Tips for dealing with picky eaters (especially toddlers!)

Friday, October 5, 2018

This post is sponsored by Happy Family Brands but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Do you feel like, despite your best efforts, feeding them healthy foods is a daily struggle? Fear not, mamas! I found an new and amazingly helpful resource to answer all of your tough nutrition questions, as well as some really helpful tips for dealing with picky eaters (especially toddlers!)

My first three kids were the best little eaters ever, I swear. Introducing solid foods was a breeze and they gobbled up pretty much everything I put in front of them, no questions asked. They loved all fruits and veggies, from bananas and berries to broccoli and carrots. I have videos of Harper at 18 months old devouring salmon, quinoa, and asparagus. Seriously, they'd eat anything and everything. Now at 14, 10, and 4 years old, they're still good eaters. 

And because life is funny like that, of course my fourth baby came along and he was a struggle to feed from the start. Nursing him was frustrating because he had latch problems. Then my milk dried up prematurely. Finding a formula that worked for him was a challenge and he didn't seem to care for a majority of the solid foods when the time came. It seemed like for a while there, most days he was content with living off of milk and fishy crackers. He won't eat broccoli, but he'll eat crayons too. 

Thankfully, in this modern age of motherhood, we have countless resources at our fingertips. Obviously milk and fishy crackers will not suffice for a well-balanced toddler diet. So what's a mama to do when their child won't eat? Read on for my best tips! 

Ask a professional

I was thrilled to discover the Happy Mama Mentors from Happy Family Organics. Happy Family is a brand I already know, use, and trust (they make organic formula, snacks, and meals for babies and toddlers) so it was exciting to hear of this awesome, fast, and FREE live chat service on their website, 

Have a questions about feeding? Or just need some quick advice? The Happy Mama Mentors are available 8am to 8pm (EST) Mon- Fri and 8am to 4pm (EST) on the weekends. 

All Happy Mama Mentors are registered dietitians, lactation specialists, or are certified in infant and maternal nutrition. Plus, they're all moms too. Happy Family Organics believes children deserve the best possible nutrition and you deserve to feel confident in how you feed your family. If you have questions, hop on their website and fire away! 

I hopped on myself and asked about trying to get my son to try more vegetables. The Happy Mama Mentor who answered my chat message read my question and connected me with the type of specialist I needed (which in this case, was Rachel, a dietitian). She was really sweet and I felt like she actually wanted to help me. She didn't just give me basic, generic answers either. She asked questions about his eating habits and really tried to understand the situation. 

Rachel took the time to chat with me for about 10 minutes and I felt so much better and prepared to tackle lunch with some fresh ideas and a new approach. It was a great confidence boost and I really needed the support. I highly encourage parents and caregivers to use this if you have feeding questions. It's such an amazing resource to have and it's so quick and easy! 

Appeal to the senses and let them explore 

A lot of times a child will reject a certain food because of it's texture or how it feels. Or maybe they don't like really cold food. Or anything with spice in it. Or food that is green. Eating is very sensory-oriented and new foods can be weird, gross, or even down right scary to kids. Offer a variety of colors, tastes and textures. Let them investigate the food. 
Josiah loves crunchy, sour pickles.

Sometimes they'll just mouth it once and refuse. Sometimes they need to try it for a while. Sometimes they need to touch it, hold it, poke it, lick it, smash it, and play with it before they want to eat it. Let them investigate this new food. They might not eat it the first time you offer it to them, but they might eventually. Which brings me to....

Don't give up too early

Just because you served your child broccoli once and they dumped it on the floor, threw it, spit it out, or otherwise refused it, doesn't mean your child doesn't like broccoli and therefor your should stop offering it to them. Instead, keep putting that broccoli on their plate. Like I mentioned above, it might take a bit of investigating before they try it or like it. 

Actually, it can take around 20 to even 50 times for a child to try a new food sometimes! (Something the dietitian I chatted with online echoed as well. It's true!) 

Don't give up. Offer it again and give them a chance to try it multiple times. Eventually they might just come around. Or sometimes their taste buds mature and something they think they used to not like ends up tasting good later when they try it again! This happened to Harper with the above mentioned asparagus. It took her a good 3-4 tries before she decided she liked it. 

Sneak in healthy stuff when you can

Don't beat yourself up if not every single thing your child eats is nutritious. Supplement here and there by sneaking in extra goodness where you can. Does your child like yogurt? Why not add some chia seeds or granola on top for a boost of protein and fiber (and crunch! Remember the texture thing I mentioned?) Use whole grain pastas and breads and sneak extra veggies in foods like meatloaf or muffins. Try spaghetti squash instead of noodles the next time you make spaghetti (my kids all love it!) There are so many creative ways to sneak veggies and healthier options into their diet. Pinterest has a ton of ideas for new recipes. 

I hope these tips come in handy for anyone dealing with a picky eater. I really do know how  frustrating it is when meals and snack time are a daily struggle. Hang in there. Hopefully your mind and heart is at ease after reading this and please know that the Happy Mama Mentors are there to offer support. Seriously, if you have even the smallest question (or if you've got a doozy) hop over there and ask away. I'm so thankful to have them as a resource and I'm telling all of my mom friends to check them out! 

If you've got a good tip on dealing with picky eaters, feel free to drop it below!
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Melissa Swenson and Lulu & Sweet Pea