What to Feed a Picky Toddler
Jillian Ondreyka, MPH, RDN, IFNCP, IBCLC
Are you struggling with a picky eater or a toddler who just doesn’t eat veggies anymore? We hear you! It’s common and you are not alone. When foods your kid eats are limited we want to share some ideas for what to feed a picky toddler to keep his or her diet packed with the right stuff he or she needs to grow up healthy and strong. So let’s do this!
We know that picky eaters can have some nutrient deficiencies, particularly in Vitamin C, E, folate, and fiber. Some are also at risk for iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies. Whether this leads to any weight or growth differences is still unclear. There also isn’t data on how common it is for kids to truly get nutrient deficient from picky eating.
Bottom line: if you are worried about your picky eater’s nutritional status, here are a few easy steps you can do to make sure your child is eating what they need.
Bonus: This tips are helpful for all toddler parents!
Step 1: Use the food groups!
When planning meals, try to choose 3-4 food groups for every meal and snack. It’s a good idea to include a food from the protein group. Protein is often called the “building-block” nutrient, which makes it perfect for your growing child! Protein foods include meat (beef, pork), poultry (chicken, turkey) beans, peas, nuts and nut butters, seeds, fish, and eggs. Protein is often called the “building-block” nutrient, which makes it perfect for your growing child! If your child only ate proteins for breakfast, try to serve more grains for lunch. Other groups are vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy.
Step 2: Color your plate!
When you’re looking for an easy guide to what to feed a picky toddler look to the rainbow. Make it a point to include several colors on your child’s plate. Try a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. You get different vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients from different colors. So, try to eat the rainbow and choose foods that are white, red, purple/blue, orange/yellow, and green.
Step 3: Get Creative!
Kids may be more willing to eat their food if it is fun. Get creative and try to make a design such as a rainbow, flower, or smiley face made from colorful fruits and vegetables on their plate.
Step 4: Be patient, try not to get discouraged, and try not to pressure.
This one is hard, but you can do it! Try not to get discouraged if your child doesn’t like a food the first time they see it. Research shows that your child might need to taste new foods a dozen or more times before they can decide if he/she likes or dislikes the food. You can also try cooking the food a different way or seasoned with different herbs and spices. For example, you child might not like raw carrots but might love them cooked. It is also okay if your child doesn’t like Brussels sprouts (or any other one food)! If you have tried the above tips and they don’t want anything to do with Brussels sprouts then that’s okay, at least they were introduced to the food in different ways.
HOW your child eats is more important than WHAT they eat, and changing behaviors around food will help the most in the long run.
Step 5: Talk to your pediatrician about a multivitamin
One small study suggested that nutritional counseling (like what you can get with Foublie coaches!) PLUS a nutritional supplement could actually help with catchup growth if in underweight picky eaters. If your child is avoiding most fruits and vegetables you might want to talk to your pediatrician about a multivitamin.
You can make an appointment with a Foublie coach to help you determine if you should be worried about your child’s diet and want more personalized tips for what to feed a picky toddler. Sometimes adding a multivitamin can help you feel confident that your child is at least getting the vitamins and minerals that they need. This can help relieve some of the anxiety of them not eating enough!
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