How to handle your toddler’s fussy eating phase
- It’s completely normal for your child to go through a fussy eating phase
- Refusing food can be a toddler’s way of asserting independence
- Eating together as a family provides a good opportunity to model healthy food behaviours
It’s common for children to go through a period of fussiness when it comes to their food choices. If your little one begins to refuse food, it can be a source of worry for parents and caregivers – but rest assured it’s part of their natural growth and development. Parents need to remember that toddlers have an innate desire for independence. They want to tell us what they like and dislike, and they want to start experimenting. For many young children, that process starts at the kitchen table.
Focus on the big picture
As a parent, you can take some of the stress out of mealtimes by providing a healthy, well-balanced meal each time your little one sits down at the table. You can use division of responsibility to let them decide how much they’re going to eat, but you can be confident if they’re hungry, they’ll fill up. Young children often need to be exposed to a taste and texture multiple times before they take to it. Just because they refuse a specific food once (or even multiple times), doesn’t mean that they won’t eat – and enjoy – it in the future.
While it can be difficult, try to let go of the concern that your child isn’t eating enough and focus on the fact that you’re providing them with a nutritious diet. Know that this is a normal phase that will pass. If you are worried your child’s dietary intake is inadequate, toddler milk like Aptamil Gold+ Toddler Milk – which contains the goodness of cows’ milk and 16 essential vitamins and minerals to support growth and development when consumed with a healthy varied diet – can help bridge the gap between what your child needs and what they actually eat.
Try a different tack
There are a few strategies you can employ to encourage your child to be more open when it comes to their eating choices. First, try and experiment with new foods as often as you can alongside a known and preferred food. The more opportunities you give your little one to experiment with taste and texture, the more likely they are to form positive habits in the long run. Also, strive to eat together as a family so you can model positive eating behaviours to your child. How you behave – and what you eat – sets the foundation for them later in their life.
Aim for less food over longer periods
Children’s stomachs are small, so encourage them to eat regular low-volume meals throughout the day. They can’t suffice with just breakfast, lunch and dinner as they can’t take in as much food as us. Cut up raw fruits and vegetables in the morning and have them available during the day to snack on. Things like apple slices with cheese are popular with young children.
Make food fun
When your little one does enjoy their food, praise them for it. Make mealtimes a happy, shared experience for all involved. You can also try and get your children involved in food making by getting them to help you cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters, or helping you make healthy fruit muffins. Above all, try and make mealtimes and eating a positive, fun occasion rather than a negative experience for both you and your little one.