Food: Tips for dealing with your picky toddler (1-3)

By admin
19 April 2014

Mealtimes with your toddler can be quite a challenge. So how do you deal with your picky little one’s choices without compromising on the healthy food they eat?

“Toddlers are naturally picky eaters,” says Saskia Zietsman, a registered dietician from Cape Town. “After the rapid growth spurt during the first year of life, toddlers start growing more slowly, have lower energy requirements and will therefore be less interested in eating.”

Saskia explains some toddlers will avoid entire food groups such as all meat, vegetables or fruit, while others will eat extremely small amounts of food, seemingly satisfied by a single slice of apple or a small bite of porridge.

“With a little effort you can make meals and foods more toddler-friendly. It will be well worth the effort in both the short and the long run. By setting the correct dietary foundations for your toddler today, you are ensuring him or her of a healthier, happier tomorrow.”

Here are Saskia’s tips for picky eaters aged 1-3:

  • Start suggesting new foods at a young age. Fruit, vegetables and protein-rich foods such as milk, eggs, cheese and lean meats should be part of a baby’s diet from six months old.
  • Various studies have shown that a child should be exposed to a type of food repeatedly (for example: up to 15 times) before they’ll completely accept it. Seeing it and smelling it doesn’t count as exposure – the tasting is important, even if it’s just one mouthful. This means you shouldn’t be too quick to label your child a picky eater whenever you try a new type of food and they don’t like it. Don’t force them to eat it; just give them the opportunity. If they eat it, great! If they don’t, try again on another day.
  • Let your little one experiment with different versions and textures of healthy foods. For example you can offer them mashed pumpkin, as well as cooked pumpkin squares or even pumpkin cakes.
  • Don’t always blend different kinds of food together (for example meat, vegetables and starch) in a purée. Give your toddler the chance to get used to the individual tastes.
  • Create a positive environment during mealtimes. Switch off the television or radio and chat to your toddler while they’re eating. Tell them about the food they’re having. What colour is it? Is it hard or soft? How does it taste? Praise them when they eat their healthy foods.

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