Wednesday 22 September 2010 by Helen

After tackling some of the issues involved in Introducing Solids To Babies, I've looked ahead to when baby becomes toddler and to what food-related obstacles might come next...

When it comes to toddlers, many food battles may have been won, but, there is a war on the horizon. By this I mean, the main food groups are likely to have been introduced, the appetite has probably increased (along with the energy levels) and independence is fast being gained. The flipside of this independence is defiance, and an increasing sense of what they do and do not want to eat. Their little minds get stronger and their little heels dig in deeper. As toddlers they are more conscious of the eating process, and more likely to play up when it comes to mealtimes. I seem to have provided a very negative summary, and I’m sure the majority of meal times are not a duel, but let’s just say I’m looking at the worst case scenario, and providing a handful of suggestions that will make any not so good food days a little bit easier...

colour photo of toddler turning his nose up at food

Mealtimes in general


Choices

Offering your little one choice will appeal to their newfound sense of freedom. Make sure you’re offering say three healthy choices, and then it’s a win-win situation, as they are likely to choose one. The downside of choice is that it does give your baby quite a lot of control. You don’t want to reach the stage where your child is expecting a choice all the time or feeling like they can dictate what they are going to have at meal times.

Bartering

Bartering follows on quite well from choices, in that it comes with a similar warning. There is a danger that your baby can gain too much control, and the whole thing will backfire. I would say definitely offer an incentive, such as ‘eat the rest of your broccoli and you can have some pudding’, however, make sure both ends of the agreement are fulfilled, be consistent. It’s no good toddler not having to eat their broccoli and still getting pudding, otherwise you have defeated the object and little one has learnt to get their own way.

Relax

Ultimately, if your toddler is being picky, they are probably just trying to exert some power in the household and over their own eating choices. If you relax and don’t make a big deal out of it then the power struggle is gone and the mealtime problems go away a lot more quickly.

Timing

Monitor your childs mood, and observe when they are most irritable, when they seem most hungry etc, and, where possible, tailor your meal times around this.

And when it comes to vegetables... 

Even if your toddler loves vegetables, there's bound to be some no go's that they turn their nose up at. Here's a few ways you could disguise vegetables or jazz them up a bit...

  • Make vegetable cakes. They have some vegetables and generally speaking, less sugar. Your toddler will get used to whatever level of sugar you put in things such as cakes and custard, so decrease the amount and thier taste buds will adjust. You could try making Carrot Cakes, Courgette Cakes or Apple Cakes.
  • Baking fruits makes them less like fruit and more like pudding! You could bake apples with raisins and honey. Or, try making a slit in a banana, filling it with raisins and honey or with Nutella, wrapping it in foil and then baking. Most fruits will take about 20-25 minutes in a 200 degree oven.
  • Get arty with veg. You could make a face, or some other sort of arrangement. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece. I think the key is to include as much colour and variation on the plate as possible, so it's not just a plate of carrots for example. If you do attempt a face, sliced courgettes could make good eyes, runner or french beans could be the hair. Peas and sweetcorn are good for filling in gaps (larger areas), as are mashed sweet potato, squash or carrot.
  • Feed raw vegetables as snacks. Chopped up carrots work well, as do cucumber and celery. You could make a healthy dip out of some low fat cheese or yoghurt and chives to go with the veg.
  • Make fruit lollies. Although it seems the wrong time of year for anything cold, it's quite quick and easy to blitz up fresh or frozen fruits, add some juice and pour the mixture into lolly-moulds, or even ice cube trays.

It may sound like common sense, but, if you feel like you're failing on all accounts, then just try a little of something, don't necessarily fill the plate. It's better that your toddler tries a little than none at all. Everyones tastebuds continue to evolve and change, so if your little one doesn't like a certain vegetable now, it doesn't mean that they will dislike it forever. I was quite a fussy child and I am definitely not a fussy adult! As toddlers get older, you can also start to involve them in the process of food gathering and food preparation, they will love the hands on, fun element, so it's a good way to have a positive effect on their attitude towards food and nutrition.

Photo credit: Via Flickr -  efleming

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Tags: advice |  tips |  development | 
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