Food fussiness amongst toddlers is a common issue. I’ve heard many mums complain about their toddlers not eating fruit, veg, or not eating full stop. It can be frustrating not knowing what to do or why they won’t eat. There are unbelievable amounts of information and tips out there for getting your little ones to eat. But is it too much information? If we could change our method of feeding, what would we do differently? Surely even the kids know what we’re up to by now.. hidden veggies in bolognaise? C’mon we’re on to you! Why can’t we just put a bowl of carrots and peas on the plate and have our children eat it happily? Well.. would we eat it?
There could be a myriad of reasons as to why kids are fussy eaters. One reason, according to many experts, is too much cow’s milk could suppress a child’s appetite which can lead to some nutrient deficiencies such as iron. They also recommend that children aged 12-24 months should drink no more than 500-600ml of dairy milk per day. I’ve seen for myself the affects of kids who drink too much milk – they crave a lot of red meat, some even prefer them under done!
Whilst I’m no expert in children’s diets or eating and the following tips are merely my opinion plus a bit of research, I can say that my 22 month old Ava does eat everything I put in front of her. She even says “Mmm… Yum” before gobbling up her meal.
Samie’s Toddler Tips on Eating
1. Have a routine.
2. I started feeding Ava homemade pear puree at 4 months and introduced her to new flavours every week for a couple of months. Ava’s foods are always homemade – no additives and usually organic.
3. She would always have her solids first, before drinking her milk.
4. I introduced the same food in different textures, half mashing/half puree-ing, before completely graduating her to mashed foods at around 6-7 months.
5. By 12 months, there is an obvious pattern in her eating – she liked things soft, chunky is fine, as long as it is soft. She also likes her food to be coated in liquid of some sort. So if she didn’t like broccoli, I would make them softer, if she didn’t like potato mash, I would add more milk. And I started making risottos for her – it’s soft, creamy, easy one-pot wonders and freezes well!
I think it is important to learn from your toddler and to listen to her needs. Rather than give up because she’s not eating her veggies, knowing her better will help you understand the meaning of the issue. I know this may be harder for working mums, but get a report from the daycare teacher, or babysitter to get a better idea of bub’s eating habits.
6. In addition to listening, speak to your toddler. I tell Ava what she’s eating and get her involved in the cooking process, “Ava, should we add some yummy corn to this?” “Wow.. look at the colours of the carrots, peas and tomatoes in here!” “Would you like to smell the basil/garlic/onion?”
I strongly believe that early eating habits sets the standard for future eating habits. Having said that, I have never made a big deal of how carrots, for example, are good for her. Of course it’s good, that’s why I give it to her. We are the role models and toddlers will respond to what we say is good.
7. No matter how well a toddler eats, there will be moments where they will simply refused to eat. To this I would say to Ava in a CALM tone of voice that unfortunately she will have to remain in her chair until she eats. And that I will not respond to her whinging until this happens. Guess what? With a bit of persistence, it worked! I couldn’t believe she understood me!
8. Another important eating habit – save the lollies, ice cream, chocolate! Dessert for Ava is 3 parts Greek yoghurt to 1 part flavoured yoghurt. Naughty treats once in a very rare while is okay, but they should never be used as a bribe!
9. These steps may not work for every mum and all toddlers are different. The key is to be consistent, patient and forever nurturing. I once read an empowering thought that I have used as my mantra – “You are the best person for your child”. Let’s aim for that!
Sample menu of Ava’s daily meals at 22 months –
Breakfast: Oatmeal with sliced banana and dollop of honey; a small drink of (enriched) soy milk
Morning tea: One pear; drink of diluted apple juice
Lunch: Tuna risotto with onion, mushroom and tomato; drink of water
Afternoon tea: Cheese and rice crackers with a drink of soy milk
Dinner: Spaghetti bolognaise, banana and yoghurt; drink of water
Pre-bedtime: Warm cup of cow’s milk
Throughout the day snacks if hungry: sultanas, fruit, cheese, rice crackers