How to Handle a Fussy Eater Toddler

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How to Handle a Fussy Eater Toddler

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Most toddlers tend to be fussy eaters and getting kids to eat food is one of the most common concerns of parents. If your little one who used to eat everything you gave him has now reached toddlerhood and has realised that he has a ‘will’ and says ‘no’ to the food you serve him, chances are you’ve got a fussy toddler at hand. You’re not alone in this, most parents struggle to get their kids to eat healthy food. But if you don’t address the issue in time, your little one may not get enough nutrition required for their proper growth and development.

Video: How to Handle a Fussy Eater (Foods to Introduce & Tips to Manage Fussy Eating)

Why Is Your Toddler a Picky Eater?

A little girl eating her lunch on the high chair

If you have a fussy eater, do not panic. Toddlers are usually capable of regulating their food consumption. But they may refuse to eat due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Picky eating is a way for toddlers to show their independence. They may be testing the limits of the parents’ authority by deciding what they want to eat.
  • Solid food is still a new thing for toddlers. They require time to get accustomed to the different tastes, colours and textures of foods. And hence, they may refuse to eat certain foods that don’t appeal to them.
  • Toddlers can move around more and are interested in exploring their environment. They do not like to sit for too long in one place, and this includes mealtimes.
  • Toddlers may not require the amount of food you think they do. The rate at which they grow slows down a little after the first year. Hence, they may eat a little less than they did earlier.
  • It is usual for toddlers to vary their eating patterns often and also change their mind about what foods they like. They may refuse to try new foods because it looks different.

How to Introduce New Foods to a Fussy Eater

It can be challenging to plan meals for picky eaters. Here are a few suggestions that may help make mealtimes with fussy-eating toddlers less stressful:

  • Provide an assortment of healthy foods during mealtimes. The toddler will try at least a couple of the options if you place several before them. Creating a big deal about new foods makes toddlers refuse to try them out.
  • Ensure that you set regular mealtimes. Having regular mealtimes will help you keep track of what your toddler eats and when. This way your child won’t also snack excessively. Ideally, there should be 3 regular meals with a couple of healthy snacks in between meals.
  • When trying to include new food in your child’s diet, make sure you include one food at a time. The new food should be given in small quantities. Include one standard favourite food of your toddler’s along with the new food.
  • Also, when introducing new food to your toddler, try and give it to him when he is really hungry. If he is hungry, chances are he will be willing to try it. For example, you could introduce a few slices of new fruit at his regular snack time.
  • Make mealtimes calm and free of distractions. Make sure devices and TVs are switched off. Eat together at the table.
  • Do not offer food with high sugar content to get your toddler to eat more. Encourage him to try different things.
  • If a toddler does not want to try new food, do not force it on him. The toddler may not like the colour or texture of the food. Some toddlers refuse food because they associate it with a negative experience they had, like an illness.
  • Serve small portions of food. The portion size of food for toddlers should be a quarter of an adult portion. Stick to 1 or 2 tablespoons of rotis, rice, or vegetables.
  • Add nutritive ingredients to food your toddler likes. For example, add pureed carrots to dal or fruit bits to cereal.

What Can You Do to Encourage Your Toddler to Try a Wide Variety of Foods?

Below are a few tricks on how to get your toddler to try a wide variety of foods.

  • You can make the dish attractive and colourful. Arrange it in interesting shapes that the toddler will find appealing.
  • When trying to get your child to eat veggies, try a tasty dip that your child likes. The familiar ketchup will tempt the toddler to try the food.
  • Give the child healthy options at snack times. For example, cucumber slices or fruit are popular with toddlers.
  • You can try freezing foods to make it exciting for toddlers. For example, you can freeze pulpy fruit juice, thaw it a little and turn it into an icy slush that your child will love.
  • You can try ideas like making your own breakfast. For example, you can let the toddler choose from a variety of cereals, toppings, and milk or yoghurt.

Other Tips to Manage Fussy Eating Habits in Toddlers

Dealing with fussy toddlers is a task that requires immense patience and understanding. Parents often get stressed when their toddler is a fussy eater. Here are some tips to manage fussy eating in toddlers:

  • Take the toddler seriously when he shows clear signs of being full. For example, stop forcing him to eat if he pushes your hand or turns away when offered food, refuses to open his mouth or swallow, attempts to spit out or throw up the food.
  • Do not give the toddler anything to eat right after mealtime. For example, toddlers should not be given juice or milk for up to 2 hours after a meal.
  • Allow the toddler to eat slowly. If rushed, toddlers’ appetites become reduced.
  • Have meals together as a family.

Foods for a Fussy Eater

Here are some foods that you can try for fussy-eating toddlers:

  • Pomegranates: Children love colourful food, and pomegranates are bright red in colour and delicious too. You can add pomegranate seeds in your child’s breakfast or serve them as a snack.
  • Tomato Soup: Most toddlers love the tangy flavour of tomato soup, even if they do not like tomatoes. Make it interesting by adding animal-shaped or alphabet-shaped crackers.
  • Sautéed Broccoli: Well-cooked broccoli can have a mushy texture, which your child may not really enjoy. You can try lightly sautéed broccoli. The toddler will like its crunchy texture and little tree-like appearance.
  • Fruit salad with whipped cream and honey: Get together some chopped fruits of various colours, add a dollop of whipped cream on it and drizzle some honey over it. Toddlers will love this healthy snack.
  • Hummus: Kids like the creamy texture of this chickpea dip. Hummus can be used as a spread, dip, or even as a filling for sandwiches.
  • Peas: Lightly steamed peas sprinkled with a little salt will make an interesting dish for toddlers.
  • Pineapples: Toddlers love the flavour, but dislike the texture. Try giving them pureed pineapple mixed into a cup of yogurt. You can slowly move on to pineapple bits, and finally to actual fruit pieces.
  • Cucumbers: Toddlers love the crunchiness of cucumbers. Let them munch on cucumber slices in between meals.

How to Tell Whether or Not Your Child is Getting Enough Food

Each child grows at a different pace. Do not fret if you feel like your toddler is not growing quickly. Monitor the toddler’s monthly weight and height measurements. You can talk to the doctor if you are concerned that your child is not gaining enough weight.

However, you should avoid hovering during mealtimes and forcing the child to eat more. This will only make a picky eater fussier.

When to Consult a Doctor

If your toddler’s height and weight are appropriate for his age, and he eats an adequate amount of food, there is no need for concern about your child’s fussy eating habits. A doctor should be consulted only in case the child has a medical condition or is not maintaining the height and weight appropriate for a child his age.

Fussy eating is a passing phase in most toddlers and will be gone before you know it. But while it’s still on, instead of losing patience and yelling at your toddler, try to understand the reason and present options to your child, when you serve him food. The eating habits of a fussy-eater will definitely improve over time.

Also Read: Loss of Appetite in Toddlers

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