3 Tips That Has Helped Deal With Feeding My Picky Toddler

Before I had my daughter, whenever I came across children who were picky eaters, I was always sympathetic about the problem. A lot of factors contribute to a kid’s limited choice of foods, especially when they are very young, and parents have little to no control over many of them. “I totally understand!” I would say, while watching my friends’s little children munch through an entire basket of French fries at the restaurant and eat nothing else. But to be honest, deep down I would always think to myself – ‘It’s going to be different when I have a child;  I’ll make sure I do everything right.

And then few years later I had my little girl. I did everything “right” and yet my 3 year old daughter is still a picky eater. Laughable eh?! But yes that is the reality when it comes to picky eaters.

When my little girl began eating solid foods, I started with homemade khichdi and fruit purées instead of bland cereals.  Overtime I blended up baby-friendly portions of the dinners I made for my husband and myself, so she could taste everything we were eating. When it was time for finger foods, she snacked on little pieces of roti, tiny bits of aloo tikki etc. She ate happily and hardly ever refused anything I put in front of her. It was all happening!

But then over the next few years as she grew and learned how to say ‘No’ suddenly everything changed! She started refusing a lot of vegetables and fruits. She hated so many things we as a couple loved. She spat out food when she disliked them. She started picking up fistfuls of food and dropping them on the floor while giving me a look which very clearly said “Amma your food is not food”. And there lay the truth right in front of me my little girl was just another picky toddler.

Although, I knew this was all developmentally normal; toddlers are learning to assert themselves, but emotionally, feeding a picky toddler on a daily basis can be frustrating, stressful, and ultimately extremely exhausting.

But although my daughter is still quite picky, I have gotten much better in how I deal with it, over the last three years. Here’s what I’ve learned about making it more bearable:

I. Division Of Responsibility At The Table Is A Great Start

Division of responsibility at the table is a great start

‘Parents (or other caregivers) are responsible for the what, when, and where of feeding, and children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating.’  This line is from registered dietitian and family therapist Ellyn Satter who is a recognized expert on feeding children.

I have not started putting my effort into what I offer, not what my daughter eats. You get your parenting points when it goes on the table. Once you get the meal on the table, it is up to her to decide what and how much she will eat. Mealtimes now involves very less coaxing and stressing. I try to plan meals that my husband and I enjoy and also include at least one thing I know my daughter will eat. Overall, our family table has been a much happier place.

II. My Husband Is Better At Feeding Our Toddler Than I Am

My Husband Is Better At Feeding Our Toddler Than I Am

“You take things too personally!” my husband said once when there was a huge showdown when my little girl refused a meal I had so painstakingly prepared. I can’t help it. If I’ve just spent the last hour in the kitchen making a dinner that attempts to be healthy and appealing, and satisfying for two adults with adventurous tastes and one picky child —and then that child takes one look at his plate and starts emphatically shaking her head and screaming her lungs out — well, I just cannot be calm and proceed to lovingly feeding the child.

But my husband is! So he sits next to the high chair and points out all the things on my daughter’s plate, talks about it so animatedly until we all settle down to eat peacefully.

III. I Have Become Patient And I’m Confident She Will Get Better At This

I Have Become Patient And I’m Confident She Will Get Better At This

Now at 3 years, I’m starting to see signs that my daughter’s food horizons are expanding as she is exposed to the same foods again and again. For a while, I didn’t bother putting things I knew she hated on her plate. Why waste it if I knew she was just going to ignore it? But now I have observed she miraculously has had a breakthrough with a food or dish she previously hated and I realize that the harder and longer road is the one most likely to get us to a good place in the end. Ultimately patience pays off.

I am confident I will have a less-picky eater one day. Just because she isn’t eating eggplant and raw carrot salads right now doesn’t mean all the effort I put in at the beginning was for nothing. I still take utmost care about what I offer her, I have learnt to start respecting the amount she decides to eat and I’ve come to realize that is what it means to do it “right” with a kid her age. She’ll get there, I hope — but it probably won’t be while she’s a toddler. And that’s perfectly fine.

Do you have a picky toddler; are you in the middle of this stressful situation now? Would you care to share your survival tips?

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