6 Things Every Parent Needs To Hear About Their Picky Eater

When it comes to feeding your toddler, things can go one of two ways: the easy way or the hard way. Sometimes the stars align and somehow, someway, you manage to pick the perfect thing for dinner and they eat every last bite. Other times, however, you might as well be out in the Wild West, since eating dinner can feel like an old-fashioned stand-off. We know who wins that battle, though. Chicken nuggets with macaroni and cheese anyone?

But in all seriousness, you have to take the wins when you can get them. As long as they’ve gotten something to eat and you’ve managed to avoid (or survive) a meltdown, that’s what we call a victory. Well sort of. After all, they can’t only eat pizza and cookies—right? Especially since their fickle food preferences will change next week anyway.

So when you have to navigate yet another delicate mealtime situation, Tik Pau, MD, a primary care provider with GMG’s Bostock Family Medicine, offers 6 simple tips to help diffuse a food face-off:

1.    You aren’t alone—seriously. It probably takes all of 5 minutes when talking to any mother or father to learn that they’ve gone through the very same eating issues. "That’s because picky eating is a normal stage for toddlers—ages 2 to 6—to go through," emphasizes Dr. Pau.  And the best news of all, they’ll grow out of it (probably).

2.    It isn’t personal. Even though it may feel like it is. "Keep in mind that picky eating is often times nothing more than merely testing limits and establishing their own sphere of autonomy," explains Dr. Pau. There is little that they can control—one of the few things being what they eat—so they’re putting the power of the word no to the test.

3.    They’re becoming foodies. Now we admit it’s hard to tell if a toddler genuinely doesn’t like a food or if they’re just being difficult, but there is a chance it simply just doesn’t jive with them. "Each week, their preferences will change, and this can be based on taste, texture, color or smell," notes Dr. Pau

4.    They’re all about options. As much as we may deny it, toddlers have more than a few similarities to adults—at least when it comes to food. Most notably, they like having choices. "However, when offering toddlers choices, make sure their only options are healthy foods," says Dr. Pau. After all, if it comes down to an apple vs. a chocolate bar, you know which one they’d choose—the chocolate—and who could blame them?

5.    Don’t turn food into a bribe. As tempting as it may be to use their favorite sweet treat as a reward for eating all of their veggies, this can be a risky behavior in the long run. That’s because it conditions your little squirt to see some foods as better than others, which isn’t exactly true. All things in moderation—right?

6.    Prepare for mealtime showdowns. It would be so much easier if toddlers could just tell you exactly what they were thinking or feeling about food, but that’s not typically how things go. "And because there are so many different factors to consider when it comes your little one’s diet, it’s important to ask an expert for advice, guidance and care during this process," adds Dr. Pau.

As the health care provider that knows you and your family best, their primary care provider can supply helpful tips—like food bridging and plate designing—while also offering the medical care and support your little sprout needs to be their healthiest at every stage of life. 

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