I hear the same story from parents all the time…my baby used to eat everything, all of a sudden he’s picky. This story usually happens around 18 months to 2 years, the prime of the toddler years. I had a similar experience just as my twins were turning 2 years old, where they stopped eating whatever was offered. The twins are now 3 years old and they are great eaters. Of course they continue to test the boundaries, mostly by asking for snacks and treats. Since the twins are such great eaters (they like to eat vegetables), I thought I would share my tips on preventing picky eating.
Picky Eating Prevention Tips
- Do Not Offer Options – give your kids what you have made for the meal. If they do not eat it, do not offer other food you know they like. This leads to the next point…
- If They Don’t Eat, It’s Okay – trust me, if your kids are hungry they will eat something. If my kids do not eat their meal, I save it. When they say they are hungry later on, I offer the meal they did not eat as the only option. If they are truly hungry they eat it.
- No Snacks Before or After Meals – lately, my kids have started asking for snacks before and after dinner. Like most of us, they love snacks, goldfish, trail mix, cookies, animal crackers, cereal, etc. I was letting them have snacks because they said they were hungry. However, I realized this meant they weren’t eating their dinner. They either filled up before dinner or didn’t eat dinner then asked for a snack afterwards. Now, I don’t give them snacks 1 hour before dinner. If they did not eat all their dinner, as talked about above, I offer what they didn’t finish.
- Rewards – sometimes I offer a treat if they finish their meal. I try not to do this everyday so it’s not expected, but it’s fun for the kids and a good incentive for them to eat their meals.
- Let Them Try EVERYTHING – do not assume your kids will not like something. If my kids want to try something I let them, even if I do not think they will like it. Sometimes they have really surprised me with what they like.
- Do Not Make A Big Deal – if your child tries something for the first time and he doesn’t like it or if he just doesn’t want to eat that day, do not make a big deal about it. Don’t try to force them to eat or punish them for not eating. Just move on to the next activity and save the food for later, if you want.
- Eat With Your Kids – it’s very important that your kids see you eating a well balanced diet as well. If they see you eating the same things they are eating, it is likely they will be more eager to eat it. This is easily accomplished by eating meals together as a family and everyone eating the same meal. An added bonus is you will get quality family time!
The earlier you can start following these tips, the easier it will be to prevent (or reverse) picky eating in your toddler(s). It’s not easy some days, maybe your child has a tantrum because he can’t have a piece of candy. But, don’t give in, and within a few days your toddler’s eating habits will improve. I know we are lucky to have kids that are good eaters, but I am confident the tips above helped get us there.
Do you have any other tips to add? Leave a comment below. If you have more feeding questions for your baby or toddler, check out the rest of our feeding posts by clicking here.