Recently a friend of mine posted a cry out for help: “My toddler just won’t eat… ” my first thought was that I have just never experienced that… but that so wouldn’t be true!!! The things that really worry us one week, as we march along the learning curve of parenting, quickly becomes something that we have learnt and we move onto the next learning experience. The jump from infant feeding to children feasting around the dinner table does involve a fair number of steps… not least of all somewhere along the line starting solids… and the whole adventure of trying new tastes.
Between the first and second year of life our little folk have to learn so many new things and there are so many new adventures to enjoy. Food is just one of those new experiences… like a walk in the park and a dig in the garden… a taste of baby tomatoes is just another interesting part of a small persons day. Don’t for a moment make the mistake that little people need a whole plethora of eating equipment and specially prepared meals. It really is quite easy to incorporate small folk into the typical, daily family feasts of breakfast, lunch and supper.
So here you go Se7en + 1 Tips to help Toddlers Tackle New Tastes…
- Let Them Help:
- Get Gardening:
- What They Don’t Know They Won’t Miss:
- Celebrate the Things They Do Eat:
- Forget About juice:
- Change the Game:
- Kids Are CopyCats:
- Keep it Fun:
My kids love to help prepare meals and I am happy to engage them… our youngest almost collapses in horror if a scrap of lettuce is on his dinner plate but can not stop stuffing lettuce, in fact any greens into his tummy, in the name of helping with dinner. I could say: “Stop picking and wait until dinner…” but I am all for seizing the moment and embracing a wild variety of fruit and veg however it goes in. I have a feeling that it doesn’t really matter when new flavours are tried… but often by the time we settle down to a meal it is simply too late and the enthusiastic window of “experimenting” has closed and been replaced with a hungry and cranky little person. If my kids have feasted on vegi’s during preparations then I just put a tiny bit of dinner on their plate… they can always ask for more… but when you aren’t that hungry to be faced with a challenging plate of food can be really off-putting.
Even my non-vegi eater will eat anything that has grown in the garden. He is quite happy to eat banks of spinach… if we grew it ourselves. You don’t need a massive garden… our vegetable patch is really tiny but we produce lots of lettuces and tomatoes and all my kids love eating fresh garden salad as often as possible. If you don’t have a garden, then even a tomato plant on the kitchen counter inspires small people!!! Somehow vegetables fresh from the earth are so much more appealing than those that come prepackaged and pre-prepared!!!
You can quite easily avoid any foods that you don’t want your little people to eat by not having them around… I remember my kids granny being absolutely appalled that our kids didn’t eat shop bought biscuits and candy when they were tiny… “Shame…” but seriously, just read a label on them and you might never touch them again yourself!!! There is no reason that healthy food can’t be a treat – surly that should be the message: A couple of crunchy grapes or a slice of melon… yummy. In fact, all my kids love frozen vegetables straight from the freezer, a favourite treat!!! I just can’t think of a reason to argue with that!!!
Don’t worry if your small people hate certain flavours… if your child hates pears and loves apples – then celebrate those apples. I am sure that as our taste buds develop over time and so does our enjoyment of different foods… just keep on trying. I always tell my children that they will like a flavour when they are older and they just need to keep on tasting it. “You are going to love mushrooms when you are four!!!” had a certain three and three-quarter year old gal feasting on mushrooms!!! A few of my children have always loved and adored olives and others may never like them!!! In the scheme of all the dozens of different flavours of food we all prefer not to eat a couple of things and thats ok… as long as we eat a wide variety we will be fine.
My kids were appalled to discover that you can buy fruit juice for babies – gasp… babies drink milk. If you are nursing or if you are formula feeding babies need milk. Juice is just watery sugar… read the label: first ingredient (and so the largest component) is probably water, followed by sugar… and maybe some fruity flavourants. Not exactly what you want to be filling tummies with. If you want your child to have the benefits of fruit then feed it fruit. And fruit isn’t just apples and bananas… there are dozens of interesting toddler friendly fruits: Pineapple, melons, berries,… just keep on trying flavours and you will be astonished at what your child will enjoy. After a year I introduce them to water, a tiny bit in a non-breakable cup… at first they only play with it… so the less you give them the better and then add more if they ask for more or as they get more skilled. All my kids only drink water. Water is a thirst quencher, juice is a very occasional treat.
Sometimes a change of venue can make a small person enthusiastic about food again… if they always eat in the same place then change it up… if you always use a highchair think about a picnic under the table instead. My first born used a high-chair because I thought you had to use one – all my other children have sat on my knee and picked off my plate until they outgrew my knee… but sometimes for any number of reasons our kids get in a food rut, and they are simply bored… I never go to elaborate lengths creating incredible food pictures to entice them… it is easy enough to introduce something new or give them the same old, whatever… don’t look at an individual meal as a reflection of their whole diet. There was a time when one of my kids would only have noodles on his dinner plate – fine with me!!! He ate a wild variety of food during preparations and spent ages feasting on different fruits as his morning snack… over the period of a day or two he was getting what he needed.
When a friend told me that her child wouldn’t eat anything except a muffin from the coffee shop. I had to smile and ask her what she ate for breakfast… well a muffin from the coffee shop!!! And on their way home together she would stop for a coffee and guess what another muffin!!! Often we want our kids to eat perfectly healthy food, but we have different rules for ourselves. Kids like to eat what everyone else is eating… which is why I never make special meals for my toddlers or any of my kids. If there is nothing on my plate that they can nibble on then there is probably nothing on that plate that I should be eating either.
And the se7en + 1th tip…
I know this might seem obvious, but often we find it hard to be inspired about food – and our kids are the same. We read books about outings, we sing songs about bedtime… but food can often get a bland rap. We lurch from meal to meal saying we don’t feel like prepping or cleaning up – a little enthusiasm can go a long way. Instead of thinking of food as three meals a day, think of it as an activity. Read books about food, you even get board book cook books… and all my small children have loved cookbooks and not only children’s cook books – they often want to taste something they have seen in a recipe book… if that is what inspires them then go for it!!! If you have an artistic eater, and I have one of those… then let them create pictures with their snack… a fruity face is always fun to munch on.
All that being said… I am a great advocate of nursing and let my kids nurse forever… well almost!!! I am thrilled if they fall ill, get a tummy bug or if they are teething, had a late night and are cranky and they are still nursing because I know they will get the nutrition they need. I know that the food they are getting on their “plate” is a tasting adventure but they are still getting a lot of nutrition from milk. Honestly when people say: “You must wean, so that your children will eat solids!!!” You have to think: “You must be crazy!!!” All that good nutrition of baby milk being replaces by mushy meals just cannot rock my boat. If your baby is a little off colour or just not in the mood for trying new foods… be patient, it will come. Rest assured I have evidence… of a child who only started solids at about eighteen months; Another that has never ever eaten meat, for animal rights reasons (yes you get vegetarians from age zero) – and he is obviously fine and grown into a hulking teen. Another that isn’t mad about vegetables… but will eat anything we have grown. The list of myth breakers is phenomenal. Just like any area of parenting, folk have very strong opinions and have no problem sharing them and telling new moms what to do. Nobody knows your baby like you do… A perfectly energetic, curious, toddler that is generally in good spirits probably doesn’t have a nutrition problem. And in the scheme of life you need to pick your fights and concentrate on mastering new experiences, tastes and flavours with joy… and not worry about the details of every single meal.