Raise your hand if your kiddo falls into one of these categories:
- The carb-ey — eats mostly potato chips, bread, crackers
- The guzzler — all they do is drink milk or juice!
- The skeptic — got about 4 safe foods they’ll actually eat
- The “my foods can't touch!” — these meals were social distancing before it was cool
If your hand shot up, then you may have a picky eater! And we’re guessing mealtimes have not been fun. So we’re sharing the strategies on how to encourage your picky eater toddler to try new foods and get more nutrients into their growing bodies.
Reasons for Picky Eating
Before we can help our picky eaters, we need to understand why these habits form in the first place. And the reason is a lot simpler than you think!
To explain, let’s take a trip down memory lane — do you remember what it was like to learn to drive?
You were nervous and constantly checking your mirrors. You mentally reviewed the steps for reversing before touching the pedal: check your mirrors, press the brake, shift the gear, ease off the brake, keep checking your mirrors.
And when a car came, that stress went through the roof! Your brain might’ve went a little something like this:
“Hmm, they’re kinda far. Maybe I should go for it. Nah, let’s just wait, better to be safe. Okay definitely could’ve gone by now. Ugh, why did I wait?”
“Great, now someone is calling. Don’t answer, just ignore it. But what if it’s important? What if my plans are cancelled? Okay, just answer, not in a hurry anyway.”
Yea, it was stressful because driving was hard. And all those decisions and situations made it harder.
And this is what eating is like for our kiddos.
The reason picky eating habits can form is because eating is hard!
There are many mental and physiological processes taking place that little things (ones we don’t even think about) can cause picky eating habits to form.
Here are a few common ones:
- Tummy troubles
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Medical conditions
If our kiddo has bloating or constipation, they’re not going to want to eat. And even nutrient deficiencies can lower appetite.
But the most misunderstood reason, and one we tend to make worse, is stress.
Since eating is hard, it’s a given that mealtimes are stressful. And the more we get upset or use phrases like “one more bite,” the more pressure we’re putting on the situation.
And when stress increases, appetite decreases! So let’s focus on strategies that make mealtimes easier and fun.
How to encourage a picky eater toddler
Pediatric Registered Dietitian, Danielle Zold, gave us a simple way to turn our kiddo’s eating habits around.
When it comes to mealtimes, the Picky Eating Expert says — get PEP-py!
P - Play with food
E - Exposures
P - No Pressure
Play with food
Our kids are little scientists who are always exploring the world around them. And, as Danielle says, “if your child doesn’t know what a food feels like in their hands, they aren’t going to know what it feels like in their mouths.”
Studies show that the more a child sees, touches, and interacts with food, the more likely they are to eat it.
“It can take 15 - 30 exposures before a kid will try a new food,” says Danielle.
So things like having family-style meals where kids are introduced to new foods without the pressure of eating it, will increase exposure.
And we have to remember that our kids are always watching us. The more they see mom and dad eating healthy foods, the more likely they’ll try them.
So keep serving your little one healthy foods and increasing that exposure even if they refuse to touch it.
This one is big because us parents really tend to get this wrong. We get so frustrated when our kiddo refuses to eat that we bring more stress to an already stressful situation (remember the car!)
So instead of saying things like, “one more bite” or rewarding them with dessert for eating all their food, let’s try to lower stress by trying these tricks:
⇒ Describing the food — color or texture
⇒ Praising their amazing eating skills
⇒ Asking them about their day
And remember, make it fun!
It’s all about developing a healthy relationship with food that will last longer than Tuesday night’s dinner.
But we also don’t want to miss out on important nutrients during these key developmental years.
And that’s where every “picky eater mom’s best friend” comes in — vitamins!
Picky Eater Vitamins
When it comes to vitamins, keep in mind that we’re filling in nutrition gaps. And studies show that the 2 most common nutrient deficiencies in healthy children are Iron and Vitamin D.
This is a big deal for choosing a kid’s multivitamin for 3 reasons.
- Multivitamins don’t always come with iron
- Cheap forms of iron can cause tummy troubles
- There are 2 forms of Vitamin D used in supplements
To tackle these common nutrient deficiencies, choose a multivitamin with:
⇒ Carbonyl Iron rather than iron salts (ferrous sulfate). Carbonyl Iron is gentle on the tummy and less likely to cause side effects. It’s also the preferred type for children supplementation
⇒ Vitamin D3 rather than Vitamin D2. D3 is the superior form of Vitamin D and also known as “the sunshine vitamin”
For picky eaters, kid’s chewable vitamins or dissolvable vitamins are a better bet than liquid or pill form.
And here’s where Renzo’s Vitamins takes the cake!
At Renzo’s, we know that yumminess is most important for Picky Eaters, but it’s quality for Picky Parents.
That’s why we have the pickiest taste testers who say Renzo’s is LOVED by picky eaters. And with no sugar or junk, APPROVED by picky parents too!
So if your toddler is developing picky eater habits, keep these things in mind:
- it’s all about a healthy, long-term relationship with food
- get PEP-py!
- add in picky eater vitamins to fill in nutrition gaps