When toddlers become picky eaters
I’ve always been really proud of Eli’s eating. He took to baby led weaning like a duck to water and never looked back from that first breakfast of melon and banana, trying pretty much everything I put in front of him.
A lot of people warned me that after they turn one they can get fussy and eat less. For us that wasn’t true, and (probably because he dropped his milk feeds rather quickly) he was eating even more after his birthday. I was so smug.
And then, a few weeks ago, at about 16.5 months old, my food-loving baby turned into a picky toddler.
Now, although it’s frustrating, I know shouldn’t moan too much. He’s not one of these toddlers who survives off beige breaded food and ketchup. He still eats some foods from all the food groups so his diet is (mostly) balanced.
But I do see a real difference compared to how he used to eat.
Now, any unfamiliar foods are greeted with the most suspicious of faces. He actually screws his face up in disgust when he looks at them. Sometimes he will reject his normal favourites seemingly on a whim. And whereas he always ate best out and about or at big family meals, now he seems to reserve the disgusted face and food throwing for when other people are eating with us – just when I want him to eat well.
What am I doing about it?
Eli isn’t past this phase yet so I’m definitely no expert. But if you’re dealing with the same thing, it can be helpful to hear how others have coped. Here’s my approach:
- Stick to the principles of BLW. The baby is in control and feeds himself. No matter how irritating the pickiness is, I keep calm, don’t force him and try to avoid coaxing him to eat.
- Small portions. I only give a small amount of each food and once he’s eaten his favourite bit, he’s still hungry and so will grudgingly try some of the other stuff on the plate. I’ll top up as needed with seconds.
- No alternate meals. Eli is in control of whether he eats what I give him; but I’m in control of what I serve him. He never gets offered an alternate meal if he doesn’t want his. If I was planning on yoghurt or fruit afterwards I do still offer it though as I don’t want to punish him for not eating.
- Try new foods when he’s hungry. This sounds obvious, but Eli is less hungry at lunchtime because of his morning snack so it’s not a good time to experiment. I’ve had great success serving new or previously rejected food at breakfast though, when he’s usually famished.
- Combine new foods with their favourites. Writer Ellyn Satter says in “Child of Mine: Feeding with love and good sense”* that you should construct meals around what she calls the “mother principle” and serve protein, carbs and fruit/veg for each meal with bread and a source of calcium too so it’s balanced but also so the plate is less threatening and there’s always something they will eat. I don’t actually serve bread with every meal but I do make sure that meals are varied and there’s some things he really likes each time 🙂
- Use snacks wisely. I don’t serve snacks too close to a meal so he’s hungrier at mealtimes. I also avoid just giving his favourites or “snack food” at snack time – he loves snack time so I take advantage of his goodwill to get him to try something new. Here’s a big list of snack ideas to help you out.
- Persevere. Apparently it can take up to 15 tries before they like the food. Even if they aren’t eating something, continue to serve it. While it’s frustrating to create waste, continuing to serve it and eat it yourself normalises the food so eventually it will seem less scary to them.
A note on “hiding veg”
This is a useful practise where you grate or blend veg (or whatever it is your child won’t eat) into other meals, baked goods etc to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients. Now I just see this as a common sense way of getting more veg in regardless of whether you have a picky child or are even feeding a child at all 🙂 but I do like my meals on the veg-heavy side.
I wouldn’t go down the route of *only* serving veg in this hidden form though (tempting though iis they usually just throw the veg). It’s really important to still serve veg as you would normally so they can get to explore it and learn it’s a normal part of the meal.
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