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What to Do When Your Toddler Won’t Eat: Picky Eating and Beyond
How to encourage a lifelong love of fruits and veggies
The Great Toddler Picky Eater. Every parent experiences the frustration of a tot who loved bananas yesterday and hates bananas today. Are you grappling with a new picky eater who turns their nose up at new foods or is rejecting foods they once loved? Not only can this be frustrating, but it also raises concerns about whether your child is getting the necessary nutrients.
Why Is My Toddler Suddenly Such a Picky Eater?
Picky eating is a common phase in a toddler’s development. They often crave independence, and mealtime becomes one arena where they can assert control. Studies indicate that approximately 50% of toddlers exhibit picky eating habits, peaking around 3 years old and gradually improving between ages 4 to 6. Fortunately, most children outgrow picky eating with time.
Does Picky Eating Lead to Problems Later in Life?
Picky eating typically does not result in long-term issues. Studies suggest that picky eaters experience normal growth as teenagers, though they may have a leaner physique. Furthermore, there is no evidence of vitamin or nutrient deficiencies among former picky eaters in adulthood.
Encouraging Fruits and Veggies
Introducing fruits and vegetables early in a child’s life can establish lifelong healthy eating habits.
What’s the Right Amount of Fruits and Vegetables?
The recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables varies with a child’s age. You can find specific guidelines on My Plate. In general:
- Children aged 2 to 3 should consume 1 to 1.5 cups of each per day.
- Children aged 4 to 8 should consume 1.5 to 2.5 cups of each per day.
Vitamins and Nutrients for Children
While all vitamins and nutrients are crucial for a child’s growth, most children, including toddler picky eaters, obtain sufficient nutrients from their regular diet. However, some children may require additional iron and vitamin D supplements, as determined by healthcare providers.
Are Multivitamins a Replacement for Fruits and Vegetables?
Multivitamins cannot substitute for fruits and vegetables, as they lack essential components such as fiber, protein, and certain micronutrients found in whole foods. Fruits and vegetables offer a wide array of health benefits that go beyond vitamins and minerals.
Tips for Getting a Picky Toddler to Eat
- Let your toddler help pick out foods at the store and assist in meal preparation.
- Offer a variety of foods, including something you know they like. This allows them to choose and satisfies their need for autonomy.
- If there is a food they once loved, but are now refusing, try bringing it back with a twist, or cutting it into smaller pieces. If there is a snack your toddler loves, but is having a hard time with it is also OK to take a break and reintroduce it a week later.
- Offer choices. During the toddler years independence is growing, and at times what what your tot wants is choice. Offer two healthy options and let them choose.
- Don’t entirely write off rejected foods. What a toddler won’t eat today might be their favorite meal again tomorrow. Instead of throwing out of wasting food, try taking that break and seeing how they feel about it at another point in time.
- Encourage tasting but avoid pressuring or bribing your child to eat; it can backfire.
- Try “food chaining”: Serve similar foods to what your child already enjoys to expand their palate.
- Present food creatively: Alter the presentation or texture of foods to make them more appealing. For example, you can cut fruits and veggies into fun shapes by using little cookie cutters.
- Host a play (food) date: Let your child see what their peers are eating and use peer influence positively.
- Set a good example: Display enthusiasm for healthy foods during mealtimes.
- Don’t give up: Keep offering new foods; it can take several tries before your child accepts them. Read more about Picky Eating from our Friends at Cooper Here.
Best Healthy Foods for Toddlers
To expand your child’s palate, offer a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, iron-rich meats, and healthy grains. Spice up flavors with cinnamon, herbs, and lemon juice. Here are some toddler-friendly options:
- Bell peppers
- Whole grain bread
YUMI offers healthy and best-selling toddler snacks. Our picky eater approved bars are designed for your little one’s development. They are packed with essential nutrients – including Iron, Fiber, and Vitamin B12. Delicious, nutritious, and made with no added sugar. Intentionally formulated for growing brains and bodies, you can find them at Target, Whole Foods, and Sprouts Farmers Market.