How do you feed a picky toddler?

What are some of your best tips for getting a picky eater to eat healthily? Do you have any tried and true methods for "sneaking" good food into their diet?

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20  Answers

36 3

Honestly, I don't obsess. She's not quite a toddler anymore, but my 3yo has been picky for a while now. I offer up healthy choices, and she can eat them or not. With three other children, I don't have time to do a whole lot of special preparations separate to the food I make for everyone else. She probably isn't doing any better or worse than any other child, and if I'm in doubt, I give her a multivitamin. I'm fortunate in that she eats relatively healthy snacks, loves fruit and wholegrain bread. Meats are a bit iffy, but she loves frozen mixed veggies. With her it's more of a control issue. So I offer it, and she decides if she wants it, or how much she wants to eat. I don't make a huge deal of it, and if she only eats a couple of bites, I excuse her from the table without a lot of fuss. It's not worth it. If she's hungry enough, she'll eat. Perseverance is probably the key. Keep offering only healthy things, and they'll eventually eat it.

11 22

I know it can be a challenge to make sure your toddlers eat a healthy diet. But trust me it gets so much easier, when they are older. Here are some tricks that we use to make sure they get enough veggies and fiber. We serve veggies and salad before the other food items at dinner until they show that the veggies don't get left on the plate. Our almost five year old got it figured out and actually likes her salad and veggies and its no big deal anymore :). But our son, who is 2 1/2 is in this phase, where eating salad seems no fun for him. But from our daughter we know this is a phase and it will pass, aslong as you keep the healthy food coming. Other tricks are cooking with spices and if you have a garden, plant some veggies. But even in a tiny appartment you can have some herbs on the window silt. Kids love to see, where their food comes from! Make healthy food fun and you can add dips like hummus or a yogurt dressing. Veggies that they will like for sure are butternut sqash, sweet potatoes and cooked red beets. The beets will actually taste sweet, when you cook them and they are great together with potatoes or in stews and give that awesome red color. Just try some new veggies to see what your toddler likes best. An other good idea is to find a farmers market close by or join a food coop like beautiful basket Having healthy food in your house and letting your toddler taste different types of vegetables are a great start! One other thing is that kids sometimes need to try a new food 14 times before they will like it, so just keep trying and keep in mind that you are doing a great thing for your child by feeding your toddler healthy from the start! :)

235 30

Yeah my doc, said up to 20 times before they will eat it which really surprised me. My son's occupational therapist said the first few times they will touch a food, then the next few times they will lick the food before finally eating the food.

0 0

I cook and puree all sorts of mixtures. Cook sweet potato and carrot and puree them. if your kids like making their own pizza's then this is fab. i buy a jar of tomato pizza sauce and mix the puree in with that, the kids spread it on pizza and top with what they choose. this is one example but recently i have found something called the sneeky chef which does things in the same kinda idea as i is definately worth a look. i love this as it gave me a whole new lot of ideas. the purees i divide it into small portions and freeze then just defrost when i need them.
also i puree fruit and freeze them on lolly sticks, i do muffins ect adding things like corguettes or cheese.

25 6

If they are hungry they will eat...only offer them the food you want them to eat! Give them their veggies with some dip while you prep the rest of the dinner...If they don't eat their meal at meal time put some wrap on it and give it to them when they ask for a snack!

0 2

My husband tells me the same thing and it works. When they hungry they will eat. Best advice on the forum

0 1

I let my son see me eat the food and I always have his plate nearby because he thinks hes eating off my plate, which they like that better because he feels hes not missing out on anything. As well as making something he really likes, like maccaroni or mashed potatoes and mixing in a vegetable with it.

1 18

My 3 year loves pasta & not a lot else. I cook up lots of vegetables & purée them into a tomato sauce. He then eats all of it! I keep trying him with other foods but know that I have multivitamins for him too. The break through for us was to sit down as a family once a day for a meal. He would then eat as long as we were!

22 0

My kids as babies ate so well - a big bowl of pumpkin and potatoe mashed up. Then they hit about 2yrs old and became such picky eaters.

My son is almost 5 and is eating a lot better these days. Kindy really helped and visiting other family's with kids at meal time - so he saw first hand how many toddlers can be really good eaters.I make a big note to the good eaters in the room and just watch them - its great!

Also, his imagination is quite active and he really responded well when I would tell him a story about the food.
Like 'PIRATE SOUP' (chicken and veggie soup) - I would tell him a wild story about how this soup is what pirates eat. Its an ancient recipe handed down from black beard himself. Arrrrrrr!
He loved it and always asks me for Pirate soup.

Trial and error and trying my hardest to not make a big deal of it. Also hiding all sorts of veggies into dishes - Spag bol, add pureed veggies and mashed red beans. Sausage rolls - make them urself and again add pureed veggies.
I found with my oldest child he seemed to have sensitive teeth and didn't like to bite into hard food, so I would just think of ways around them - steam ur carrots, know ur soft foods that are high in nutrition. Avocado's are a favourite of my kids, nice and soft and its full of goodness.
I haven't really done this much, but I have heard that making pictures or faces out of a plate full of food is a good one.

I do remember there was a faze where my youngest would only eat - plain bickies, noodles, mash potatoe and spag bol. So I gave her them and did the hide as many veggies into these meals. Also glad they have digestive bickies. It didn't last too long and now she eats a variety of things...FEW!
I have always been a good eater and I really enjoy food. I couldn't understand how my kids didn't, but they are slowly taking on my attitude to food - I like to make a lot of note to how things smell before they eat them and say Yummmm a lot. I also had to ban the word Yuck at dinner time. Cause if my older one would say yuck then my younger one would refuse to try it. So many challenges along the way, but they are healthy and eat well now. I do still have to count out a few more mouth fulls before u leave the table.
cest la vi

14 17

Well my six year old has always been picky (until this month, let's see how long that lasts...I hope forever!), my 3.5 year old never was...but now she's learnt it from her brother!
I have always mixed veggies into sauces, initially puréed, then grated or finely chopped, and now they are getting more chunky; carrots, mushrooms, courgettes, spinach, brocolli, cauliflower, sweet potatoe, squash, corn, pepper, even apples! They can all be hidden with a bit of lateral thought! One of my favourite recipes is lasagne, half the mince meat you'd normally use then pack in grated carrots, courgette, finely chopped mushrooms, and spinach, all in a tomato the time you add the white sauce and lasagne they don't notice the veg! Stir fry noodle dishes also seem popular, slice the veg thinly and they cant avoid it, and the added challenge of chopsticks makes it much more fun!
Another tactic I've employed is introducing a new veg (or dish) as another veggies (dish's)) cousin/brother/uncle...insert a family member that your child feels close to...bit wierd but did the trick with mine!
Final point...never give up...if given her way my daughter would eat chips, nuggets and chocolate for every meal! That's NOT happening on my watch!

14 17

Oh and as for salad, I cut it into tiny cubes and keep the dressing light, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little seems to go down better that way, brighter and harder to pick out the bits you like or don't like! My son only ate cucumbers, my daughter tomatoes...both gave up picking out their favourite bits in the end and eat the lot ;)

14 17

Final point (picky kids is a topic of mine...have you noticed?! ;) ) switch white pasta for whole grain...yup, they'll notice, and moan for a couple of meals, but it's an easy change and soon enough they'll get used to it!

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5 24

Well my daughter (3 and a half) will only eat 6 things (one of which, cheese, I had to take out of her diet because she was eating way too much of it and she started showing some intolerance). One of her favorite things is pasta (another is rice). So i just hide things there in the sauce. I make sauce with fish or meat or veggies and because she likes pasta, she eats what's on top of it.
Color is also important. If she says she doesn't want the pasta to be red, I tell her I'll add some milk to make it pink. She likes that. She feels like she has some control over it and that plays an important role.
Also, I don't give up. She says no to broccoli one day? She might very well say yes the next day (unfortunately, though, it works also the other way around too).
I also explain to her that some things are good for her and will make her grow tall and strong and beautiful. Sometimes it works (you know, those days when they are actually acting like they are more mature).
Finally, in times of desperation, I just tell her she excused from the table and she will be presented with the exact same thing the next time, when she will be hungry.
I know ho frustrating it is... just don't give up and, most of all, don't give in giving your child only the stuff he/she likes, especially if they are not healthy.

0 23

Don't give them a choice. I feel they should at least try everything, especially if its good for them. I only make exceptions if there are health issues like allergies to take into consideration. No one has food to waste and making "separate meals" for kids is typically unreasonable.

16 19

I love to make fritters out of anything - zucchini, corn, shredded carrots, broccoli. Really any veggie will do. Just steam, grind up, mix with some egg, flour, milk breadcrumbs, and fry up in some healthy olive oil. YUM! I used to grind up chicken and broccoli to make little patties; she was never the wiser. And now that my daughter is 5 I just put the plate down in front of her and if she decides not to eat, then she goes to bed hungry. She is a sturdy little thing and very healthy so I don't worry about it too much.. We also have the rule that she needs to take one bite of something on her plate even if she thinks that she will not like it - half the time she ends up liking it. ALSO, we just started to get a CSA/Farmer box; if she thinks it is from "the farmer", she is more likely to eat it so I fib every now and again....

3 0

Abandon the child in the forest for 72 hours. Once the child is taken back into the home, it will realize the difficulties in scavenging for food in the wild. It will respect the food you put on the table, and never again turn down a meal. Do it.

0 17

My 2yr old son loves rice (says, "no" to pasta every time). I switched him to brown rice with ease. Then I add bits of chopped up scrambled egg (rice sized pieces) and season it. He will eat fruit with no problem, but vegetables can be a different story. He gets a bit moody. Sometimes he will...sometimes he won't. Had the best luck with "baby trees" (broccoli) and corn on the cob, although that is just another starch. Luckily he will gobble down an entire bag of that Gerber freeze dried fruit and veggie stuff, so I don't feel like he's lacking. Important to remember that really small children tend to be self regulating. If their bodies need something specific, they will crave it and eat it. I don't claim to know much about the older ones, but moms of younger ones, relax and try not to force it. I'm certain your child is not malnourished. :)

34 9

In fact i'm a lucky mother cause my daughter loves a lot of veggies: French beans, wax beans, carrot, aspargus, palm heart, zucchini and potatoes. That's quite a lot and i tried to cook it different way cause others veggies seems weird to her.
Last day, i serve her a plate a her favor french beans with cream and she tell me "oh, mum, i have already eat that." So i propose her a carrot soup and what was her answer?? "i already eat carrot soup too, and carrot salad and soso. it's always the same"
It just makes me sit down. I'm not design to be a mother, serioulsy. When a put something new on the table she makes "yeark, not for me" and if i don't she's disapointed!
Of course, i had some corn salad and some red beans and when she saw it she says "yeark again" and eat her usual french beans with chicken and cream.
But what's wrong with me? Am i supposed to keep propose her new things everyday just for the pleasure to see her ask "don't you have some pasta, pleeeeeeease, mum?"

29 44

First don't be so hard on yourself!!! Most kids are picky eaters, some weeks I think my 3yr old is going to turn into a pbj lol! If u can get on pinterest (or even just google) look up fun food presentations for kids there's so many different ideas to get kids interested in healthy food ie turning veggies into a silly face or picture to peak their interest. Its great your lil one is eating some veggies & pasta sauce is a great thing to hide new/different veggies in. Good luck!!!

235 30

It's not you. Kids are picky. Research has shown that kids have to be introduced to a food item at least 20 times before they will decide they like it. Just make what you're going to make and let her know that she can eat it or not, but you're not making anything else. She might skip a few meals, but eventually she'll eat when she gets hungry enough. Just be sure not to let her snack in between if she didn't eat a meal. If she asks for something, tell her she can have a treat when she eats the meal. If she wants the treat bad enough she will eat some. Of course you have to decide on a reasonable amount she needs to eat to earn the treat, because we tend to give big portions to our kids and she might not be able to eat all you give her, but if you see she's made a reasonable attempt to eat a fair amount then call it good. Sometimes when my kids don't want to eat something at all I tell them they have to eat 1 bite for every year of their age of each item being served and then they can be done. I promise you she won't starve. Of course if she were to skip too many meals in a row then you would have to talk to her doctor of course because something else might be going on, but this works for most kids and I promise you she won't starve. She won't be able to stand the hunger pangs for too long and will come around to eating what you've prepared. Especially if she's rewarded with a small treat. It's a balancing act, because you have to be careful using sweets or other high calorie treats. Everything in moderation and as long as your kids have a healthy diet and are physically active it should be fine.

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1 3

I don't hide healthy food in my toddler's diet. He eats everything from broccoli (without cheese) to cauliflower, carrots, etc. with no complaints or problems. Once he was able to physically eat all table foods, I stopped catering to him at meal time with macaroni and whatever he wanted. I make a meal for the family and he can choose to eat it or not, but I'm not a short order cook and there are no alternatives, so he learned to eat healthy foods and he likes them and will now even choose them or ask for them over other things when we are dining out!

235 30

That works with some kids, but unfortunately my son continued to not eat and lose weight so the doctors and therapists told us to calorie load by putting butter and cheese on his foods. A small amount of cheese sauce and he will eat all his peas and carrots. When he is older and he can be reasoned with we won't do this. Right now though at 21 months we still don't know the extent of his brain damage since he doesn't do much talking so we have to do anything we can to get him to eat because we don't want him to have a feeding tube forever. My 3rd daughter was so stubborn she didn't eat meat or vegetables for 2 years so the doctor finally put her on prescription vitamins because she was so anemic.

178 0

My son is 4 now, so I'm trying to move away from hiding the healthy stuff in his food, and I'm offering healthy choices on his plate, which he must try, but does not have to eat. But, I did a lot of hiding veggie purees in foods and I found sweet potato puree and cauliflower puree to be the most versatile. Color-wise they blend in well with orange/yellow foods and cauli blends with most anything (just keep it to a small amount because it has a stronger flavor). Pureed beans are also great, but they add a weird texture that my son notices pretty easily. I also throw flax into a lot of stuff--yogurt, cottage cheese, tomato sauce, bread that I bake. Speaking of tomato sauce, most picky kids still like tomato based foods, so I offer up a lot of ketchup, marinara and salsa. Another thing that sometimes works (wow, I have more ideas than I realized :) is ravioli. It comes stuffed with all kinds of stuff, mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, etc. and most kids will gobble it up because it's pasta. Fresh fruit is also great, most kids love it and it's full of good stuff. But, don't bend over backward trying to get healthy food into your kids. If they go a whole day eating nothing but Goldfish and plain pasta, it's not all a wash and they won't automatically become malnourished. It's about balance.

9 0

Model healthy eating. Give him his independence during mealtimes (without putting pressures on him). AND NEVER BE A SHORT-ORDER COOK.

235 30

Unless your child is having weight issues, then you need to give them what they will eat that has the calories they need to grow.

235 30

Melt cheese on vegetables.

7 34

Shredded zucchini and carrot in muffins. Green goodness juice gives her fruits & veggies!

0 3

I'll promise them the things they like to do provided they finish their food. Sometimes they are picky because the food doesn't look 'pretty' to them until they have tried it. Eventually, they will love the food after that...and will ask for more


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