6 No-Fuss Ways to Encourage New Foods in Picky Toddlers

lunch

What usually happens in your house when it’s dinnertime?  If you have picky twin toddlers, it might go something like this:

Mom: Look! (super high-pitched voice with a big smile) Cucumbers!
Twin 1: No mommy! No mommy!
Twin 2: No mommy!
Mom: Just try one bite. That’s all. Just a tiny bite.
Twin 1 & Twin 2: no, no, no, no, no!

You would think I never fed them vegetables in their lives! And what eventually ends up happening?

Mom: If you try one bite, you’ll get a treat after supper! The BRIBE.

candy For many parents, dinnertime is negotiation time – which undoubtedly ends in a bribe. Instead, all the hard work you put into providing a healthy and delicious meal ends up straight on the floor, or smeared on the table. Suppertime is also a time of frustration. What was a favorite food last week, is complete vile this week. It’s driving you crazy!

What’s happening?

Before you think all your twins are ever going to eat is bread, fruit and crackers for the rest of their little lives, relax; there are reasons why your twin toddlers are picky eaters.

If You’re a Toddler, Then You’re Probably a Picky Eater

Let me ask you this: Have you met a toddler or two who liked trying new foods and had a well-rounded diet? If you have, they were few and far between. Any mom I spoke to had their arsenal of food negotiation tactics at hand for any meal of the day. Sometimes, just being a toddler means they’re going to be naturally picky. Children between 1-3 years of age are growing fast. According to experts, this is the time they are running around, mastering new skills, and learning new and novel things. This can cause fatigue in many toddlers and by dinnertime, all they want are the foods they enjoy eating – which don’t necessarily comprise a complete meal. And, because they can’t sit still and are always on the go, snacking is the only way they eat – whether you like it or not!

Toddlers Gain Weight Slowly

According to Dr. Sears, for the first year of a baby’s life, the mother’s primary goal is to make sure their baby is putting on weight. This rapid growth means that by the end of the first year, most babies will have tripled their body weight. Naturally, by the time your twins are two weight gain slows down. This means they need less food and aren’t hungry for a six-course meal.

Toddlers Like to Binge

Have you noticed that your twins can eat the same food day after day after day? My son could eat yogurt for all his meals. I feed him plain yogurt with some fruit topping and he thinks this is the greatest meal on earth. Which is fine by me! But, my son would also eat bread and nothing else. Actually, if it were up to him, a diet of bread and yogurt would be perfect.

Toddlers generally need between 1,000 and 1,400 calories a day. But, they may not eat the same amount of calories every day – and that’s okay. It’s our job to provide a healthy meal and encourage good eating habits.

What Has Worked For My Twin Toddlers

My twins aren’t the best eaters. My daughter – at least – tries new foods, while my son doesn’t want to try anything new and says to me, “I don’t like it mommy.” Lately, we’ve been giving them a snack before bed – peanut butter and toast, or fruit, with milk. We encourage them to eat their dinner and to try new foods, but want to make sure they get some nutrition in a day.

Here are six ways I encourage my twins to eat healthy foods.

1. Use a “Toss-It” bowl

Give your toddlers a bowl next to their food and tell them that after they try their food, if they don’t want any more of it, to put it in the bowl. Now, at first, most of the food you put on their plate will end up in the bowl – and they won’t try any of it. Let it be. It’s a novel experience and your children will probably enjoy it. But, after a few days or a week, you’ll notice less food on the floor and more in their bowls – and maybe some of it in their mouths. You’ll also see what foods they don’t like very much, so that next time, you’ll still give them the same food, but maybe less of it (as you probably don’t want to waste food).

refrigerator with healthy food

2. Always Offer Something New

For me, I pick one meal and offer a new food. This is typically lunchtime in our family.
I’m able to spend a bit more time tailoring the twins’ meals. The majority of the time my son doesn’t try anything new, but my daughter will. You would think that if one twin tried a new food, it would spur the other to. Well, not in my house. I don’t offer the same new food too many times. I find that if I take a break, my son will actually try it. He needs exposure to the new food numerous times, to see others eat it and then he needs to feel it before he’s comfortable to try it.

3. Present Food Differently

The day my twins turned 16 months old, they forever stopped eating cheese. Mamas, this was my go-to food when they were young. I would cut up cubes of cheese, shred cheese over their veggies, melt cheese on pasta and do anything else with cheese to get them to try new foods. Maybe I over did it because at around 16 months of age, they both pooh-poohed it. I tried several times to re-introduce cheese, but it never took.

watermelon

It was not until recently (they are three years old now) that I surprised them with a grilled-cheese sandwich one day and surprisingly they liked – no loved – cheese again. Maybe all it takes is a new way of preparing food to entice your little ones to eat. If my twins didn’t eat their veggies, I’d chop them up and add them to a spaghetti sauce. If they weren’t digging a hamburger patty, I would cut it up into shapes. If all else fails, add the veggies they won’t eat to a delicious fruit smoothie. And then be amazed by them drinking it all up and asking for seconds.

4. Have a Communal Plate

One thing I’ve tried – and it’s actually working! – is having a group plate of veggies for everyone to share. For some reason having a group plate interests my twins and they can’t get enough veggies. The whole family can munch on the communal plate during lunch or dinner. I found snap peas to be a favorite since eating them is an activity. Carrots came in handy around Easter when bunnies were all over the house.
And I always make sure to have some food they do enjoy on the group plate – and in this case it’s tomatoes.

tomatoes growing on vine

5. Grow Your Food!

Toddlers are learning every day and they love to get down and dirty. Well, my twins do at least. Last summer they helped me plant a garden. We planted green beans, peas, carrots, tomatoes, beets and potatoes. Having them harvest the food and seeing how vegetables grow really prompted them to try new foods.

6. Realize Kids Have Preferences

It can take up to 15 times of trying a new food before a child develops a preference for it. Children are wired as babies to have a preference for sweet and salty food. They are genetically programmed to avoid sour or bitter food for survival reasons. Developing a preference for foods they like over trying new foods has some genetic and evolutionary merit to it.

Early on I introduced my children to eggs and they readily ate the egg whites. I would serve it alone, in fried rice, on toast – you name it. Eggs are a healthy food and I latched onto them. But over time, my son started eating fewer and fewer eggs until he was removing them from meals I cooked. Now as a toddler, he won’t touch eggs. I’m not too worried about it, though. I know he has tried it in the past many times so I know he gave it a go. He might be a child who doesn’t enjoy eggs. But, that doesn’t mean he won’t enjoy eggs as an adult. Taste buds evolve and preferences will emerge in toddlers. It just happens.

Toddlers Will Outgrow This

As children grow, they will broaden their food preferences. It’s our job to keep introducing new foods and encouraging them to eat – or at least try. I’m glad that at least one of my twins enjoys trying new things and hoping over time this will rub off on my other twin.

Now it’s your turn – what’s worked or hasn’t worked with your twins?

Elna CainElna Cain is a first-time mom to twins. Once she was able to get uninterrupted sleep, coffee and a few minutes to herself, she started freelance writing and never looked back. When she’s not writing for her clients or when her twins are sleeping, she’s helping other work-at-home moms and telling twin stories on her blog, Twins Mommy. Follow her on Pinterest!

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