Taming Picky Eater Toddlers

fussy toddlers

Is Your Toddler Suddenly a Picky Eater?

Has your once wonderful little foodie suddenly become picky? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! Picky eaters, especially Toddlers who are picky eaters, typically resume normal eating habits as they see fit. There really is no rhyme or reason to most Toddlers who are picky eaters! A Toddler being a picky eater is Normal!

As we found out from our own experience, picky eaters seldom are picky forever! Our best bit of advice, do not make meal time a battleground for your picky eater! As your pediatrician may have told you, your baby will never starve him or herself and neither will your Toddler starve him or herself!

Your job is to cook up fresh, healthy and nutritious meals. Your Toddler’s job is to eat the meals.

Allow your Toddler to eat on his or her terms.

It’s quite normal for toddlers to go through a finicky-eating phase for emotional, development, and physical reasons, according to Sal Severe, PhD, author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will Too! (Viking, 2002). Not surprisingly, 95 percent of picky eaters are between the ages of 2 and 4. Here are some of the reasons children often become picky eaters at this stage:

1. Little children thrive on routine and are sometimes fearful of new people or experiences. All those new tastes, textures, and smells can be overwhelming to a toddler, so he’s less likely to try an unfamiliar food.

2. Refusing food is a toddler’s way of declaring her independence. As your child becomes mobile and reaches more developmental milestones, she gains a sense of her own capabilities and starts to have more opinions about what she wants to do and where she wants to go. It’s a common struggle between children and their parents — kids at this age are testing the world around them, and the dinner table is no exception, notes Loraine Stern, MD, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

3. Food fights allow a toddler to observe cause and effect. There’s nothing more satisfying to a toddler than seeing what his parents will do when he asserts his will.

4. Some kids don’t need much food. Your little one isn’t a baby anymore. Babies grow at a tremendous pace, says Dr. Stern, but 1- to 3-year-olds grow more slowly. In fact, there are weeks when they don’t grow at all. A toddler’s appetite will vary according to that particular growth period — sometimes she’ll be hungrier and need more food than at other times. And since a toddler’s stomach is small, she doesn’t need much food to feel satisfied.

What do the Experts say about Picky Eaters?

The Yale Guide to Children’s Nutrition Status, by William V. Tamborlane, M.D. suggests the following to help make mealtime more productive and less stressful for everyone:

  Prepare relatively simple meals.

  Present the child with small portions on a small plate.

  Allow the child to ask for more food and drink.

  Do not insist that the child finish the meal before having dessert OR

  Consider serving the dessert with the meal to de-emphasize dessert.

  Praise the child for trying new foods and for exhibiting appropriate behavior at the table.

  Use mealtime as a time to discuss positive things such as good deeds, good behaviors or nice work done that day.

12 October 2007 – Picky Eaters – It’s genetic

The New York Times had an article on 10 October 2007 that we just found out about. We thought you might be interested in it too! Here’s a snippet:

Researchers examined the eating habits of 5,390 pairs of twins between 8 and 11 years old and found children’s aversions to trying new foods are mostly inherited.

The message to parents: It’s not your cooking, it’s your genes.

The study, led by Dr. Lucy Cooke of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London, was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in August. Dr. Cooke and others in the field believe it is the first to use a standard scale to investigate the contribution of and environment to childhood neophobia.

According to the report, 78 percent is genetic and the other 22 percent environmental.

“People have really dismissed this as an idea because they have been looking at the social associations between parents and their children,” Dr. Cooke said. “I came from a position of not wanting to blame parents.” You may read the entire article