A very wise woman once told me, “Your job as a parent is to provide nutritious, delicious food at appropriate times; your child's job is to decide what and how much they need to eat.”
Humph. Clearly this wise woman doesn't have a toddler running about her house turning his nose up at the delicious broccoli stir-fry that mama just spent precious time preparing.
Obviously in her home there's not a 2-year-old routinely taking fistfuls of fruit salad and gleefully it chucking across the room. Nor does she have a young child who discernibly picks through a pile of emerald and topaz colored veggies to find and eat the white-cheese-and-starch-like items at every meal.
As tough as it may be for real-time moms to deal with the rejection from and imagined starvation/malnutrition of a picky toddler, the above mantra is full of wisdom. When taken on, it can provide a sense of relief and confidence when feeding your toddler.
show that picky eating is actually part of an important development stage where young kids are learning to make their own choices and listen to their bodies' needs for sustenance and nutrients.
This phenomenon is thought to date back to caveman times when humans foraged for food. Especially for young children, it was in their best interest to be discerning about what they put in their mouths.
Perhaps it may be a bit of a consolation to know that cave-kids actually needed to be choosy in order to survive the next time your little one rolls pricey farmer's market blueberries off of her high chair.
The most reassuring bit of news is that provided with healthy food choices, over the average of a week, “the toddler will eat what is needed to support his or her growth.”
So stop worrying, mom, pass the peas, and try to ignore the ones that just flew past your ear.
A few tips for feeding your toddler:
She can't eat what's not there. So empty your house of Cheese-Its, Pop Tarts, and other “favorites” that your toddler is substituting for real food. Choose whole, organic foods whenever possible.
Be the change you want to see. Kids learn by example. So chances are if mom, dad, and sis are all eating well, your little eater will do the same.
Try and try again. Over time keep introducing foods that your child has turned down, and don't get too attached to rejection. Sometimes after a few or many NO's, green bean almondine may be a yum-yum-YES!
Who cares? Even if your child's food strike is eating you up inside, remember to stay detached: If NO receives a big reaction from you, she may refuse a food just for your lively response.
When spaghetti sandwiches rule: If your child has recently been sick and does not want to eat anything but mashed potatoes and toast, please, cut the kid a break! Toddlers' digestive systems are still developing, so a bout of cold, flu, or even teething may leave her with a funny tummy for much longer than you'd expect. Continue offering fruit, veggies, and meat with the comfort foods, and eventually she'll bite.
Still concerned? If your child seems underweight or unwell, or you're still worried she is not getting enough vitamins and minerals, speak to your health care provider to see if any dietary modifications or supplementation is appropriate for her.
If you're still worried about your toddler's disdain for green veggies, this post may help: 4 Food Groups All Kids Should Eat.
What are your tips for picky toddlers?
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