Are you overwhelmed and fed up with arguing with your toddler during mealtime? Do you waste countless hours a week trying to convince your kids who are picky eaters to try the food on their plates? Is mealtime in your house stressful? Having toddlers that are picky eaters is such a common challenge.
A child’s favorite food one day may secretly get fed under the table to the dog the next. It’s so easy to get upset and frustrated with the situation. However, remaining calm and being strategic can pay off. Here are a few fantastic strategies to help you avoid mealtime power struggles with your toddlers that are picky eaters.
Toddlers are in a stage where they love something one day and then hate it the next. Just like any crunchy mom, I want my toddler to eat a healthy, organic, well-balanced meal. I want to establish a healthy, toddler eating habit. But I know it’s easier said than done.
1. LET’S BE COLORFUL
A great way to help avoid a power struggle with toddlers that are picky eaters is to cook foods exciting and colorful. Most parents feel they have to hide vegetables to work around their toddlers’ eating habits. However, there are multiple ways to serve veggies.
For example, if you steam broccoli all the time and your toddler consistently refuses to try it. You can try making small changes like steaming your broccoli but adding sprinkles of garlic salt to add a different flavor.
Moreover, maybe try roasting your cauliflower instead of steaming. This provides a more exciting flavor. The goal is to prepare your meals with a slight variation from the norm to appeal to your family. This could be in preparation, seasoning, or a creative, fun way to display the food.
If you’re struggling with getting your kids who are picky eaters to eat raw vegetables, maybe try cooking them down any way you like and adding them to a Kid-friendly soup.
Furthermore, it’s essential not to give up. Even if your child doesn’t eat the meal you cooked, they were exposed to it. Remember, it takes 10-15 times to be exposed to food before your child may even consider eating it or enjoying it.
2. GIVE YOUR KIDS A VOICE
Another way to reduce power struggles during mealtime with toddlers that are picky eaters is by giving them a voice. The only thing that toddlers or preschoolers can control at this age is what they put into their bodies and when it comes out.
For this reason, It’s all about control at this age.
They need to feel like they have some control over choosing which foods they consume.
First, have them help you shop and allow them to select a couple of colorful, healthy foods that they are interested in trying. You can even suggest that they find foods of specific colors to use that week in meals.
If you have older kids who are picky eaters, you can have them help you meal plan by talking about different foods beforehand and going over meals they might find interesting. This allows them to choose foods and have a voice about what they are contributing to the meal.
3. TAKE YOUR KIDS WHO ARE PICKY EATERS TO A MARKET
One of my favorite childhood memories with my father was riding along with him to local food markets. Not to mention, stopping along the small double-lane highways to check out the fruit and veggies stands from local farmers in the community. These farmers would often have colorful displays of produce and mouth-watering samples that made you buy more than you had intended.
I believe having exposure to fruits and veggies at a young age shaped my view on their importance and have made me eager to strive to provide as much healthy, non-toxic foods for my children.
Exposing your kids who are picky eaters to various meals at a farmers market or Whole Foods store is a fantastic way to help them become interested in certain foods.
In a grocery store setting, it’s hard to see the seasonality of foods. However, at one of your local festive farmer’s markets, your kids can get an idea of what foods are available during which seasons. Also, they can connect with local farmers, ask questions, and sample some of the produce.
Surely, they’ll feel empowered to being involved with the entire meal planning process. In particular, planning, purchasing, preparing, and cooking. If you have older kids who are picky eaters they will enjoy being part of the meal planning process.
To find local farmer’s markets check out your local Community Supported Agriculture.
4. ENCOURAGE PARTICIPATION IN YOUR TODDLERS THAT ARE PICKY EATERS
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen is a fundamental strategy in battling power struggles during mealtime. Are you wondering how you can get them to be involved if they’re so young? Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can find an age-appropriate task for everyone. If you’re familiar with Montessori Learning, you’ll see that you can teach your kids at very young ages practical tasks.
As a Montessori mom, we try to include our kids with the food preparation process as much as we can. You can even allow them to do something as simple as washing the fruits and vegetables. My son loves to do the washing of fruits and veggies.
Moreover, we found that by allowing our toddler room to participate in meal prep, his interest in eating the meal increased.
Notably, he’s now genuinely excited meal time. He has a job and purpose within the family meal system. Truthfully, as busy moms, we often forget that having a family meal is more than just eating. It’s creating positive toddler eating habits. It’s also eating together, spending time with each other, and fostering essential relationships.
Now before you get too excited, keep in mind that kids will be kids, and sometimes they may not eat the meal they help make. But you have to understand that what is essential is the constant exposure that they have to certain foods. They see it in the store or market; they help prepare it, interact with it, touch it, cook it, and maybe even taste it. But exposure is vital.
Also, they got exposure to new and various ingredients.
We don’t care about them cooking the entire meal. We just want our kids who are picky eaters to understand and enjoy connecting with family over food.
6. BACK TO TABLE WITH YOUR PICKY EATER TODDLER
You are your picky eater’s role model, and they’re watching everything you do. So pause your Netflix episode, clear the old mail off your table, and set up a family dinner. I know it’s easier said than done, and We struggle with this as well. Sometimes it’s so convenient just to plop down with your homemade dinner and enjoy some Netflix while chowing down. Yet, as parents, we don’t understand how negatively we impact our children by doing this.
Eating at the table allows us to connect as a family. It helps our kids realize that they are indispensable, and we, as parents, are genuinely interested in their lives.
For one thing, studies show that children whose families eat dinner at the table actually eat better, do better in school, have less anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and risky behaviors as adolescents.
Nevertheless, Avoid serving separate meals for your kids. Eat the same meal together at the table. Eating at the table is so important for toddlers that are picky eaters.
7. SNACKS FOR DAYS AND DAYS
Your toddlers that are picky eaters will snack until the cows come home! It’s time to limit your cupboard full of overprocessed snacks.
We had to learn this the hard way. When my son was 2, we would be worried that he was hungry, so we would just let him have snacks all the time, whenever he appears hungry or asked for them.
When dinner came around, he wouldn’t eat it. I remembered feeling so frustrated as a parent, not realizing that we were causing the issues with snacking.
Now, I wish I can tell you that we have overcome this and my kid never snacks ever. But that will be a lie.
Truth is we try to implement as much as we can. But there are days when our son has had way too many snacks and is too full for dinner.
Inevitably, kids change, and depending on what is going on in your life, sometimes you can’t keep up with your restrictions. So do what you can and provide reasonable limitations on snacks before dinner.
Having kids who are picky eaters is challenging. As parents, we automatically feel frustrated when we are dealing with power struggles during mealtime. We work so hard in preparing a healthy, balanced meal, to have our kids not even touch it. These strategies should provide you with creativity to help make it easier to connect with your children over food.
I’ve learned that a child’s relationship and love of food are ever-evolving or changing. We may think we are in the clear one moment, and then a wrench comes flying out of nowhere. Remember, such as anything in life; we must evolve. We must find new, creative ways to show our toddlers that are picky eaters the importance of a healthy meal.