Picky eaters. Hmmmm. Have one of those. Two actually, if you count my husband, whom I will quote: “Vegetables are overrated.” So you can see what I have to work with here. I could probably blog weekly on this subject alone!
I guess for brevity’s sake, I can start today talking about toddlers. Children 12-24 months, who are just beginning their eating adventures, primed for introduction to nutritious foods. Many times, just getting them to eat anything can be a challenge. The first trick or tip is to think small. Yes, small. Small person, small tummy, small plate. You don’t need to fill up a plate with foods, which may overwhelm. Introduce foods one at a time. Mix and match vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and be patient!
Little palates are discerning but usually curious. My six year old was truthfully a much better eater at 2 than now! If you have made good nutrition a priority, then make sure the grains you introduce are the ones you want them to love for life. Offer unsweetened or lightly sweetened cereals. Make puddings from brown rice, quinoa, couscous. Make sure you offer whole grains only, a ¼ of piece of bread is a serving, or a few teaspoons of rice or cereal. You can start with a blander tasting grain such as white bread or rice, but try to progress fairly quickly for tastes to adapt. I was raised on Wonder Bread and sometime in my teens tasted wheat and loved it because it actually tasted like something!
For protein, make sure your offerings are small portions. A few cubes of meat, tofu or beans are all a little tummy can handle, and truthfully all they need. The average American diet has almost double the protein that is actually needed, but we remain woefully deficient in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Make nutrition fun! Buy some play fruits and vegetables. Check the internet or bookstore for pages to color of foods. Many free games exist on line as well to add interest. (try superkidsnutrition.com) Invest in some colorful plates, cups, bowls that can take a tumble. This is also a great time to get your child involved in food preparation and shopping, and have them pick out the foods they may want to try.
If you have an adventurous eater, pump your fist in the air, thank your lucky stars, and enjoy! For those who already have a picky eater at this young age, don’t despair. Keep up the offerings. Make sure they are taking a multivitamin with iron if they are missing whole food groups. Don’t overdo the things they do like by increasing the portions. Get creative-if they like grilled cheese, vary the grains of the breads you use, and the cheese to introduce the concept of variety. I highly recommend starting their palate with real versus processed cheese, and whole wheat or whole grain versus white, then you don’t have to fight what their palate has grown to like. Add some apple or pear slices to the grilled cheese or spread some apple butter. If they don’t like soup with chunks, puree away a whole variety, or make a fresh vegetable juice, then introduce cooked vegetables for them to try.
This early in their game of life, don’t give up if your little wonder is resistive at first to all of your hard work to attempt good nutrition. Next time we can talk about the older toddler, and the new challenges that may be coming your way.