Do you find yourself struggling to get your toddler to eat their meals that you're tempted to simply serve up slices of cheese just to make sure they have something in their tummy?
Here are ten of our BEST TIPS to survive this wonderfully unique period of toddler feeding, while getting Mr Independent a little more excited about the fabulous world of food.
By the way, scrubbing dried pasta from the fridge door after it has flown past your head is just a part of the food journey.
Oh, and as for rice... that stuff gets everywhere!
1. Offer healthy food choices
That craving for independence kicks in at a very early age – nobody warned us just how early! So offer food choices but just make sure they are healthy ones. That way you are satisfying his craving for control whilst ensuring he is eating healthily.
2. Keep persevering
Whilst we’d all love to hear our little one declare ‘yum’ with the first bite of whatever we serve, research suggests that it can take between 15 and 20 tries before a toddler will accept a new food. Try to remember that ‘no’ often means ‘not now’ rather than ‘never’. Keep offering those new foods. Perseverance is the key!
3. Pair foods together
Serve a new food with a favourite food. Is there a favourite dip or sauce that would help the new food go down more easily? And don’t make new foods a big deal. The more attention you draw to his taste testing, the more he will resist! Keep it breezy!
4. Offer warming & nourishing foods
From an Eastern Medicine perspective, children are born with a weak constitution and immature digestion that need to be strengthened and nurtured over time. One of their main food principles is to not overwhelm the internal balance of the body (digestion) with food. Offer your little one simple, warming and nourishing foods which are easy to digest, and which build a strong and robust constitution and immune system.
5. Mix it up
Introduce a wide range of flavours: sweet, bitter, sour, astringent and pungent. We’re not suggesting you start seasoning dishes with chilli flakes but you can have some fun experimenting with different herbs and spices that might get your little one licking his lips for more. And, of course, offer different textures: soft, juicy, crunchy, hard, raw, cooked.
6. Lead by example
Encourage your little one to eat and enjoy healthy meals and meal times with the rest of the family. Whenever possible, offer ‘family meals’. Set a good example and show your enjoyment of a range of healthy foods too. Don’t expect your child to eat something you won’t.
7. Serve small portions
Little hands love finger foods and small portions as they are easier to handle and will go down more easily. Serve an amount you know your little one can finish; he can always ask for more. Encourage him to eat until he is full rather than focusing on a clean plate.
8. Ensure your toddler isn't tired
Try not to eat meals when tiredness or simply not being hungry enough will prevent your little one from enjoying his food.
9. Keep an eye on snacks
Snacks between meals play an important part in the day for growing little bodies, so keep these as healthy, nutritious, and as fun as possible.
10. Involve your toddler
Wherever possible try to involve your little one in shopping, growing, and simple food preparation. Encourage him to choose fruits and veggies at the market. Give him a potted herb plant to take care of and let him harvest and decorate food with them.
If you'd like more information on how much to serve your toddler, recipe ideas and a seven-day meal plan, download a copy of our Toddler Food Guide for free.