Has your food-loving baby recently entered the picky eating toddler phase? Has she become super finicky about the food that she’ll eat and wondering what you can do to get her eating healthy again?
Picky eating is nothing new with toddlers. In fact, most toddlers go through a picky eating phase around ages one and two and naturally grow out of this phase by ages three to four. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. Every child is different.
But, in the meantime, what can you do to not have to fret over if your child is eating enough and getting the nutrition that she needs?
In this post, we’ll give you some of the best tips and tricks to get your picky eating toddler out of this phase and eating healthy again.
Top 10 Tricks for Getting Your Picky Eating Toddler to Eat Again
Ease the frustration and make mealtime fun again with these top 10 tips. With these tricks, you’ll be able to get your picky toddler to eat some nutritious breakfasts, healthy lunches, and delicious dinners.
1. Get Them in the Kitchen
Children are more inclined to want to taste new foods if they’re involved in the cooking process. They’ll love helping you crack eggs, pour ingredients in, stir everything up, and taste their creations.
Our little loves helping me bake pretty much anything. She gets super excited and climbs right up on her learning tower to help me make smoothies, lemonade, and scrambled eggs. She even sticks around to help with the dishes sometimes.
2. Use Fun Shapes and Faces
I honestly don’t do this too often, but occasionally I will pull out some cookie cutters and make fun shapes out of sandwiches or use fruit to make smiley faces. My toddler gets so excited and says “Mom, I’ve got star toast!” and will gobble it up right away.
3. Offer a Variety
Be sure to offer a variety of foods and colors on your toddler’s plate. Try to include fresh fruits and veggies, protein portions, and calcium-rich foods. You can find a quick guide to toddler nutrition in this post.
It’s also important to remember that it may take a few times (or a dozen) until your toddler actually tries that new food, so just keep offering it in small amounts. They’re bound to try it one of these times.
4. Include Something They Love
Be sure to pair new foods with something that you know your toddler loves and will usually eat. Sometimes after they eat their favorite food, they realize just how hungry they are and may take some bites of the other options. Plus, it’s just nice to see something familiar.
For my kiddos, this is usually berries. So, if we have salmon, steamed veggies, or baked chicken (stuff they’re not too fond of), I always make sure to offer blueberries, strawberries, or blackberries with the meal and this usually helps.
5. Add in Some Dipping Sauces
Dipping doubles the fun, so be sure to offer different sauces and let your toddler get a little extra messy. Try offering yogurt to dip fruit in, humus for bell pepper slices, and homemade honey mustard for baked chicken.
6. Take the Pressure off
It may be your instinct to start begging, bribing, or even punishing your toddler for not eating. You may want to threaten them with “No dessert if you don’t eat your dinner.” or beg them with “Just try two bites. That’s it.” But, these strategies often don’t work and can actually make matters worse and extend the picky eating phase.
Instead, don’t rush your child to the dinner table. Simply say, “When you’re ready, dinner’s on the table.” Don’t mention bites, dessert, or any other form of bribery or punishment.
And, remember to have realistic expectations of toddlers at the table. They may not want to sit still. They may need to get up and play for a bit and then come back to finish their food. Don’t expect them to be able to sit and wait until everyone is done eating. Just let them go play in a safe place.
7. Cut Back on Snacks
Your toddler may not be eating much simply because they’re just not hungry. Try to not let your toddler graze all day long, so they’re not full when mealtime comes around.
Of course, a few snacks a day are usually necessary to avoid toddler tantrums and meltdowns, just don’t overdo it. If you cut back on the snacks, you may quickly find your toddler starting to eat more of their meals.
8. Don't Be a Short Order Cook
Don’t let your toddler dictate what they eat for every single meal. If you worked your butt off in the kitchen to provide a nice meal for your family, then don’t go out of your way to make your toddler what they want.
Instead, you can have a quick alternative, like a peanut butter sandwich or a yogurt. I’m not saying to offer them a ton of options. Just provide them with ONE quick alternative. Again, this is when realistic expectations of toddlers comes in.
You could also wrap their food up and place it in the fridge and then reheat it if they get hungry later.
9. Use Reverse Psychology
Don’t you just love reverse psychology? It even comes in handy when you have a picky eating toddler.
When offering new foods, you could use phrases like “It’s pretty spicy. You may not like it.” or “This is a mommy and daddy food, so it’s okay if you don’t want to try it.” You may be pleasantly surprised by the results.
10. Don't Talk About the Food
Another great option is to say nothing about the food at all. I honestly think this is the best trick that I learned from my favorite toddler discipline books.
Just sit down at the table as a family and have a normal conversation about your day. Don’t mention any of the food on the table or how much/little your toddler is eating.
I mean, how does it make you feel when someone says “Wow, you must have been hungry.” or “You’re not eating very much. Is something wrong?” For some people, this may not bother them, but for others it can be a sensitive topic and toddlers are just tiny people, just like us.
Is It More Than Pickiness?
For most toddlers, picky eating is just a normal development phase, but sometimes it’s much more than that. If your toddler is extremely finicky about food, there may be a few underlying reasons for their pickiness.
- Illness or Medical Condition: Your toddler may be in the initial phase of an illness, which naturally lowers your appetite. Or, your toddler could have an underlying medical condition, such as acid reflux, which can make eating extremely uncomfortable for them.
- Sensory Processing Disorder: Pay close attention when your toddler is eating and try to notice if there’s any specific textures, tastes, or smells they typically don’t touch. If your toddler is very sensitive about certain foods, he or she may have sensory processing disorder.
- Poor oral motor skills: Your toddler may also not be eating very much because she’s having trouble chewing and/or swallowing because her oral motor skills are behind in development. This could lead to gagging, or even vomiting, when eating.
If you suspect that your toddler has any of these conditions, be sure to speak with your child’s doctor.
Should I Get a Toddler Vitamin for My Picky Eater?
If you think your toddler is not getting the nutrition they need, then it may be a good idea to get them on a multivitamin until they’re at least out of this picky eating phase.
We usually don’t do daily vitamins and just rely on whole foods for nutrition, but when our toddlers aren’t eating that great, we typically turn to SmartyPants Toddler Gummies to fill in the gaps. It comes in non-GMO and organic formulas, and is free of common allergens, gluten, and artificial flavors and sweeteners.
Their vitamins have omega 3s and DHA from fish oil for brain health, vitamin D3 for bone development, and vitamin B12 for the immune system. Their formula also has methylfolate, so the folate is in usable form for those with the MHTFR gene mutation.
Good-Bye to Toddler Pickiness
A picky eating phase is pretty normal for most toddlers, but it can certainly be stressful for us parents because we want the absolute best for our littles and want them to be happy and healthy.
Get some nutrition in your toddler and help them wave good-bye to this picky eating phase by using the strategies mentioned in this post. You could let them help in kitchen, cut their sandwiches into fun shapes, add in some dipping sauces, and be sure to offer a variety of foods paired with their favorite foods. It also really helps to take the pressure off your toddler and play it cool when it comes to food.
If you think your toddlers pickiness might be something more, be sure to talk to your pediatrician and figure out a plan. You can also help fill in nutrition gaps with a multivitamin formulated for specifically for toddlers.
End the frustration and make mealtime fun again!
What About You?
Did these tips and tricks help get your picky eater to try new foods? Share your best advice for picky eating toddlers in the comments below and be sure to share this post with other toddler moms.