Mealtimes for parents with a fussy toddler are often a never-ending battle. Here’s how to win the war…
A child is a child is a child – that’s the rule of thumb. He or she will not be able to think at your level – the logic of eating well and healthy is moot. And then some kids are just born picky! Instead of turning mealtimes into epic battles,, be the clever parent and trick your little darling into healthy eating. Here’re are a few things that worked for me…
- Remix it: Offer your child a plate that’s full of variety and color. Just one item on the plate will not hold his/her interest for long and s/he is unlikely to have his/her fill. So take a compartmentalized tray -- make do with an ice-cube tray if need be -- and put in different, but nutritious, foods in each compartment – veggie sticks, rice or pasta, cheese, soft-boiled egg, crunchy fried chicken, some fruit and more.
- Dip it, Spread it: Children like messy. In fact, children are messy so keep the food a bit messy – disguise veggies as sauces and dips, spread some peanut butter and jam, top with pureed fruit and cream cheese. Let him/her make a mess if it means that s/he eats well.
- Blitz it: Smoothies, shakes, or even a food puree is okay if your child is in a solid-refusing phase. Milk and fruit are the basis of a healthy meal for a young child; add on to it to increase nutrition – milk, mango and a cereal smoothie is a perfectly healthy combination.
- Package it: You don’t have to serve rice on a plate -- in a bowl would do just fine. Or try arranging that omelette into bite-sized pieces on her toy utensil set. Or how about his favorite train carrying pieces of foil wrapped fruit to him? Make mealtimes fun times and you’ll see your child’s interest in food grow exponentially.
- Share it: If your child is undergoing an I-hate-food stage, try inviting over some friends of his who are active eaters. Children-see-children-do, so sometimes mimicking a strong eater can alter your child’s outlook towards food.
- Respect it: Little tummies can only take so much. If pecking or grazing is more your child’s style, serve up smaller but frequent meals or snacks instead of turning mealtimes into a battle that ends in tears on either side.
- Twist it: If your little one is insisting on cereal for dinner and pasta for breakfast – seriously, give in – prioritize your needs. Eating and eating nutritiously is more important than the “order” of eating. Sooner or later your little one will be eating his/her favorite brand of Chocos or Cheerios for breakfast like everyone else -- till then just give him/her what s/he wants (just keep it nutritious).
- Relax it: S/He may seem as energized as a bunny, but eat like a sparrow. Don’t fret, children have small tummies and they graze through the day. S/He may not eat much at meals, but if s/he snacks throughout the day on healthy stuff, there’s only so much food s/he can intake. Also, some days s/he may eat less, but make up for it the next. Relax, breathe – this too shall pass!
Last little tip: the next time your fussy little-one is squirming like crazy on the chair, compromise a little. If you sit on too-high a stool with your feet dangling, you too would be squirming like crazy. Get him/her a baby-sized chair; if s/he’s sitting comfortably, meal times may not be such a battle all the time.
Remember that what may work for you once, may not work the second or even the third time. Keep trying with patience and love, and sooner or later your little one will give in to food – it’s a basic human need…