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“Help! My toddler is a fussy eater”: 7 tactics to encourage better eating habits

Having a toddler who’s a fussy eater can leave you feeling frustrated and powerless. All you want is for your child to be healthy and happy. 

The first thing to remember is that fussy eating is normal, and it’s something your child will probably grow out of. It’s also developmentally appropriate for a toddler to start having preferences for their food – after all, they’re exploring their environment but also experimenting with boundaries and independence.

If you’ve been ‘blessed’ with a fussy-eating toddler, there are some things that could help. Here are some ideas to get you started.   

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7 tips to encourage your toddler’s eating

1. Added nutrients for peace of mind

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2. Offer new foods early and often

Once your baby is ready for solids, introduce new foods as often as you can. The key is persistence. It’s thought that parents need to offer children new foods anywhere between 10 and 15 times before they will try it. So if at first you don’t succeed, try and try (and try and try …) again. When offering new foods, make sure there is something on the plate you know they’ll eat – just in case. 

3. Encourage independence

It’s possible that your toddler is using meal time as a way to explore their independence. While this is normal, it doesn’t make it any easier for parents. The good news is that you can accommodate this desire a few ways:

  • offer finger foods so they can feed themselves
  • let them decide where the food goes on the plate
  • get them involved with the meal preparations
  • offer a choice – for example, you could say, “Would you like bananas or berries?”

4. Make mealtimes happy

If mealtimes are seen as fun family time, your child will want to repeat the experience. Before you know it, they’ll be eating what you’re eating. Do you best to keep stress to a minimum (for everyone), and never force your children to eat certain foods. Once you’ve offered them food, you can say something like, “Try this; it’s yum.” If they aren’t interested, let it go and try again another time.

5. Set time limits

If you hadn’t noticed, toddlers are very busy little beings with lots to do. Set time limits for dinner so they don’t drag on. If your toddler hasn’t eaten in this time, clear the table and get on with your routine. If your child does seem distracted before dinner, try having quiet time before eating so they can focus on the lovely meal you have prepared. 

6. Role model positive eating habits

Your children watch everything you do, including your approach to mealtimes. Make sure they aren’t picking up any bad habits from you. Try to eat a variety of foods for each meal and be mindful that your kids are always watching. They may also be more interested in what’s on your plate than their own, so you can show them you’re enjoying it then offer them a try. 

7. Play with food

Once you get past the mess, playing with food helps children prone to fussy eating in a couple of ways. They can get to know new foods using all their senses, which allows them to become more familiar with different cuisines. Playing with food also makes mealtimes more fun and less stressful for everyone – including you!

Bon appetit!

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