Long-term fixes for your toddler’s fussy eating.
The foods on his plate can’t touch. He loathes grilled chicken and can’t stand the smell of eggs. Vegetables? What vegetables? All he wants to eat are pizza, grilled cheese, and mac and cheese. Basically, a carbs + cheese only diet.
As a parent, having a picky toddler who zips his lips in the presence of nutritious foods is not only frustrating, but also worrisome. More than anything you want your kid to be healthy and strong, which you know starts with eating the right foods.
“It’s a common and actually very typical, predictable phase that kids go through—and really it’s because it’s one of the only ways that kids have to exert any control over their environment,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.
So what’s a perplexed parent to do? Here are expert tips to get your picky child to finally eat the foods she needs—and build healthy eating habits for life.
1. Don’t give up.
“It can actually take between 15 and 18 times of introducing a new food for a kid to even try it let alone like it, so persistence is key,” says Largeman-Roth. “A lot of parents feel like feeding their kids is a really thankless job, but it’s so important because you’re really helping them to develop their palate, and introducing those healthy foods early is really vital for getting them on track to be a healthy eater,” she says.
2. Serve realistic portions.
Do you dole out adult-sized portions to your pint-sized kiddo? Remember, toddler serving sizes are only about about a quarter of adult serving sizes, so you may need to significantly downsize your kid’s meals and snacks. “You don’t want to overwhelm your child by putting these big grown-up servings on their plate and somehow expecting them to actually eat it,” says Largeman-Roth. Here are some examples of what a toddler’s portions should look like:
- ¼ slice of bread
- 1 ounce of meat (or the size of the palm of your child’s hand)
- 2 tablespoons of fruit
- 2 tablespoons of vegetables
3. Watch the snacks and drinks.
“One of the mistakes parents make is that they’re so concerned that their toddler is not eating enough, that they’re giving them snacks throughout the day, which in turn then makes them not hungry and eat the meals that they’re supposed to be eating,” says Preeti Parikh, MD, a pediatrician at Mount Sinai Hospital and HealthiNation’s chief medical editor.
4. Don’t overdo “hiding” healthy foods.
“I am not a fan of hiding healthy foods in other dishes. I really think it’s important that kids know what fruits and vegetables look like, and that they learn to have an appreciation for them on their own,” says Largeman-Roth. “There’s certainly nothing wrong if you want to make brownies with avocados to make them heart-healthier, but don’t think that that is the way to get your kids to eat vegetables.”
5. Be a good example.
“If you want your kids to eat healthy, you have to eat healthy yourself. You cannot expect them to love their broccoli and peas if you don’t eat them as well,” says Largeman-Roth. Start eating healthier by following this crucial diet advice.
6. Eat with your child.
“One of the best things you can do for your toddler is to sit there and eat with them. They can see you eating the foods that you want them to try, and really making it a time where you can engage and talk together,” says Parikh.
7. Look at the big picture.
“Not every meal has to be perfect,” says Largeman-Roth. “We’ve definitely all has those nights where it’s the frozen pizza and we were in a rush and that’s all we had. But you want to be able to look back at a week and reflect on it on the whole and say, ‘yeah, we got veggies in there, we got fruit in there, we got some low fat dairy and protein and whole grains.’ So, don’t stress over every meal and every snack, but do try to be offering a wide variety of foods to your kids,” she says.
Along with getting your kids to eat more nutritious foods, it’s also important to make sure they’re eating less of the bad stuff. Here’s how to encourage kids to eat less junk.
Dr. Hes is a pediatrician and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City. She is double board certified in pediatrics and obesity medicine.Frances Largeman-Roth
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.Preeti Parikh
Preeti Parikh, MD serves as the Chief Medical Officer of HealthiNation. She is a board-certified pediatrician practicing at Westside Pediatrics, is an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and is an American Academy of Pediatrics spokesperson. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and has completed post-graduate training at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
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Some kids are always picky eaters,
and some kids are great eaters.
00:00:05,843 --> 00:00:07,750
And some kids go through phases.
00:00:07,750 --> 00:00:13,386
00:00:13,386 --> 00:00:16,867
It's a common and
actually very typical,
00:00:16,867 --> 00:00:20,260
predictable phase that kids go through.
00:00:20,260 --> 00:00:24,900
And really, it's because it's one
of the only ways that kids have
00:00:24,900 --> 00:00:27,770
to exert any control
over their environment.
00:00:27,770 --> 00:00:33,330
It can actually take between 15 and
18 times of introducing a new food for
00:00:33,330 --> 00:00:36,680
a kid to even try it, let alone like it.
00:00:36,680 --> 00:00:38,860
So persistence is key and
00:00:38,860 --> 00:00:41,960
a lot of parents feel like feeding
their kids is a really thankless job.
00:00:41,960 --> 00:00:43,374
But it's so important,
00:00:43,374 --> 00:00:46,951
because you're really helping
them to develop their palate.
00:00:46,951 --> 00:00:49,957
And introducing those healthy
foods early is really vital for
00:00:49,957 --> 00:00:52,560
getting them on track
to be a healthy eater.
00:00:52,560 --> 00:00:56,030
I think that sometimes parents start
a fight because they give a ridiculous
00:00:56,030 --> 00:00:59,760
portion for a toddler and then they
feel that the food will go to waste.
00:00:59,760 --> 00:01:03,250
So it becomes this contentious subject.
00:01:03,250 --> 00:01:06,620
A little kid's serving compared to
an adult serving is about a quarter of
00:01:06,620 --> 00:01:11,820
the size So instead of a whole slice of
bread, a quarter of a slice of bread.
00:01:11,820 --> 00:01:15,151
Instead of 4 ounces of meat,
just 1 ounce of meat.
00:01:15,151 --> 00:01:18,430
2 tablespoons of vegetables,
2 tablespoons of fruit.
00:01:18,430 --> 00:01:21,315
You don't wanna overwhelm your
child by putting these big,
00:01:21,315 --> 00:01:24,780
grown-up servings on their plate, and then
somehow expecting them to actually eat it.
00:01:24,780 --> 00:01:27,895
One of the mistakes parents make is
that they're so concerned that their
00:01:27,895 --> 00:01:31,532
toddler's not eating enough that they're
giving them snacks throughout the day.
00:01:31,532 --> 00:01:33,598
Which, in turn,
then makes them not hungry and
00:01:33,598 --> 00:01:35,831
eat the meals that they're
supposed to be eating.
00:01:35,831 --> 00:01:40,382
I am not a fan of hiding
healthy foods in other dishes.
00:01:40,382 --> 00:01:44,694
I really think it's important the kids
know what fruits and vegetables look like,
00:01:44,694 --> 00:01:48,100
and that they learn to have
an appreciation for them on their own.
00:01:48,100 --> 00:01:53,050
So there's certainly nothing wrong if you
wanted to make brownies with avocados to
00:01:53,050 --> 00:01:54,960
make them heart healthier, but
00:01:54,960 --> 00:01:59,008
don't think that that is the way to
get your kids to eat vegetables.
00:01:59,008 --> 00:02:02,650
If you want your kids to eat healthy,
you have to eat healthy yourself.
00:02:02,650 --> 00:02:04,875
You cannot expect them to
love their broccoli and
00:02:04,875 --> 00:02:06,509
peas if you don't eat them as well.
00:02:06,509 --> 00:02:10,043
One of the best things you could do for
your toddler is to sit there and
00:02:10,043 --> 00:02:10,852
eat with them.
00:02:10,852 --> 00:02:14,150
They can see you eating the foods
that you want them to try, and
00:02:14,150 --> 00:02:17,740
really making it a time where you
can engage and talk together.
00:02:17,740 --> 00:02:19,855
Not every meal has to be perfect.
00:02:19,855 --> 00:02:23,335
We definitely have all had those
nights where it's the frozen pizza and
00:02:23,335 --> 00:02:25,371
we were in a rush, and that's all we had.
00:02:25,371 --> 00:02:28,257
But you do wanna be able
to look back at a week and
00:02:28,257 --> 00:02:32,864
kind of reflect on it on the whole and
say, yeah, we got veggies in there.
00:02:32,864 --> 00:02:33,715
We got fruit in there.
00:02:33,715 --> 00:02:38,430
We got some low-fat dairy, and
protein, and whole grains.
00:02:38,430 --> 00:02:42,270
So don't stress over every meal and
00:02:42,270 --> 00:02:46,270
But do try to be offering a wide
variety of healthy food to your kids.
00:02:46,270 --> 00:02:50,665
The ‘picky eater’: The toddler or preschooler who does not eat. Ontario, Canada: Canadian Paediatric Society, 2012. (Accessed on March 21, 2021 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474391)