Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, and many moms who’ve been through the terrible twos (and threes) can not-too-fondly remember cajoling and bribing their toddlers unsuccessfully to try some of the carrots or finish half of the potatoes before they could have dessert. This can be a particularly nerve-wracking experience for mothers who are worried their children are not consuming enough nutrients for healthy growth and development. Thankfully, there are several strategies moms can use to help their children become more comfortable with trying new foods and eating more at mealtimes.

  1. Set a meal and snack schedule: Set a schedule for meals and snack times, and stick to it. Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible during meal and snack times. (Yes, that means no television!) By limiting snacking throughout the day, parents can ensure that children are hungry for mealtimes, which often include more nutrient-dense foods than those served at snack times.
  2. Limit juice and milk between meals: Liquids can often cause children to feel full and refuse to eat food at snacks and meals.
  3. Repeat foods often: If you serve a new food to your children and they refuse to eat it, try offering it several times throughout the next month. While this may seem counterproductive, research has shown that children have to try a new food 15-20 times in one month to accept it as a food they like. If your child is hesitant to try a food, try describing it by its color, texture, and smell, instead of its taste. Try serving new foods along with your child’s favorite foods.
  4. Don’t make mealtimes a warzone: If your child refuses to eat a particular food, don’t force, bribe, or beg them to eat it. Don’t force your children to sit at the table until they finish a particular food or clean their plate, and don’t use dessert as a bargaining tool. These can all cause children to develop negative associations with mealtimes, not to mention, drive the rest of the family insane. Instead, engage children in pleasant conversation. If they refuse to eat a particular food, simply offer it again another time.
  5. Be a positive role model: Children, especially toddlers, learn from observation. Consequently, it’s imperative that everyone in the family is a positive nutritional role model. If your children see you or another family member refuse the vegetables at the table, don’t be surprised when they themselves refuse to eat the vegetables.

Teaching children positive eating habits is essential for their health throughout their lives. Follow these tips and you’ll be sure to set your children up on the path to healthful eating in no time!

(photo credit here)