My Child Is Such a Picky Eater! How Can I Still Keep Him Healthy?

Mealtimes with my toddler are the worst part of the day because he never seems to like what we give him. How can we still make sure he’s eating enough?
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ByThe Bump Editors
Updated
Mar 2020
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Most toddlers do get proper nutrition when their parents serve a variety of foods — even if it doesn’t always seem that way… But, unlike adults who often eat out of habit or boredom, toddlers only tend to eat when they’re truly hungry. . “Kids are smarter than you think about eating, and they won’t starve themselves,” says Vicki Papadeas, MD, at LaGuardia Place Pediatrics in New York City. “Often they’ll eat in waves—tons of fruits one day, then none the next—and things even out over a week or two.”

If your goal is to have your toddler eat more at mealtimes, make sure he’s coming to the table with an empty stomach. That will probably mean cutting out any afternoon snack — even if it’s just a glass of milk or some crackers, which may be more filling to him than you think.

Another idea is to get him involved in the process of choosing and preparing foods for upcoming meals, in both the supermarket and the kitchen. If he feels like he participated in getting the food ready, he’ll be more invested in the next step: eating it.

New foods are scary to toddlers, who’ve only experienced limited tastes and flavors in their lifetime. So manage your expectations when introducing a food he’s never seen before; it may take inspecting it on his plate over the course of several meals before he’ll actually put it in his mouth — so don’t force it. And, in the meantime, instead of catering to your child’s unhealthy wishes, be sure you always offer a selection of healthy choices so that those foods become most familiar to him.

Take the pressure off mealtime by making it fun and engaging. Let him feed himself a variety of finger foods and pay attention to the colors and textures he enjoys most, so you can introduce similar foods. If you’re still stressed, talk your pediatrician about other ways you can help expand baby’s palate.

Finally, and most importantly, eat healthy yourself. Not only will this benefit your toddler as he follows your lead by modeling his own healthy eating habits after yours, but it will also benefit you.

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