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Category:  Children
: Challenges

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Tips On How To Handle The Picky Eater Toddler And Young Child

By Connie Limon

If your child is a picky eater you can still learn ways to give him or her the nutrition that is needed. There are a variety of reasons why a child may become a picky eater. If you can understand what might be causing his picky eater behavior life can be a little less frustrating for all concerned.

It is typical for a young child to try and eat only when they are hungry. Your job as a parent is to provide several different types of nutritious foods at every meal and snack. In addition it is also your job to establish mealtime and snack time schedules.

Small, frequent feedings work best for a young child because his stomach is about the size of his or her fist. Their stomachs are just not equipped to hold a lot of food at any one meal or snack time sitting. Do not allow snacking for one hour before a main meal is served so that your child can come to the table hungry and ready to eat. It is also beneficial to establish a set mealtime and snack time schedule. Do not allow your child to snack or eat at anytime he chooses throughout the day. Start from the beginning to serve his meals and snacks on a routine schedule. At each offering of a meal or snack you child will decide if he or she wants to eat at that time and how much. If he or she refuses to eat a meal or snack, do not make an issue of it. Tidy the eating area up as usual and go on with whatever else is next on your schedule. Do not allow the child to eat until the next scheduled meal or snack. More than likely if he missed the last eating time, he will be ready for the next one.

Limit the amount of juice you serve your toddler to less than 6 ounces a day. Toddlers and preschoolers can fill up on milk or juice and not have room for a wider variety of foods. Children ages 2 to 8 should consume 2 cups of low-fat milk products per day.

During the Terrible 2s period toddlers like to assert their independence. This is quite normal for this period of time in their life. However, the dinner table can become a source of conflict between the toddler and the caregivers or parents. A helpful tip here might be to give them some control or at least make them “think” you are giving them some control by providing small portions. They can finish the small portion and then ask for more. The asking for more is what makes the toddler think he is somewhat in control, and is a good thing both for his mental and emotional development as well as for the sake of his good nutrition. A good rule of thumb on portion size is one tablespoon per each year of your child’s age.

More tips along these same lines are:

• Do not force children to clean their plates.

• Do not threaten or punish children for not eating what you offer them. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle between you.

• Act like it does not matter to you what the child eats or does not eat. Clean up as usual and wait for the next meal or snack time. Of course if the child refuses to eat several meals or snacks in a row over the course of an entire day, especially if this behavior is a change from the previous days, you can suspect he or she may be ill as the reason for refusing to eat.

Throughout the week most children get plenty of variety and nutrition in their diets even if they skip a few meal or snack times. As long as your child is energetic and growing he or she is doing fine.

Introducing new foods:

• Always introduce new food in a neutral manner. Point out to the child the food’s color, shape, size, aroma and texture, but not about whether it tastes good.

• Be patient with your child’s food investigative habits. They may touch and smell the new food. They may even take tiny bites into their mouth and then back out again.

• Children often need about 10 exposures to a new food before they accept it. Be persistent in introducing new foods to your child.

• Start by placing a small portion of the new food on your child’s plate next to the familiar foods. Keep in mind that new foods will seem more appealing if your child has not just finished a snack.

• Some children will try a new food if it is fun to eat. An example of this would be to serve broccoli with a favorite dip or sauce, or to cut foods with solid textures into various fun shapes with cookie cutters.

• Let your child help select new fruits, vegetables, whole grain items and yogurt flavors at the grocery store for the whole family to try.

• Involve your child in the food preparation at home.

• Be a good example to your child. Children often imitate their parents. If you eat a particular food frequently, your child is more likely to eventually try the same food.

• If you want your child to eat more vegetables try adding them into familiar foods. An example would be to add broccoli to macaroni and cheese (macaroni and cheese seems to be a big winner with most children). Mix grated zucchini and carrots into muffins, meatloaf and soups.

• You might have better success with some foods if you “unmix” the food. Many children like to eat the ingredients of a salad or sandwich in separate portions.

• As mentioned above young children feel more comfortable with predictable routines. You will also be preparing your child for school time. Once the child begins school, breakfast, break, lunch, snack times will all be on a routine schedule. Feeding routines help children eat when it is time to eat. Meals and snacks should be served about the same time every day.

• Help toddlers and preschoolers concentrate on eating by turning off the television during meals. Make it a strict rule not to bring reading material and/or toys to meal and snack times.

• Never fall into the bad habit of trying to bribe your child with food like withholding a dessert. This only sends a message that dessert must be the best kind of food, and may consequently increase your child’s desire for sweets above all other foods. You may also unintentionally teach your child that eating healthy foods is unpleasant and must be endured if the child wants a reward of dessert.

After all is said and done, remember that as children mature, the picky eater child usually becomes less picky about food. Everyone has food preferences; therefore, your child is not going to like everything. Stay cool and calm about mealtimes and try not to let them become a struggle between you and your child. The object here is to do what is best for the child so he or she can grow up desiring to eat healthy.

Sources: The Mayo Clinic, The United State Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Guidelines for toddlers and young children.

Disclaimer: This article is offered as information. It is not intended to replace the guidance and/or advice of a Professional Health Care Provider. It is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem or behavior.

About the Author: Connie Limon, Trilogy Field Representative. Visit and sign up for a weekly nutrition and health tip. The article collection is available as FREE reprints for your newsletters, websites or blog. Visit to purchase an array of superior quality, safe and effective products inspired by nature, informed by science and created to improve the health of people, pets and the planet.


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Category:  Children: Challenges

Related Links:  | Children:Activities and FunChallenges | School | Parenting | Stories | Babies |

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