Do you have a picky eater toddler?

A picky or fussy eater toddler is a child who frequently refuses to eat a particular type of foods.

Picky eating usually surfaces when kids are starting to feed themselves. Now that they can choose what to eat and how much to eat, they tend to munch on foods that they like more and avoid the foods that they dislike.

If are concerned about how to feed a picky eater, this article is what you need to bookmark.

Check out the following article and take note of the key to feeding a picky eater toddler now!

Via Caring for Kids: When your child is a picky eater

Meals are important social times in a child’s day. They help children learn about food while connecting with family and friends.

Eating in a positive atmosphere helps children develop healthy attitudes about food and themselves. Parents and caregivers play an important role in keeping mealtimes relaxed and enjoyable.

How much food should my child eat?

If your child is healthy and growing well, you don’t need to worry. Most children’s appetites are right for their age and growth rate. At around 2 years, most children start eating less. This is because growth starts to slow down.

As a parent or caregiver, your job is to provide your child with healthy choices at meal and snack times. It’s then up to your child to decide what, how much and (sometimes) whether they will eat. Listening to their bodies—eating when they are hungry and stopping when they are full—will help children develop healthy eating habits for life.

Every child needs a balanced diet with foods from all 4 food groups—vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and alternatives. Canada’s Food Guide gives information about the amount and type of food recommended for your child.

It’s unlikely that your child will eat something from every food group at each meal, but try to get all the servings your child needs over several meals and snacks throughout the day. Because little children eat small portions, you might also want to consider dividing one Food Guide serving into smaller amounts.

What if my child is a picky eater?

Young children often go through stages where they refuse to eat certain foods, only want to eat a small number of specific foods, or are easily distracted at mealtimes. Toddlers are learning to become their own person. One way that they show their independence is by self-feeding and choosing their own foods.

Just like you, your child will have days when he feels like eating certain foods and days when he doesn’t. He might not even be interested in eating at every meal or snack time. Don’t worry too much about what your child eats in any given day, but make sure that he eats a variety of healthy foods over several days.

It is common for young children to react negatively to certain foods. Some children are slow to accept new tastes and textures. Keep offering them to your child, and she will probably start to accept and enjoy them with time. Creating mealtime pressure or forcing your child to eat can actually cause him to resist eating.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Children enjoy deciding what to make for dinner. Talk to your child about making choices and planning a balanced meal. Include her on grocery trips.
  • Let your child know about 10 or 15 minutes before dinner starts. This helps her shift her focus and settle down when it’s time to have a meal.
  • Involve your child in meal preparation, for example, washing vegetables, pouring, stirring, and so on. It might help her be open to trying foods if she helps to prepare them. She’ll probably also enjoy helping you set the table.
  • Eat together at the table and try to make mealtime social and fun. Most young children have short attention spans, so be realistic about how long you expect your child to sit at the table. When the meal is done, take away the food.
  • Avoid distractions like cell phones, toys, books, TV or other screens during mealtimes.
  • Offer a variety of healthy foods for meals and snacks. Most children will eat what they need, even if their appetite changes from day to day.
  • Most young children like to copy the things that others do. Set an example by eating healthy foods.
  • Offer at least one food at every meal that you know your child likes.
  • Give small portions of each food item at every meal. You can always offer more if she finishes everything on her plate.
  • Give her the opportunity to make choices where appropriate. For example, let her choose between two different vegetables.
  • Encourage your child to try at least a few bites of different foods at each meal.
  • Serve drinks only after the main course. Too much milk or juice can affect your child’s appetite.
  • If she refuses certain foods or whole meals, let her make that choice.
  • Stick to a rule that the kitchen doesn’t reopen until the next planned snack or meal.
  • Offer snacks and desserts from the Canada Food Guide. However, don’t offer a snack too close to a regular meal time.
  • Don’t use food as a reward.
  • Threatening, prodding, scolding, bribing and punishing can cause your child to resist eating even more. Praise and encouragement will help her develop food likes and dislikes.
  • Try offering new foods at breakfast. This is usually the time that your child is hungriest and most likely to try something new. Once they have tried a food a number of times, it can be moved to later in the day and another new food can be introduced.
  • Eliminate milk in the middle of the night because it interferes with eating breakfast.

How can I teach my child the importance of healthy foods?

Don’t label food by telling your child that chocolate bars are “bad” and apples are “good.” It’s more important to talk about “everyday foods” like vegetables and fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, and “sometimes” foods—like chips and candy—that are eaten as special treats once in a while.

Should I give my child vitamin supplements?

Vitamins are important for your body to work well. If your child is eating a healthy diet based on Canada’s Food Guide, he won’t need a supplement.

Via US News: What Sensory Therapists Can Teach Us About Feeding Picky Kids

Parents of young children commonly commiserate about their kids’ eating habits. Complaints often relate to a child’s exceedingly limited “kid food” diet, rejection of anything green, refusal to try anything new or the explosive mealtime battles that make dinnertime stressful for everyone. I frequently encounter exasperated parents who – convinced they’ve tried everything – come to the conclusion that their child is constitutionally a “picky eater” who is incapable of expanding his horizons.

So I decided to roast-test this hypothesis with two experts in the field of feeding challenging eaters: Jessica Piatak, a pioneering occupational therapist, and Kristina Carraccia, an innovative speech therapist, both at The Center for Discovery, based in New York. Piatak and Carraccia specialize in working with children with severe developmental disabilities, autism spectrum disorders and medical frailties and have developed an approach dubbed “Food Exploration and Discovery,” or “FED” for short. This approach has been used to successfully transition children with severe sensory and behavioral disorders from extremely limited diets comprised of two or three processed foods to varied, nutritious, whole foods-based diets. While some children take longer to transition than others, the duo has yet to meet a “picky eater” whose diet couldn’t be broadened with their gradual, personalized and flexible approach.

Piatak and Carraccia’s FED approach is grounded in a single, fundamental principle: The goal is not to simply get food into a child at any given meal, but rather to reach a point where a child eats because she or he is intrinsically motivated to do so. This is a long-term goal for lifelong behavior change, and as such, may take a long period of time to achieve. Progress is gradual and taken in very incremental steps.

Within two weeks, new residential clients are typically already eating whole food-based versions of their preferred foods, but it can take closer to three to six months until more variety has been added successfully. For clients living at home and attending outpatient feeding therapy, the process often takes longer, as the home environment is less controlled than at the center. There have been cases on both ends of the extreme as well. One client took just ten days to go from 10 foods to 35; another client took closer to two years. But to date, every child has eventually gotten there.

Think the eating habits of your little neophobe – who fears trying anything new – are hopelessly unsalvageable? Piatak and Carraccia beg to differ. With a flexible approach, the right mindset and a lot of patience, you can turn things around at the dinner table. Here are some of their tips to get you started:

Never force a child to touch, taste or eat a food.

Many schools and families employ tactics like having a child take a “no thank you bite” – just a taste, with the promise that if they don’t like it they can say no thank you – or withholding rewards unless a child eats certain dinner foods. These approaches undermine the goal of helping children become comfortable enough to try – and accept – new foods, by placing pressure on them and making mealtimes stressful. Think about how you might feel if, while visiting a foreign country, you were forced to take a no thank you bite of fried insects or calf’s brain! That’s what confronting a plate of unfamiliar greens can feel like to some children – particularly to those on the autism spectrum.

If you’re committed to raising a more varied eater and having harmonious mealtimes, then creating a pressure-free mealtime is essential. To do so, commit to staying on your side of the division of feeding responsibility and resist the urge to force, coerce, bribe or cajole food into your child’s mouth. As the world’s foremost authority on childhood feeding practices, Ellyn Satter, teaches: You decide what to serve and when. Your child gets to decide whether to eat it, and if so, how much.

Set guidelines and expectations for mealtime.

Children can become anxious when they don’t know what to expect, and often do best when routines are predictable. Dinnertime is no different. Kids may worry that there won’t be something they want to eat, or perhaps that they’ll be forced to try something scary. Piatak and Carraccia use various mantras tailored for such situations to help place children at ease. An example of such a mealtime mantra, according to Carraccia, might resemble this: “We sit with our family. If there’s something on your plate you don’t like, you may put it on another plate. You can eat it if you want to, but you don’t have to. Everyone helps clear the table when we’re finished eating.” Repeating these ditties help make mealtime comfortable, and reduces the pressure that can lead to dysfunctional mealtime dynamics.

Encourage children to play with food … away from the table.

Most of the feeding therapy at The Center for Discovery happens nowhere near the dinner table, according to Piatak. Success at the dinner table starts with a variety of play-based desensitization techniques that allow children to become comfortable with the sights, scents, textures and eventually, tastes, of an unfamiliar food in a fun, low-stakes environment. Food play encourages kids to interact with new foods in a non- threatening way with no expectations. As they learn more about the properties of a food, however, they will often get more comfortable licking or even tasting it.

Says Piatak: “We’ll stick food in a toy dump truck. Or we might put shredded veggies on our faces as a beard or mustache and make funny faces in the mirror. Water play is also a favorite – we’ll play with foods in the water and sometimes add bubbles. We’ll teach the kids how to spit food into a bowl, which they usually think is so funny. And once they know they’re allowed to spit out a food, they might be willing to taste it. I might wonder aloud what this food sounds like and let the kids guess; then I’ll challenge Kristina [Carraccia] to crunch louder than me.” Improvisation, adds Carraccia, is key.

Transition gradually and incrementally.

Rome was not built in the day, and it’s unrealistic to expect that your exclusive Goldfish and chicken finger-eating child will transition to quinoa and kale if you go cold turkey. The FED approach meets a new client where he or she is, by learning about his or her preferred foods and brands and trying to replicate them in very subtly modified ways. “We start by presenting other versions of their favorite foods – like maybe organic chicken nuggets or hot dogs – to try and replicate their preferred brand. Or we might mix some different rice into the usual type they accept at home, or switch our cheese for their usual type of cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich,” explains Piatak.

Slowly, the therapists begin incorporating new foods by continuing to make small changes to preferred foods. Perhaps it’s adding a different spice to pizza to change the flavor. Then, pizza on crust becomes pizza on bread, pizza without sauce, pizza with a half teaspoon of protein or vegetables on it. Over time, they might take the bread part out entirely and swap in a turkey burger covered with sauce and cheese. Then the sauce is gone. Then the turkey burger transitions to a veggie burger, or shredded vegetables are incorporated into homemade patties. In the population that Piatak and Carraccia serve, this process is intentionally and often painstakingly slow in order to help desensitize children with strong sensory aversions to new foods. In your home, you may be able to skip a step or two in the process.

Offer the familiar when introducing the new.

Many moms I’ve spoken with are of the opinion that offering a favorite food, such as fries or hot dogs, when trying to introduce a new, healthier food will undermine their chances of success. Surely, if there’s a preferred food offered, then a child has no incentive to try the new food, right? In fact, the opposite is likely true.

Anxiety levels can be high when a child encounters a table full of unfamiliar foods, and the stress may make them retreat into a defiant refusal to try anything. But a child who is assured that there is at least something on the table that she or he can comfortably eat may find the stakes are lower for trying something new. So hot dog night is a great time to introduce a complement like split pea soup, and pizza night is an opportunity to offer a buffet of topping options – from mushrooms and olives to basil and artichokes – that a child can encounter and consider.

Piatak and Carraccia use the familiar to springboard into new foods. If a child loves yogurt, for example, they might dip a broccoli floret in the yogurt and just let him feel the bumps of the floret with his tongue as he licks off the yogurt. Importantly, they counsel patience with the transition. Just because a child doesn’t put the food in his mouth, that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made simply through the exposure. Each additional encounter desensitizes a child that much more, and as comfort grows, so does willingness to try new foods.

Never trick children into eating something.

Trust is the basis of a feeding relationship – as with any relationship – and you’re violating that trust by, say, sneaking pureed spinach into their brownies or beets into their smoothies. Furthermore, since the goal is to have children eat because they are intrinsically motivated to do so, you achieve nothing by tricking a piece of spinach into their bodies that they didn’t choose to consume on their own volition. What’s that old adage about winning a battle but losing the war? Carraccia explains that they never hide what’s different about the food from a child. “We say: ‘This is pizza with a little bit of broccoli,’ and we never try to deceive. We’re always honest, and we don’t try to mix things in so the child doesn’t know, because this entire process is built on trust.”