Somehow we blinked and now have a 2 year old. He’s bright and loving and adventurous. He is also pushing the envelope currently and trying to get a bit more control and independence. It’s an entertaining and exhausting phase to be sure.
Do you have a toddler, or maybe your kiddo is older now and you remember these struggles? Are they a great eater or still picky? Do they also have an opinion about what they want to eat and how or when they want to eat?
This is completely normal behavior for kids, as they’re searching for boundaries and independence. But it’s hard, after a long stressful day at work we just want to push through dinner and have everyone love what we make and have it come together seamlessly, right?
As a pediatric dietitian I understand all of this and it’s what I spend a large portion of time speaking with families about. But even we professionals slip or have moments of weakness. Maybe we leave the TV on during dinner or we raise our voice when our child won’t eat his vegetables, or rush through meal prep instead of letting our kids help and learn about food.
Here are some of my most successful tips and tricks for getting kids to eat a broader variety of foods:
Food Pairing – Make sure the majority of your kiddo’s plate is foods they’re used to and like and include one wild card item. Change up what the new food is and don’t stress over your child eating all of the new food, but if they touch it once and take a bite another time, with a few more introductions they won’t find that food so threatening or frightening anymore.
Smoothies – make them fun and colorful, give your kiddo a special smoothie cup and really talk it up so they get excited about their special treat. You can toss in a wide variety of ‘healthy foods’ without your child noticing a big taste difference. Bonus here is while you’re working on introducing your child to balanced healthy eating, their diet quality doesn’t suffer.
Patience – you have to keep offering in small amounts, you’re in it for the long game not a quick victory. Get them used to seeing the food on their plate and seeing you and the other family members eating it. Let kiddos experience the food lots of different ways – raw, cooked, sautéed, baked, in soups, in salads, on sandwiches, etc. You never know what way they will like a food best, it may be very different than your preference so let them explore on their own!
Dress up or disguise – so your kiddo won’t eat avocado, try a small bit mixed with mayo on their turkey sandwich. Gradually increase the amount of avocado in the mixture. Or throw it in a smoothie (see above). Or bread it and sautée along side some fries or chicken, zucchini is a great option for this technique.
Want more help or tips? I would love to help you!! Drop me a line and we can come up with a plan of attack.