There is nothing worse than tipping a whole plate of food into the bin and worrying about whether your toddler’s sleep will be disrupted after she eats nothing you prepared for dinner. Yet this is so common in the toddler years and most parents report their toddler is a picky eater at some stage.
It is important to know that most toddlers thrive regardless of how little they eat. Try to watch your toddler’s consumption over a week (not a day) - you will find that over 7 days she is actually getting some variety and quantity in. Toddlers eat most at breakfast (unless they are fed milk at night – which at this age is a no-no); they eat less for lunch and eat very little for dinner. This is a healthy way to eat, so do not battle to get quantity in in the evening.
If your toddler is a picky eater, you may be concerned about whether her nutritional status is taken care of. For most picky eaters, there is no nutritional deficit and no need to worry. However, if your little one is listless and tired or looks pale or is losing weight, you may want to chat to your healthcare provider about whether you should be concerned. In addition, Kath Megaw (dietician) suggests delivering nutrients and calories effectively in small meals and snacks. These are some ideas on being prepared-ish to load those snacks with goodness:
- Fat bombs are concentrated sources of fats and proteins in a small bite. They are generally bite size cold snacks that can be popped in a lunchbox or offered at snack time. For recipes see p268 of Weaning Sense.
- Smoothies that include milk, yogurt, fruit, nut butters and coconut oil are easy to consume and contain good nutrients and proteins. Adding veggies such as spinach and grains like quinoa mean that a sweet fruit smoothie is fortified with goodness. P266 Weaning Sense
- Fruit pulp ice Lollies made with nut butter cream are a fun way to add protein and healthy fats to snack time.
- Boost a yogurt snack with crushed nut and seed butters and egg white powder.
- Finally, a picky toddler milk may be used for very picky eaters. Only one milk bottle per day – usually at bedtime is recommended at this age, otherwise you run the risk of ruining any appetite your toddler may have for meals.
Feeding a picky eater can be soul destroying, especially if you have spent hours planning and making meals. Take the pressure off yourself and go for quick win foods and snacks- in this way you will bring less emotional energy to the table and your toddler may relax a little and surprise you by eating.
And if you're looking for a few healthy options, here's Meg's advice:
From 6 months onwards, little ones need three meals a day and two snacks. And snack time continues to be needed right the way through school. The problem many parents face is knowing what to offer as a snack and particularly how to keep snack time healthy.
Healthy snacks require planning and prep. It is all too easy to open a packet of Flings or a box of Smarties and neither are good healthy options for little tummies. Most ready-made snacks lack good nutrients and in addition, they are frequently highly processed meaning that they are likely to contain additives that your baby should not be eating.
There are some principles that will help you to be prepared-ish for providing healthy snacks:
- Fruit – although high in sugar, fruit is a good snack because its ready to eat and can be grabbed at short notice. It is best to eat fresh fruit - not dried fruit, and is not a good idea to drink fruit juice – rather drink water.
- Prep ahead of time – because snacks are often grabbed on the run, it is best to be prepared – otherwise you may end up grabbing something unhealthy. The Oat Bars or Fat Bombs in Weaning Sense are easy to made and fabulous to grab on the run.
- Read the label – look for ready-made snacks that have very few ingredients; no added sugar; few preservatives and no colourants. Many shops now sell date balls and other homemade snacks that are really nutritious and free of the evils.
- High fat and protein with unprocessed carbs – most convenience foods rely on processed carbs and sugars for taste, try to look for snacks that have good protein or fat content, like cheese or biltong, rather than high crabs, like cookies and chips.
- Easy to hold and eat – the best snacks are hand held and do not require utensils so go for bite sized veggies – like carrot sticks and baby tomatoes or healthy rusks and even smoothies, which are easy to drink down on the run.