Many parents almost tear out their hair when trying to work out how to feed a fussy toddler. Many young children go through a stage of refusing to eat certain foods, whether it is something that they haven’t tried before, or a food that they liked yesterday. This leaves their parents worrying that their child won’t be getting enough nutrition or calories. Don’t worry though, they will be fine. If you’re going through the “No! I don’t like that!” stage, here are some tips on how to feed a fussy toddler …
1. Don’t Force Them
When parents are wondering how to feed a fussy toddler, mealtimes can quickly turn into a battle of wills. This won’t work. Trying to force them to eat will simply upset them and stress you. You can’t make a child eat something it doesn’t want to eat. Trying to do so risks putting them off that particular food completely, whereas if you wait and try again another time, they may accept it. Besides, would you like it if someone tried to make you eat something?
2. One Meal for All
Not so long ago, families sat down to eat the same meal together, with no menu choice. However now it seems to be common for each member to eat something different. Thus creates a lot of work for whoever’s cooking (usually Mom), and may encourage children to be fussy. Putting one meal on the table for everyone to eat and removing the element of choice teaches the kids that it’s that or nothing. They may well prefer to eat what they’re given than go hungry!
3. No Need to Panic
If your child is fussy about food, don’t panic. They won’t starve or suffer from malnutrition! Try not to give in and let them exist on junk, but whatever they do eat will almost certainly be giving them the calories that they need. So don’t worry about them going hungry or missing out on energy.
4. No Treats
This is where you have to be Mean Mommy. It’s better that your child eats something, but that should not consist of ice cream and cookies. Be firm on not allowing them to have treats unless they have eaten some good food. This isn’t about “rewarding” them, but rather teaching them that they can’t expect fun foods all the time. Too many cookies, and they won’t want to eat more nutritious meals.
5. Set an Example
It’s not uncommon for fussy adults to learn their eating habits from parents. If their mom was always on a diet, then they may have absorbed the message that certain foods were to be avoided – even healthy ones. Show your kids a good example, and teach them to try a wide variety of foods. They’ll learn to see this as normal, and pick up the message that food is not something to be scared of.
Many parents of a fussy toddler opt for the sneaky but effective method of disguising foods in their meals. A tried and tested form of getting them to eat carrots, for example, is to grate them in a sauce. Lots of vegetables can be hidden like this; when you have a vegetable-hating toddler, try pureeing veggies, or serving them as soup.
Children often change their mind on a daily basis about their likes and dislikes, so may refuse something today that they happily ate yesterday. So it’s worth persisting with a food, even if they say they don’t like it. But don’t make a big deal out of it. Leave it for a while, then quietly reintroduce the same food – you may find that they eat it without fuss.
Dealing with a fussy toddler can be a bit of a nightmare, but try to be relaxed about it. Many grow out of their fussy stage naturally, and you also need to show them that food is not something to get anxious about. Don’t force them to eat something, but also avoid giving in and letting them exist on junk food. How did you deal with a fussy eater, or were you one of those kids that only ate tomatoes and pasta?