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Encouraging your Katy Toddler’s Healthy Eating Habits

March 24, 2010 – Katy, Texas – My first child, Madeleine, was an eater. From the day she tasted rice cereal at 4 months old, that child ate just about anything we put on her plate. Or her soft-bite Gerber spoon, as the case may be.  One of our favorite stories about Madeleine:  As a two-year-old, she threw a tantrum at McDonald’s because they didn’t serve broccoli.  The wide-eyed cashier couldn’t believe what she was seeing.  Now that she is eight, broccoli is still one of her favorite foods. 

Featured Katy blog writer, Lerin Wheeless, give her daughter, Lucy, her first teething biscuit.

Bragging about that McDonald’s meltdown, I was sure I’d done something right. My friends complained about their picky toddlers, while mine was eating everything from green beans to salad.  I doled out the unsolicited advice at every opportunity.  I had the simple answer: all they had to do was to serve a variety of foods and not make any alternate meals.  Their problem would be solved, I assured them!  Kids will eat whatever you put in front of them, as long as you don’t allow junk food, right?

Not necessarily.  God put me in my place with my next two picky eaters.  The only vegetable Ben (3) will eat? Ketchup.  Yes, I know that ketchup is not a vegetable, but he treats it like a side dish.  Rather than dipping food in it, he eats it from the spoon!  This always triggers my gagt reflex, so we only give him a little with his meat.

I’ve tried everything.  I’ve tried begging, bribing, threatening, punishing, and sticker charts.  What I’ve learned from these fruitless and frustrating efforts is, what your child chews and swallows and keeps down is ultimately up to them! 

I’ve stopped letting myself tie my mood to what my children do or don’t eat.  I’ve surrendered in the meal-time battle, and am taking a much gentler approach these days.  Our meals havbe an extra helping of joy, now.

I think the most important thing is to make meal time a happy time.  We all come together at the dining room table, and share not just a meal, but ourselves.  We take turns going around the table talking about our day, and sometimes answering creative questions.  I make one healthy meal, and put a little of everything on their plates.  I give them a cup of V-8 Splash instead of apple juice.  I give them children’s chewable vitamins, make chocolate milk with Carnation instant breakfast, and sneak veggies into our sauces. 

My children are not required to finish everything on their plates, but are required to take one bite of each thing.  Sometimes, they are surprised that they actually love a new food!  Most of the time, they take one bite and make horrible faces… followed by chugging from the sippy cup.  We make sure to give lots of attention and praise for each bite of a new food.  My children eat up the positive attention… even if they don’t eat up the food every time.

But I have to say… I’m encouraged.  After serving broccoli to Bella (4) at least once a week since she was a toddler, she finally took a second bite yesterday.  She has tried broccoli many times, but this time she proudly announced:  “Mommy, I like broccoli now!  It’s not yucky anymore… it’s like a tree!”

Do you deal with finicky eaters?  What are your tips and tricks?  Post a comment below and share your ideas with me!

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