August 30, 2012

The Odd Eating Habits of a Toddler


Feeding an infant > Feeding a toddler.

that pasta face may look cute but you can’t see the floor! :-)

Sometimes I feel like banging my head against my granite counter tops during meal times. What happened to the sweet little cutie that would eat whatever I would puree with gusto? Remember when you thought it was so cute when they had a messy face full of sweet potatoes – those were the days. I can’t even remember the transition of it being cute to thinking: “OMG if she throws peas on the floor one more time and I step on them my head is going to explode!”. Then you find some days later, as you try and pry it from your child’s hand/mouth. Nothing like petrified peas to start your day.

I must have jinx myself when people asked me how she ate, I’d answer “she eats everything!” with a big smile on my face because my kid beat the odds. What I didn’t see behind their fake smiles and “oh that’s good” remarks were that they were really saying “HA! Little does she know….”. And yes, joke is on me because now my 16 month old decided she hates everything except pasta, chicken sometimes, peas and fruit.

I always said I will never turn into “that mom” that makes their kid 5 different meals at one sitting because they won’t eat. I cracked one day and actually DID make her more than one meal because she needed to eat and I was desperate. I became the mom I didn’t want to be out of sheer desperation for my sanity and my floor. So the question here is, how do you avoid situations like that and getting your child to eat good, nutritious meals?

Miami Children’s Hospital can help with this popular family issue with some helpful tips that could help you avoid hitting rock bottom.

“Having a picky eater can be frustrating, but it’s certainly not uncommon,” says Erin Corrigan, Manager of Clinical Nutrition at Miami Children’s Hospital. “Kids often take time to accept new flavors and textures, sometimes having to be asked to try a food 10 to 15 times before they even try it. “

Eating is also one of the first ways children tend to express their budding independence—whether this involves eating the same thing every day, or not eating at all. There are plenty of things parents can do to encourage a little bit of independence while still gearing their kids toward healthy eating habits.

Make Meals Fun
“It’s important to remember that healthy eating shouldn’t be a burden,” explains Erin Corrigan. “Try not to let your child’s pickiness become a source of mealtime tension. This will only make things more difficult on both you and your child.”

Instead, look for recipes using ingredients your children like, and encourage them to join you in the supermarket, as well as in preparing food. For instance, if your child likes peanut butter, use it as a topping on celery, apples or bananas. You can also use cookie cutters to make other foods into fun shapes. This, along with combining established favorites with a few new foods in each meal, can help kids become more flexible when eating.

Listen to Your Child
This doesn’t mean that your kids are deciding what’s for dinner. But, with snacks, for example, letting them choose from a selection of two or three healthy options may help make them more cooperative. Meanwhile, pay attention to hunger cues and signs that your child may be full. If a small child is throwing food on the floor or making a mess of what’s on the plate, this may be a statement that he or she is full. 

“When it comes to eating, you should establish a pattern with your children. Food should be eaten during meal and snack times,” notes Erin Corrigan. “If your child decides not to eat during these times, simply offer them food at the next meal. This will help your children develop healthy hunger patterns and not get them use to snacking all day long.”

Avoid Junk Food Traps
Children need a lot of nutrients for their growing bodies, so it’s important for them to eat healthy. Candy, potato chips and other “junk foods” shouldn’t be part of their everyday diet. These selections can diminish appetite and miss opportunities to develop taste for healthier foods. Bribing your children with dessert is not effective either.

“At the end of the day, it’s about embracing a healthy lifestyle,” explains Corrigan. “By setting good examples and giving your children constant healthy options will improve their chances of growing up to have healthy habits too.”

Independence is definitely something my little Ava is trying lately! Shoulda known. But if your kids are at the age where they can help in the kitchen or in the supermarket, that can be a great way to start opening their independent minds to newer, more nutritious foods. Also, if you have the time and patience, you can always make the foods more fun, like cutting sandwiches into shapes with a cookie cutter! Or go old school Pee Wee Herman style and make their breakfast/lunch/dinner plate into a face! Get as inventive as you can.

image courtesy of

mmmm breakfast-y!

Do you have any tips on how to make your toddler’s eating habits less erratic?


For more info from Miami Children’s Hospital on this topic or others, visit

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