ASK THE 0-3 TEAM/NICOLE DANN-PAYNE: How to handle a picky eater
Question: How can I encourage my toddler to consume more fruits and vegetables?
Answer: Anyone who has raised a child more than likely has experienced a picky eating phase.
It can be extremely challenging and frustrating trying to get your toddler to eat a new food, particularly fruits and vegetables.
Understand you’re not alone in this all too common struggle; picky eating is very normal for toddlers.
Don’t get discouraged the first time your child tries something new and spits it out; there are some ways in which you can encourage your child to consume fruits and vegetables.
Toddlers can be apprehensive and even scared to try new foods.
The more often a toddler is exposed to a variety of fruits and vegetables, the more willing they may become to trying a new food after seeing and experiencing it multiple times.
It’s important to keep in mind that young children prefer sweet foods over sour and bitter foods; therefore you may want to offer naturally sweet vegetables while incorporating bitter vegetables along the way, but not pushing or becoming upset at what the child chooses not to eat.
Make food toddler-friendly and appealing by using a variety of bright colors, textures and shapes.
If the toddler did not enjoy the texture of a food, expose it to them again prepared using a different method.
Children love dips, so use yogurt-based dips, low-fat dressings, marinara sauce or hummus.
Use cookie cutters to form various shapes, make miniature toddler-sized versions of dishes or arrange food into a favorite character or funny face.
Involve the toddler in describing the color and texture of the food.
This can be an opportunistic time to teach the child about plants, describing what part of the plant the fruit or vegetable belongs to, such as a leaf, root, seed or flower.
Start a small backyard or potted garden involving the child in the process; when children are able to grow their own food, they’re likely to consume more fruits and vegetables.
Get your child enthusiastic about new foods by providing the toddler with a very basic task in assisting you with preparing the food, such as washing, pouring, stirring or helping design a funny face.
While grocery shopping, have the toddler help select fruits and vegetables.
If you want your toddler to consume fruits and vegetables, you have to, too. Role modeling is essential for positive eating habits to develop.
Keep meal time positive, calm and relaxed.
This will allow the toddler to focus and more likely to try new foods if you’re relaxed about it.
Be patient, don’t give up, and continue to expose your child to fruits and vegetables.