There are a few things in life which cause me to lose my patience quite like my child not eating his food. Sometimes I think it is just ironic, a dietitian would have struggles with a picky eater. At first I thought this is not right, I cannot have a picky eater, I did all the right things! I am a food expert, I KNOW what I am doing. Insert prideful smirks. I am pretty certain every parent knows just how humbling the experience of raising tiny people can be on a daily basis. I wanted you to know I hear you. I have my own tiny stubborn dictator who tries to sprint from the dinner table or shove food in tiny cracks to avoid consuming it. I too have made mistakes in trying to shove food down his little face or giving up too soon. I have yelled, I have begged. I am with you. So, now that I have seen the light on the other side of the struggle, I wanted to share with you a few common mistakes we make as parents when it comes to feeding the tiny people.
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Oops #1: Force Feeding
Yup, been there done that. Does not help!
If your child is remotely strong willed, this is probably the biggest mistake. Making a big deal and trying to force the food into their mouths. This tactic backfires and usually leads to food aversions and misbehavior.
Do not make a big fuss when the kiddo refuses to eat the food. The less you focus on it, the less they will remember the next time you introduce the food.
Oops #2: Forgetting they are constantly changing
It is true. What he/she likes today, he/she will most definitely hate tomorrow. By focusing on this meal, you will find yourself forgetting tomorrow, next week, or next the food will be easily eaten without struggles.
So, do not fuss over their nutritional intake just yet. Give it time. If you are looking to get them a certain aspect of nutrition, try another route at the next meal for now. Example, Sally loved eggs, now she refuses to touch them. Try French toast at the next breakfast meal or yogurt. Both have protein, and you can reintroduce eggs with each of them until little Sally decides its time to chow down on them again.
Oops #3: Making multiple meals
Many parents fall into this trap to please their tiny dictator who screams for something different. You are concerned they are starving or not going to get enough nutrition. But cooking on demand sends the wrong message.
Plan meals with at least ONE item you know your child will eat. And try to get your child involved in the process of planning, shopping, and preparing. YES, it slows you down and is somewhat the pain in the booty, but how much do you like the idea of making three different meals each night??? Yeah no thanks.
Oops #4: Giving up too soon
I have done this as well out of frustration and not wanting to waste food. But as with everything related to a child, it takes time. And lots of it. Did you know it could take up to at least TWENTY times of introducing a food before they accept it?! HOLY MOLY talk about patience. Just remember, if you give up and do not introduce the food they are more likely to avoid the food for years to come. Keep after it, it is worth it by the TWENTY FIRST time…. exhausting I know.
Try introducing the food in various ways. For example, plain broccoli, broccoli with cheese, broccoli with mac-n-cheese, broccoli in a casserole. Also, let the child watch you prepare the food and make funny faces or characters from the foods. When the food is presented, let them piddle. Touch it, play with it, put in their mouth, spit it out and try again.
Oops #5: Not limiting sugar fluids and snacks
It is recommended toddlers drink no more than ½ cup of juice per day. Allowing more than this may results in decreased hunger during meal times. Snacks are also a perfect opportunity to provide extra nutrition or the perfect storm to ruin upcoming meal times. Cookies, candies, and other high calories options tend to fill the child without actually providing any nutrition, leading to decreased desire to consume foods offered at meal times.
Get them used to water early on. Already likes juice? Start diluting until very little juice is actually taken in.
Be sure their snacks are light if close to meal time and include fruits, veggies, protein, grains, and/or calcium, not just calories.
I hope this helped my fellow momma’s! I know we struggle in our home and have made most of these oops, and had to undo the damage done!
Your Local Dietitian
PS. Here is one of my favorite items to help my toddler eat his food without making a complete mess!!