Although toddlers are beginning to develop food preferences, they also can be unpredictable about what they may want for a particular meal on a specific day.
How to Handle Picky Eaters
Their favorite food one day will end up being thrown on the floor the next. The food that they had spit out, day after day, will unexpectedly turn into the one they can't get enough of.
Picky eating is often the norm for toddlers. For weeks, they may eat 1 or 2 preferred foods—and nothing else. They may eat a big breakfast or lunch and then show no interest in eating much of anything else the rest of the day. Don't become exasperated with this kind of behavior. Just make healthy food choices available to your youngster, and acknowledge that his appetite or food preferences today may be quite different than yesterday's or tomorrow's. That's just the way toddlers are.
What Not to Give to Picky Eaters
With time, your child's appetite and eating behaviors will reach some equilibrium. He'll find something he likes in a variety of healthy foods without much or any prompting from you. In the meantime, try dealing with picky eaters by giving them finger foods or table foods that they can feed to themselves. Just make sure these are healthy food choices such as slices of banana or small pieces of toast. Also avoid finger foods that could cause choking. Children don't fully develop the grinding motion involved in chewing until they're about 4 years old, so stick with foods that are small and easy to chew and avoid those that might be swallowed whole and get stuck in your toddler's windpipe.
That means avoiding:
- Raw carrots
- Large sections of hot dogs
- Raw celery
- Raw cherries with pits
- Whole grapes
- Round, hard candy
- Peanuts and other nuts
Even when your toddler is feeding himself, it's a good idea to sit with him while he eats. He's also old enough to join the rest of the family in eating at the dinner table. Use these family meals to model the healthy eating that you want your child to adopt for the rest of his life.
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)