the cooking woes.
When Ricky is really picky
Some children seem to be born as picky eaters. Others seem to eat well and then suddenly go through a stage where they’ll barely eat anything or eat the same food over and over. This spell can last a few months or even a few years. Here are a few quick tips to tuck in your hat:
- Relax. Realize that picky-eater syndrome is normal and more children than not go through some variation of this behavior. Although aggravating, realize that the behavior is normal, take a deep breath, or maybe two, and relax.
- Vary it. Don’t give in to demands for the same foods over and over. Keep exposing him to new foods and don’t let him dictate what he’ll eat. Don’t worry; your child won’t starve.
- Watch out for visual appeal. Children are typically only interested in eating pleasant-looking food. Try to make food more visually appealing and stimulating.
- Use a base. If your child loves cheese, serve dishes that mix other items, such as veggies into the cheese.
- Get your children involved in the kitchen. Use cooking time as discovery time. Teach your little ones about different foods and let them help you prepare some items. This is a great way to break down the pickiness barrier because kids are more likely to try something they’ve helped create.
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