Preventing pickiness in young toddlers
by Roya from Oregon
There’s nothing cuter than making the transition from liquids to solids in the first year of your baby's life. Watching little chubby baby fingers pick up tiny sticks of carrots or watching their facial expressions change as they get their first lick of an orange is adorable. But then suddenly, the baby turns 1, and is marking their transition into toddlerhood with signs of pickiness. After my son Zayn turned 1, he was suddenly refusing all his favourite foods and I could anticipate mealtime becoming a stressful situation.
Now that Zayn is almost 2 years old, and after hours of researching online and reading books on feeding babies, I think I’ve got a handle on things. I’d like to share some tips to make mealtimes easier and ensure you don’t raise a picky toddler. These tips can help you set up healthy eating habits that they can use throughout their lifetime. Building healthy habits at a young age will not only set your child up for success, but will set the family up for years of enjoyable meals shared together.
1. Keep offering new (and old) foods.
Don’t shy away from offering a new food because it was rejected before. In my case, I offered Zayn zucchini a few times a week cooked different ways. He threw the steamed zucchini on the ground, shouted “ NO” at the air-fried version, but when cooked in soup, he picked up all the pieces with his hand and ate them happily. Toddlers are unpredictable creatures and may change their minds depending on the size, texture, or colour of a food. Experimenting with different textures or cooking the food differently can definitely help expose them to different versions.
2. Offer new foods with familiar foods.
This goes with the last point. When offering a new food, always offer it with a familiar food. For example, if your child likes rice, offer the zucchini along with the rice. This lowers their anxiety about a whole new meal they’ve never seen before and makes them more inclined to accept and try the new food.
3. Let them get messy.
For young toddlers, utensils are now intriguing and they may reach for spoons or forks. Let them reach for the spoon or fork and don’t worry about them making a mess. I let Zayn feed himself yogurt with a spoon and this became a joyous and fun activity for him. My tips are placing a splat mat under the high chair and making sure to have a bib on.
4. Encourage healthy eating habits.
Make mealtimes enjoyable by modeling healthy eating habits. Even though your toddler is young, they are already watching and copying everything you do. Try to always eat at the table and pull up their high chair. Engage in conversations so they learn that mealtimes can be a social experience.
5. Three meals, two snacks.
Your 1 year old is now ready for 3 meals and 2 snacks daily. Keep snack times consistent and don’t offer large portions. Good examples can be: baby food pouches, warmed peas, blueberries or raspberries, avocados, cheerios, and cheese. I try to offer a fruit or a vegetable serving with a protein or a carbohydrate to ensure overall healthiness.
Roya is a Canadian who has lived in Oregon for 5 years. She has her BA in English literature and works as an interpreter and translator and attends school for a science degree. In her free time, she enjoys reading and being outdoors hiking and camping and spending time with her two young kids and her husband.
Want more tips on feeding your 1-year-old child? wichealth.org has a free online lesson called Feeding Your 1-Year-old. Find it on wichealth.org in the Children Ages 1-5 category!