Toddlers are notorious for finicky and strange eating habits. Even if your child was a great eater as a baby, you may suddenly find yourself confronted with a whole different person when the toddler years come along. With a new desire for independence and a newly discovered ability to voice opinions, feeding your toddler any kind of healthy toddler diet can be a difficult challenge. Try these tips to make it a little easier.
Mix It Up
Pairing a food your toddler refuses to eat with one that he likes might encourage him to actually eat it all – but not if you let him pick and choose. The best way to get a toddler to eat a food he generally refuses is to mix it in with the one he likes. If he wants a great big bite of that macaroni and cheese, there’s no way to get it without a few French-cut green beans along for the ride. That spaghetti sauce he loves, well, there are now grated carrots and finely chopped spinach inside. And no way to avoid them.
Mix up all kinds of healthy foods with toddler-friendly favorites: finely chopped vegetables are easily added to meatballs; soups are a great place to add more veggies too. Add extra fruit to oatmeal and yogurt, and even ice cream. Blend bananas, berries and other fruits into pancake batter.
Fun Finger Foods
Toddlers love foods that are fun to eat, so serve up finger foods with interesting options for dips. Vegetables are suddenly a lot more interesting with a choice of dips, such as a cheese sauce or ranch dressing. Take the meatballs out of the spaghetti sauce and serve them as a finger food with marinara on the side for dipping.
Pieces of fruit can be served this way too; use vanilla yogurt as a tasty dip for apple, pear and banana slices as well as fresh berries.
Use dinner rolls to make sliders for little hands, topped with small slices of tomatoes and piece of lettuce. Then put mustard and ketchup on the side to dip the slider into. When you up the fun quotient of a food, you make it a lot more interesting to a toddler.
Work With, Not Against Your Toddler
Sometimes the best you can do with a toddler is to wave the white flag and make peace. Dinner time power struggles don’t get anyone anywhere useful. You will wind up frustrated and your child will not learn anything. Try to find a compromise. If she really doesn’t like broccoli, there is likely nothing you can do to make her eat it. Try to substitute other foods that offer similar nutritional value. Explain to your toddler that you know she doesn’t like broccoli, so you aren’t going to make her eat it. Instead, she can try this spinach, which you think she will like a whole lot more.
If your toddler has that common obsession with foods staying separate on the plate, don’t get frustrated because you don’t understand it. Instead, show her you get it by letting her choose a plate with separate compartments for all her foods.
Feeding a toddler can be frustrating, but if you keep your cool and find ways to make foods more interesting, you will have a lot more success than with demands and ultimatums. When your toddler feels you are listening and understanding, you will get more cooperation than when you try to lay down the law.