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  • Writer's picturePaula Robertson

Help! My toddler is a picky eater.

Some practical tips for ensuring good nutrition in your little ones....

Ensuring your child maintains a nutritious diet can be challenging, especially if they are picky eaters. This issue often arises when toddlers and preschoolers start to express a natural desire for choice and a growing sense of independence. This can be challenging for parents, as typically there may have been none of these issues when our children were babies in arms or high chairs. However, with patience and creative strategies, you can indeed promote healthy eating habits, and a sense of enjoyment at mealtimes. Here are some practical tips to make mealtime enjoyable and nutritious for your picky eater.



1. Be a Role Model: Children often mimic the behaviour of adults. Demonstrate healthy eating habits by incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your own diet. Make mealtime a positive and shared experience. For example, one study showed that toddlers are approximately 60% more likely to try a new food if their trusted adult is also eating either the same food or food of the same colour at the same time. So bring back family mealtimes and model those healthy eating habits alongside your little ones.

2. Get Creative with Presentation: Eating is one of the few activities that uses all five of our human senses. Make meals appealing by arranging food in fun shapes , making them interactive (for example, using healthy dips and finger foods) or using colorful plates. Creative presentations can capture your child's interest and make the dining experience more enjoyable. The internet is full of helpful suggestions and ideas (shout out to Pinterest, my personal go-to resource for creative ideas!)

3. Involve Them in Cooking and Preparation: Allow your child to participate in meal preparation. When children are involved in cooking, they are more likely to try new foods. Simple tasks like stirring, pouring, or assembling can make them feel proud and excited about the meal and foster a sense of accomplishment and contribution.

4. Offer Variety: Introduce a variety of foods to expand your child's palate. Rotate between different fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains. This helps ensure they receive a broad range of nutrients and flavours.

5. Be Patient and Persistent: It may take several attempts for a child to accept a new food, so be patient. Encourage small tastes, and celebrate the little victories like simply licking or tasting a new food. One tip is to introduce a new or unfamiliar food alongside one that you know your child already enjoys - that way, they may be more likely to accept it.

6. Set a Schedule: Establish a consistent mealtime routine. Children thrive on predictability, and having regular meal and snack times can create a sense of structure and make them more receptive to trying new foods. For little ones llike toddlers, ensure a good space of about two and a half hours to three hours between mealtimes and healthy snacks.

7. Limit Distractions, especially electronics: Minimize distractions during meals, such as electronic devices or television. Create a calm environment, allowing your child to focus on the food in front of them and develop an appreciation for different flavours. (Remember that earlier point about eating being a multisensory experience?)

8. Make Healthy Swaps: Gradually replace less nutritious options with healthier alternatives. For example, switch sugary processed snacks with fruit, or opt for whole grain products instead of refined grains.

9. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes: Serve age-appropriate portion sizes to avoid overwhelming your child. Small, manageable portions make it less intimidating for them to try new foods without feeling pressured. Remember, a portion size is typically the size of your child's palm! You want to encourage children to listen to their bodies to know both when they are hungry and also when they feel satisfied.

10. Consult a Professional if you're concerned: If you have concerns about your child's nutrition, seek guidance from your child's pediatrician or a registered dietitian. They can provide personalized advice based on your child's specific needs. Remember, establishing healthy eating habits is a gradual process. By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can create a positive food environment and set the foundation for your child to develop a healthy relationship with food.


Be well,

Paula



Dr Paula Robertson is a busy mom and a paediatrician with over twenty years' experience working with young people and their families. She is also a certified children's mindfulness teacher and Positive Discipline Parenting coach. You can find out more at www.paulathedoctormom.com.



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