Since my little one started having solids at 6 months, my husband and I encouraged her to explore our table food on her own. Instead of spoon feeding bland, nutrition-less rice cereal, Ginny enjoyed sucking on barbecue ribs, pieces of broccoli, cauliflower, eggs, fruit, pieces of fish, avocado, and other yummy nutritious foods. Anything we eat, she eats too, and we have yet to find a food she doesn’t enjoy. As she moved from baby to toddler, she definitely has her preferences, just like we do as adults – blueberries are one of her favorite foods, but sometimes she wants strawberries and eggs instead, or where she sometimes likes a plain chicken breast, she lets us know if she wants it with some sort of dipping sauce in that moment.
It’s incredible to see her little personality shine through at meal and snack times, and while she’s not a picky eater, I know all kids are different so my story may not resonate with you. That’s why I spoke to other real moms to share their tips, tricks, or advice for feeding toddlers.
Tips for Toddler Eating from Real Moms
1. Embrace flavor: so often, parents feed their toddlers bland, flavorless, and often nutrition-less food. While babies and toddlers’ stomachs are getting acclimated to new foods, that doesn’t mean they can only eat tasteless purees. Let them embrace flavors and test out their taste buds to see what they enjoy. In addition to enjoying flavor, I aim to embrace natural flavor, meaning there is no need to smother veggies with butter and salt – vegetables are so delicious in their own, natural glory, so let your child experience and learn to love their natural taste too!
2. Don’t force it: wait until they are ready to try something and don’t force them to eat. I have put food on my kids’ plates many times knowing they won’t touch it, but that 15th time they may lick it, the 20th they may bite and spit it out, but they at least “try it.” Eating should be a positive experience, so don’t make it a forced punishment. – Ashley Z., owner of Small Cakes in Elmhurst, IL
3. Nutrition on-the-go: my daughter mainly drinks water and gets her nutrition from food, but to ensure she gets all of her essential nutrients and probiotics to support her developing digestive system, Stage 3 Gerber® Good Start® Toddler Drink is one of our secret weapons.
Ginny likes to be independent and doesn’t like us feeding her or helping her drink – with this yummy and healthy toddler drink, Ginny can take her drink on-the-go, not even realizing she’s sucking down iron, Vitamins C, D, E, and Potassium. No, it’s not formula, but is sure is a #FormulaforHappiness!
4. Phases are normal: My son goes through stages. Sometimes he eats everything and anything and other times, barely any food at all. I go by his development. As long as he’s growing and thriving, I’m happy. The one thing that does work for us though (to get him to try different foods) is to offer the new things first; then I give him the foods that I know he will eat. We also let him be a part of the experience: He sits down with us at meals, helps me add the banana to the shake, holds his own spoon and fork even if it ends up everywhere. – Alex D.
5. Toddler rules: My best advice is that toddlers have their own rules and opinions and they change daily, so just go with it. Don’t let meal times become a power struggle. Offer a well balanced meal and let them choose what to eat from the plate. You did your best by offering, and it is less stressful for everyone that way. – Stephanie H., Red Barn Basics
6. Be sneaky: Biggest tip and mom trick: I hide tons of veggies in smoothies! – Renee S, Beautycounter Manager
7. Be patient: As a mom of a picky eater, I found myself stressing over her lack of a balanced diet, as my toddler does not eat vegetables well. I have now learned with my second to just be patient because in time, she will come around to liking more and more food. Some things she didn’t like last week can suddenly be okay the next week. – Erin G.
8. Keep it simple: When it comes to lunch and dinner, it’s always a little easier for me to prepare a meal quickly. For lunch, I always keep it simple; here are some ideas: Mac & cheese, soups, turkey/ham/chicken cut up with some cheese, tortilla wrap with turkey/cheese and cut up in squares. Sides: veggies,fruits,cottage cheese, gold fish, puffs, popcorn, yogurt,
- Instead of Brownie Bites, make these delicious healthy brownie bites and let your toddler help customize the “dough” with her favorite flavors.
- Instead of french fries, cut your own potato or sweet potato fries, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and bake them to a healthy, crisp perfection.
- Instead of a shake, make a yogurt smoothie with fruits, veggies, or even a bit of cocoa and vanilla.
10. Set routines: just as it’s suggested to start bedtime routines early, do the same with mealtimes. For example, we sit at the table all together, pray before eating, eat and converse together and then clean up. By giving meals this structure instead of roaming away from the table to play or watch TV every few bites, your child will understand the importance of family time and the rules that go with meals. Don’t just distract your child so she’ll eat; set habits early so eating is a positive time together with the whole family. Also, I know my friend Paige at An Uncomplicated Life Blog gets her toddler involved in cleaning and has done so at an early age. Give your toddler small tasks he can help with so he learns the importance and fun in helping out.
11. Don’t focus on eating: for my picky eater, my pediatrician has always advised not to put a huge emphasis on making my daughter eat. He told me not to stress, that she will not starve, and she’ll eat when she’s hungry. By me trying to force my daughter to eat, it just makes her more stubborn against not eating, even if she wants to eat, merely because I’m trying to make her. My son, well, he eats everything – I give him pieces of our table food and let him decide what he wants; sometimes he eats more than I do! – Lauren A.
Lasting thoughts and giveaway
I would love to hear your stories of feeding your babies, toddlers, and children. Share your favorite toddler mealtime stories and experiences for a chance to win Gerber’s Welcome to Toddlerhood Kit, so you can experience my secret weapon product and some other fun goodies! Oh, and here’s a hilariously adorable outtake to leave you with.