5 Tricks to Feeding a Super-Picky Toddler

5 Tricks to Feeding a Super-Picky Toddler

Tips for getting even the pickiest toddler to try more kinds of food.

By: Marisa Torrieri Bloom

If you think your toddler is a picky eater, you haven’t met my 2-year-old son Nathan. Earlier this year, I brought him to a pizza party with friends his own age only to have him beg for hummus. And while my toddler loves strawberries, he hates almost all foods that are supposed to “please” the pickiest eaters -- mac and cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese, and even sweet potato fries and ketchup. It’s downright embarrassing to show up at events with food pouches usually reserved for infants!

Still, I’ve managed to introduce a few new foods successfully over the last few months, including cucumber, avocado, cheese sticks, cherry tomatoes, and carrots. Here are five tried and true tips for getting your toddler to eat new foods.

1. Watch the way you eat (in front of him). Just because you eat food with purposeful relish doesn’t mean your 1-, 2-, or 3-year-old will get excited about that food (mine certainly hasn’t). What has worked for me -- with cheese sticks and cherry tomatoes -- is eating a certain type of food nonchalantly, without fanfare, in front of my small guy. Do this while your toddler is getting hungry, and you’ll increase the chances he’ll take items out of your hand and start eating them.

2. Try chopsticks. My son was definitely into peas when he was a baby, but getting him to embrace the little round veggies as opposed to the pureed version wasn’t automatic. What did the trick: taking a pair of really cute chopsticks with faces on them and using them to skewer his vegetables while shouting “Kapow!” as the stick poked through each pea. This made him laugh and eat the peas as I put them toward his mouth. An added bonus: He hasn’t turned down peas too many times since I pulled this trick.

3. Serve and repeat. It’s been said that repetition is the mother of learning. As it turns out, it’s also the way to get your toddler to try a new food. One of my good friends served her 20-month-old fish sticks every day for three weeks as part of dinner, and eventually the little girl was hungry enough to take a bite of one. Now they’re a favorite food.


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4. Cut food into fun shapes. Your 2-year-old might not relish waffles, but when he sees edible waffle animal art, he might change his mind. While I haven’t tried the fun shape tactic with my little one yet, at least two of my good friends have cut peanut butter sandwiches into stars and hearts to win over the palates of their toddlers. Therefore, it’s worth a shot.

5. Serve food to other kids during a playdate. My son wasn’t nuts about French fries, but when he saw his little buddy Johnny munch on the ones I made for them one Sunday evening, he suddenly got a little possessive and interested in the formerly so-so food. I’m still working on getting him excited about pizza, but seeing him follow the example of his peers with fries gives me hope.

Are you the parent of a picky eater? What tactics have worked for you?

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a freelance writer and guitar teacher who lives with her husband and two young sons in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Image ©iStock.com/ivolodina

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