Creative Food Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters



IMAG4237My daughter is not even two yet and I feel like she barely eats anything. If it weren’t for pancakes, macaroni and cheese, and cream cheese bagels, I don’t think the poor girl would eat! Don’t get me wrong, she likes fruit and will try the occasional chicken tenders and other foods, but it’s never a “sure thing,” if you know what I mean. I often feel like our fridge is jam-packed with food in the hopes that she will actually eat SOMETHING. Then, inevitably, we end up throwing twice as much stuff out as we would before now. It’s frustrating to feel so wasteful!

I struggle with this every day. The pediatrician’s office had me all flustered when she fell from the 10th percentile or so down to third percentile for weight and fourth for height. She is a tiny little thing, but so cute and very healthy – not really a major concern. I’m not tall myself, so she likely got my genes as far as height and body type. Still, the doctor’s office got me so worried before that I have desperately been trying to get her to eat as much as possible, whenever possible.

Sometimes I bribe her, sometimes I just keep trying new things, other times I cycle through the few things I know she does like. We have occasional success with fish or fish sticks, pasta, and pretty good success with pizza. I have tried to creatively make special things for her to enjoy while still getting essential nutrients, and most times, have failed miserably. For example, my parmesan broccoli fritters looked and smelled (and even tasted) delicious when warm, but once cool enough for a baby’s palate, all bets were off. She didn’t even see the green of the broccoli that I popped in her mouth and still spit it out.

So, out of desperation in my own quest to get my child to eat more, I have decided to make a list of my most successful tips. I’d be thrilled if you can share any of your own tips in the comments so I can add them to the article and try them myself with N. Here’s my top list of tricks to get a toddler to eat more:

  1. Try to avoid letting them fill up on milk, water, juice, or whatever they are drinking. Keep their beverages out of site at first, at least until they get a little food in their belly.
  2. Offer different kinds of snacks often. We rotate through cereal, crackers, goldfish, dried fruit, fresh fruit, bagels, muffins, and other snacks.
  3. Sneak food into their mouths as they are feeding themselves. At this toddler phase, kids will never be as efficient at feeding themselves as you would be. Unfortunately, it seems they may also not be as agreeable to you doing the work as they once were. Sneak in what you can and allow them to have control over at least some of their food.
  4. Encourage your child and praise him or her for eating well. Use a tone that is fun and exciting, expressing how proud you are of their efforts.
  5. Consider bargaining if appropriate. It may not be a practice you want to do all the time, but bargaining can be instrumental in getting your child to try new things or to eat in greater quantity.
  6. Try different settings to give your child variety. The high chair gets old after a while. If you can pull your child’s chair up to the kitchen table without the tray, that could be a suitable alternative. I’ve also seen great success with the portable booster chairs for toddlers and even just letting them run around and pick food pieces up from a TV tray or table.
  7. Have a [willing] family member or guest offer your child their snacks or meals. I have seen more success with my daughter eating snacks she gets from someone new and exciting than from offering what we keep in the cabinets.
  8. And finally, my favorite tip of all – Disguise food as something they love. Create cute animal shapes with the food or use cookie cutters, food molds, or pancake and egg shapes to give your kid a more entertaining, more enjoyable option when it comes to eating the same foods day after day.

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If you have other tips and ideas to get your toddler to be a better eater, please share them in our comments below! You may think your tip or suggestion seems basic, but to someone else it could be a godsend.

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