This post is by Dr Orlena Kerek.
Toddlers are not well known for their table manners, or their consistent eating habits. One day they love something so much they want to eat 3 plates of it. The next time you offer it to them they act as if you’re trying to chop off their legs. It is very frustrating to have a toddler who won’t eat.
Is Picky Eating Normal?
Most babies take to eating with gusto. They will happily shovel anything and everything into their mouths to explore new tastes and textures. They don’t have much control over their bodies and one of the first things they master is grasping something and directing it towards their mouth. Very useful when you want to know which tastes best, red wooden bricks or yellow wooden bricks?
As they reach toddlerhood (roughly between 1 and 4 years, there is no exact definition), all sorts of changes happen. They discover independence, doing things for themselves (can be very frustrating) and communication. And rules. Yep, they discover that those aren’t that great.
They like familiar things. Pretty much everything familiar, not just food. Familiar toys, familiar people, and familiar books. Seriously how many times have you read “Where’s Spot”?
They go through a phase of not liking new things and enjoying familiar foods that are firmly entrenched on the “accepted list”.
Things that are banished to the “I hate it list” may include anything with a texture that doesn’t appeal (normally slimy things such as eggplant and mushroom) but also very crunchy things like cabbage. Or a yucky flavour (cabbage has a strong flavour) or because they had a bad experience with it, or are fed up of it. Or just because.
Anything between “I totally love it” and “I totally hate it” is anyone’s guess. One day they love it, the next day they hate it.
All kids are different and some will sail through this phase without their parents noticing. Most kids will grow out of picky eating by around the age of 8, as long as it doesn’t become an “issue” (which basically means as long as you don’t pressure them into eating.) A few children with more serious problems have such a narrow diet that they need the help of a feeding specialist.
How Can I Help My Picky Eater?
- Don’t pressure them to eat. Eating should be fun and enjoyable.
- Give them a mix of healthy food you know they’ll like but still present them with other foods that aren’t yet accepted. (Here’s everything you need to know about toddler nutrition.)
- Regular feeding times are good so that they know when the next eating opportunity is. They will stop those naughty snacks just before dinner!
- Model healthy eating by eating different things yourself at family meals.
Turn Your Picky Eater into a Healthy Eater
Eating should be fun. As long as you don’t pressure your kids to eat and keep offering them healthy food in appropriate portions, your toddler should grow into a healthy eater.
Dr Orlena Kerek
Dr Orlena Kerek is a paediatric doctor and mother of 4 who believes teaching your kids to enjoy healthy eating and living can be pain free and even fun. Grab your free “Feeding Toddler Cheat Sheet and Food Diary” when you join her “Snotty Noses’s community.”