Being around several friends who have toddlers, I have seen first hand the struggle of getting a toddler to eat. However, I myself have never had a problem getting my toddler to eat. I don’t know if my Chloe is just that one in a million toddlers who will eat anything, but she will literally eat anything including dirt! I have noticed that the toddlers who seem to have a eating problem are those who have been given a limited diet. Now, before you go getting offended thinking that I’m blasting you as a parent for not broadening their food choices, hear me out. I get it, you start feeding your kid baby food which includes carrots, potatoes, peas, and bland, mushy foods. But did you ever spice things up a little? Literally, spice it up with flavor? If not, that’s where you may have gone wrong. If your now toddler won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets (which have only a fried flavor) and mac n cheese (again a very mild flavor), perhaps you didn’t introduce flavor soon enough.
Babies who are being introduced to new foods don’t have favorites yet. That is something they acquire by having that same food over and over. As they get older, they get used to those same foods and eventually will be resilient to eating things that don’t taste like that one thing. Also, just because your baby didn’t like peas, for example, when they were 7 months old doesn’t mean that they still do not like peas at 9 months old or 1 year old. If they turn a certain food down, don’t stop offering it, maybe wait a week and try again. Chloe went through a phase where she LOVED the baby food pears, but one day, I went to give them to her, and she spit them out! It went on like this for a week, so I stopped giving them to her for about a month (mostly because I was wasting money on food she wouldn’t eat). Then, about a month later, I offered them to her again and she gobbled them right up. So, just because they turn a food down one day doesn’t mean they don’t like it ever.
In order to introduce new, different, flavors to your kids, you need to do it subtly. For example, give them applesauce, which they love, but spruce it up with a little cinnamon or pie spice. This way, they have something they’re familiar with, but just with some added flavor. Eventually, they will be used to the spice and welcome new foods that have that spice like sweet potatoes. Now, for toddlers, you have to go at it with a little different approach. Sure, add flavors to other foods, but they aren’t dumb, if it doesn’t LOOK appealing, they may turn it down. Try mixing it with other foods they like. Chloe will not touch anything green except green beans. So, in order to get her to eat greens such as spinach, I mix it into a quiche (which she calls egg pie and loves) and she doesn’t even notice it’s there.
Someone gave me great advice one time when I was having trouble getting my much younger Chloe to eat certain things. They said “don’t stop offering the foods just because she turns it down”. Sometimes, kids are reluctant to trying new things because they know what they like, and if it doesn’t look familiar, they don’t want to eat it. But, if you leave it on their plate and don’t pressure them to eat it, they will eventually get curious and try it and might find that they actually like it. I started giving Chloe everything that we had on our plates instead of just giving her what I knew she would eat. At first, she would just pick through at eat what she recognized, but after a while, she would try the other stuff too. Now, I don’t have hardly any trouble getting her to eat whatever, and if she doesn’t like something, she just leaves it on her plate and I don’t force her to eat it. I do encourage her to at least try everything in front of her and if she doesn’t like it, then okay.
Growing up, that’s how my parents did it with us. We had to try everything on the table at least once, and it was okay if we didn’t like it, but at least we knew that we didn’t like it because we had tried it. My mom also never gave us a second choice. What she made for dinner was what we got. We didn’t get to complain, and she never made us something else if we didn’t want what she had made. If we didn’t like it, we had two choices; eat it anyway, or go hungry. Sure it may seem cruel, but in reality, it taught us to be open to anything and not be picky eaters. I have had my fair share of adults come to dinner and not eat certain things that I made simply because they had never tried it before. It is amazing what can happen if you don’t brighten your children’s pallets early in life. Trust me, do yourself a favor and make them try new things, and you will be so glad you did later.
I have a niece who loves sushi! And yes I mean raw, cold, fish! She’s not even 8. My Chloe loves black olives and hummus. It makes my life so much easier because I can cook what I want without having to worry about if she is going to eat it. Another thing I make sure I don’t do is choose what she will and won’t like for her. If she want’s to try something, I let her try it even if I know she probably won’t like it. For example, Chloe does NOT like spicy food, but the other day, we were having jalapenos with our beans and rice and she wanted some. I told her it was spicy, simply to warn her, but she persisted and wanted to taste it. So, i cut a little piece off and let her eat it. She chewed it up and waited a second then started begging for a drink, but that’s how she learned that she didn’t like it. Sure, I could have spared her a little burn on her tongue, but I would have missed a learning opportunity, and a chance to open up her taste buds a little.
So, to sum it all up, do yourself a favor a flavor! 🙂