Around 2 it all changed. White became his favourite colour: potato, pasta and apple. What had happened to my child?
Eating solid food is a new experience for a toddler and picky eating is a normal part of growing up. Thankfully most parents find it is a fleeting stage. I know that by the time he was 31/2, he was up in the mornings raiding the pantry and making his own breakfast; some days with more mess than others. As a parent we strive to understand the change, but let me reassure you that having a child who is a picky eater is not a reflection of your cooking ability or of food itself.
There are some valid reasons why your child may not be eating:
Like most toddlers your child may be starting to make choices for themselves and the first thing they seem to learn is “no”. We need to keep in mind that we are playing a long game. Our end goal is that while they may not like peas today, we can help them to like them in the long term.
When our child is refusing to eat or having a tantrum over only wanting cake, it leads to a certain level of anxiety, negotiation and sometimes caveins. We want to avoid situations like that! So give them some control over the menu and foods that are available. In my house “Finger Food Friday” is a hit. That is the night when I serve food on platters and you pick what you like. It may be chicken, carrot sticks, cheese, grapes etc., in fact what is in my fridge after a long week. You can be a good role model and use healthy foods and just one treat. Children love to imitate and eat what you do. Encourage them to try new things, but if they do and don’t like it, that is fine too.
- Tastes Yuck!
Did you know that it often takes 10 – 15 tries of a food before a child will accept it? Children have more taste buds then adults and so foods are much stronger. It is a reason they are attracted to sweet foods rather than bitter.
If you are encouraging your child to eat vegetables, start with the starchier, sweeter varieties like potato, corn, carrots and peas. Roasting also brings out the sweetness. Have you ever tasted roasted corn?. Another idea is to cancel out the bitterness of some foods by adding sour. Adding lemon to broccoli, zucchini or beans makes them more palatable. Tiny tastes are better than none.
- Not Hungry
After the 1st birthday growth levels out and as they aren’t growing as fast, your child’s hunger reduces. If you feel that your child is not eating but their growth is still on target, you may need to consider if your expectations are not correct.
At meal times, start with a small quantity of the most important food group before moving on to other foods. It is a bit of a trick as when you first sit down you are at your hungriest.
- Dinner is to Rigid
No one wants dinner to be a chore so eat as a family and make it an activity you do together. Try serving small portions and roll out the meal in stages just like tapas: cheese & capsicum/ meat & veg/ grapes. Time is also a factor in meals. Sitting at a table when you are tired is never a good result. Even I get cranky!
- Boring Food
Sorry, I didn’t mean to demean your cooking and I know I am often totally un-inspired when I get home from work. Unfortunately it has been proven that children will eat more when the food is visually inspiring or has a catchy name!
If all else fails just hide the veges in their favourite foods. A friend gave me a recipe for Kidney Bean Chocolate Cake….yep plenty of veg in there and who’s child refuses cake.
If all else fails and your child still won’t eat just remember that it is a passing stage. My Mum always said “I have never met a child who intentionally starved themselves. We just need to stop playing their game”.