Are you turning your toddler into a picky eater? Accidentally making things WORSE instead of better?
Toddlerhood is a time of BIG feelings, major struggles, meltdowns, and battles. These little humans are trying so hard to be independent and in the process drive us totally nuts. Trust me, I am right there with you as I raise my three year old and my five year old.
But well-meaning parents can actually be making things WORSE. So, here are my top secret meal plan do's and don'ts when creating a family meal plan with a picky eater.
Don’t cater your meal plan for toddlers only.
Mac and cheese again. Chicken strips and fries on rotation. Boring. No.
This will actually make your kids MORE selective. A healthy meal plan for kids includes a variety of foods. Start by asking yourself what do YOU want to eat? When meal planning, I always tell parents to be “considerate without catering.” Variety of flavours and textures are great. Use fats to make food taste better and make foods easier to eat. But including spicy foods, tough meats, or bitter veggies (like kale) not so much.
Don’t make them have “three more bites” before they leave the table/get a cookie/ etc.
This tells kids we, as adults, know more about how much they need to grow and thrive then they do. Which is not true. Kids who recognize and respond to their hunger and fullness cues become adults who can trust their body to know how much they need. It also tells kids the food is “so bad” they need to plow through it to get the “reward” of dessert.
Don’t make sweets a big deal.
When creating a family meal plan with kids, make sure you serve dessert with the meal. Shocked? It is just food after all. Take the excitement out of sweets by serving them with the meal. One “child-size” portion only but put it right on the plate. No conditions. No requirements. Desert just is.
Do allow your kids to use ANY condiments with meals.
Ask them what they prefer? Ranch dressing? Ketchup? Hummus? Honey mustard sauce? Dips and sauces are the “training wheels” of learning to like new foods. Don’t worry about the salt and sugar in them unless they are drinking them straight (which I don’t recommend haha).
Do serve food “family style” in the middle of the table.
Let them decide (from the food provided) which of these foods do they want to have on the plate. What if they only choose bread? That’s ok. It’s their choice to decide which foods they eat.
Do have a requirement that they sit at the table with you for meals.
They don’t have to eat but they do have to sit. Start with one minute per year of age and work up to two minutes per year. Use a timer if needed, we like the sand timers you can order online.
When creating a family meal plan with kids, do ask for your kid's input and help.
Get them to help select veggies and fruits. Choose crackers and cereal. Help with the meal prep- washing, peeling, slicing (with a child-safe knife), stirring, pouring, etc. The more involvement they have, the more BUY IN you will get. It also increases their exposure to new foods in a non-threatening (e.g. non-meal time) setting. They will be more comfortable with the foods and may even surprise you and try something new.
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