I hear it all the time “but my toddler wont eat that!”
Picky eaters can be so frustrating, but as a single mother of 2 girls under 5, Ive found a few tried and true pieces of advice that might help you on your journey to broccoli town.
- Cook with your kids: This is HUGE. The biggest reason why kids dont want to eat vegetables is because theyre unknown. And unknown is scary. They dont know if its going to taste bad or be spicy and unfortunately one bad experience can turn one soggy pea experience into “everything green is mushy and gross.” Stop pushing them out of the kitchen, let them get their hands in, and be patient. This is more about them learning and trusting that rushing to get food on the table.
- Stop boiling vegetables: I think this is where a lot of us get our veggie nightmares-mushy soggy bland steamed, boiled veggies. Not only are you soaking up all the water, but you arent seasoning it with anything. And it just becomes this bland flavorless mush. Instead, try something different. sautee, roast, broil, braise, air fry! There are so many ways to cook veggies, why stick with just 1?
- Seasoning is everything: This one is important and kind of ties in #1 and #2. Because bland flavorless veggies are gross, and too much crazy spices can bring onset PTSD from veggie shock. As adults, our pallets are skewed by the foods that we eat. If we’re heavy on salts, sugars and fats, our pallet can actually change. This is especially true if you smoke cigarettes. As a young child, their taste buds are still sensitive. A good rule of thumb is to not over-season, stay away from the stronger flavors like heavy garlic, and no spicy spices. Just because you like fire in your butthole doesnt mean your toddler will want it.
- Walk the Talk: So many people live by the motto “do as i say, not as I do”. this… is a cop-out. Your kids are literally watching you to learn how to be a human. How to laugh, how to eat, how to sleep, how to respond to traffic. If you arent embodying the exact image of health you want them to live by, how can you expect for them to want to do it? Thats really confusing from a child’s POV. If your child is craving McDonalds, TV dinners, and potato chips, a great place to start shifting into a healthier diet for them is fixing your own. Be a role model.
- Take the power back: This is where a little tough love comes in guys. You buy the groceries. You make the decisions. If my kids had their way, they would be eating soy ice cream sandwiches and fruity pebbles for breakfast. The food companies KNOW that their brightly colored food additive sugar loaded junk is directly at eye level to your 4 year old with their favorite cartoon character plastered on the front. Theyre not stupid. This is billions of dollars in marketing at work. We know having a screaming kid in the store is nerve racking and embarassing, but im telling you, the more you give in and buy the sugar loaded junk, the more horrible behavior ensues. Because now they know your breaking point, and theyre hopped up on spiked blood sugar from the second they get up so good luck getting them to sit still or pay attention. You have the wallet. You make the choices. Dont give your power over to your toddler.
So in conclusion for toddlers, food needs to be fun. It needs to be accessible. And it needs to be modeled.
Here are some legitimate reasons to get your toddler’s diet in check and stop giving in with the chicken nuggets:
- Food intolerances can affect behavior: Its true. Your child’s outbursts could very well be the food theyre eating instead of a chemical imbalance. Some food that cause behavior issues include: dairy, eggs, gluten, sugar and soy (1).
- Food additives are sneaky: Food additives, colorings, natural flavors, red dye 40, preservatives… ALL of these have adverse health effects. Check out a few that might be affecting your child through their food here.
Wherever you are in your journey to health and wherever your kids may be, from broccoli loving crunchy hippy kid to the kid that has memorized all of the fast food menus, understand that there is always a couple new little tweaks you can make by just paying attention to the ingredients, taking back the power, and opening up communication and cooperation with you kids.
And above all…. fix your diet too. Because even when you think they’re not… they’re definitely watching.