I started my daughter on solid foods at 6 months old, following the Baby Led Weaning approach to feeding. This is a more natural, independent way for babies to learn to self feed by offering regular table foods, instead of pureed baby food. Despite the fear that many parents may have against it, it’s a great way for babies to explore new foods and a fantastic sensory and fine motor experience.
Since then, she’s been a great eater. She’ll eat pretty much everything and actually loves fruits, vegetables, and protein. I highly recommend this approach to start solids with your baby and if you’d like more information on it, there are plenty of resources out there about what it is and how to start (I’ll mention them at the bottom of this post).
However, there are times when she does get a bit picky and I need to get creative and find ways to sneak the healthy foods in without her noticing. Sometimes the trick to get your picky toddler to try new foods is just getting it in their mouth and they will realize they like it!
There are so many factors why your toddler may be picky with foods. Maybe he doesn’t like the texture (too mushy or too hard), the color (only will eat orange foods and not green foods), the taste, doesn’t like foods touching each other, or just a behavior issue. It’s best to first figure out what the underlying cause of the pickiness comes from so you can best address the problem.
Toddlers are also known to do what they want, when they want. You may notice your child will eat more than you for a couple days and then go a week eating like a bird. They can be inconsistent and that’s completely normal!
As long as your child is gaining weight in a healthy manner, you shouldn’t have to worry about their picky eating. They are getting all the nutrients that they need during these growing years, even if their primary diet is chicken nuggets and french fries. However, if you’re concerned about your child’s nutrition, there are Toddler Multivitamins available for them to take.
How to get your picky toddler to try new foods
Eating shouldn’t have to be a struggle everyday. Follow these tips on how to get your picky toddler to try new foods and hopefully expand their food choices.
Be consistent and don’t stop trying
This is the #1 Rule! Don’t just assume that because they won’t eat a certain food one day, they just don’t like it and won’t eat it again. Keep trying it for many different meals and eventually they should pick it up and at least try it.
Start early with a variety of foods with spices and seasonings
This tip is more for preventing picky eaters. As early as you start giving solids to your baby, you should be mixing in different flavors and spices. Your baby can tolerate a little bit of it and it will help them to not only like bland flavors.
Even if you’re starting on purees or have upgraded to chunkier purees, don’t be afraid to add a dash of cinnamon, garlic powder, or black pepper to their meals.
Offer the less favorable food first
Don’t expect your child to eat his broccoli after he just finished a bowl of his favorite mac and cheese. Give the least desirable food at the beginning of the meal (for every meal possible) and don’t offer another food until they have tried it, or at the minimum, just tolerate it on their tray.
Not giving them sweets and snacks
If you start early with giving them snacks and sweet treats, they’re obviously going to gravitate toward unhealthy foods. Try to hold off on junk foods until you really have to give it. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for failure when it comes to having your children eat healthy.
I try not to let my daughter eat anything with a lot of sugar in it or snack foods like chips. She ends up getting it if we are at parties or another child has it, but she knows it’s not a regular thing, therefore doesn’t ask for it. She thinks that blueberries and green beans are snacks because that’s what comes along with us!
Hide foods in quesadillas or grilled cheese
You can hide a lot of foods in a hot tortilla or bread with cheese. I’ve thrown in peas, carrots, corn, chicken, tomato. Just make sure it’s chopped up really small and hope they won’t notice.
Spread on toast
This is a good way to have them eat soft spreadable foods, such as avocado, peanut/almond/cashew butter, jelly, cheese spread.
Baked in muffins or breads
There are awesome recipes out there for healthy zucchini bread, carrot muffins, banana pancakes, etc. with no sugar. This is a way to sneak in those vegetables in a tasty treat. Just make sure to use recipes that don’t contain sugar. Try Avocado & Blueberry Muffins or Sweet Potato Muffins
Mixed with Mac and cheese
My daughter loves her noodles and will eat a whole bowl of it. However, I want tp get something more nutritious in there so I sneak mixed vegetables in. I know I’m not fooling anyone, especially a toddler, but she doesn’t mind it at all!
Mixed in with mashed potatoes or rice
If you’re spoon feeding your child, it should be easy to sneak the tough foods in with mashed potatoes or rice. However, some kids are too smart for this and will reach in their mouth and pull out the food they don’t like. Still worth a try!
Related post: Simple tips to make mealtime less messy
Use a condiment
Sometimes just a little ketchup, honey mustard, ranch, or any type of sauce could get your child to eat an unfavored food like chicken or ground beef.
Pureed with tomato/apple sauce
If you’re really in a bind with getting veggies into your child, last resort could be to puree some vegetables (carrots, zucchini) into tomato sauce. You can even try it by pureeing fruits with apple sauce or yogurt.
Ok this may be obvious, but it works! I can typically get my daughter to eat anything once I turn on the tv, play her favorite music, sing her favorite songs, or dance like a crazy person in front of her. Once I get her distracted or laughing, she’ll eat whatever I put in front of her!
Don’t make it a battle
You don’t want to make meal time a horrifying experience for your child so don’t fight with them over foods. Keep trying, but if they are reluctant, don’t push it.
Pediatricians will even tell you not to force food on your children. It can often lead to resistance and could backfire into a severe aversion to foods or even obesity. They will eat when they’re ready.
Let me know if you have tried any of these strategies to get your picky toddler to try new foods and if they work for your child!
Baby Led Weaning Resources: