7 Smart Strategies for Getting a Picky Toddler to Eat

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Do you fear toddler mealtimes? Does the very prospect of enticing a fussy 3-year-old to eat his or her last three kernels of corn fill you with a special kind of fatigue that can only be described as chronic? Would you rather endure listening to seven hours of Elisabeth Hasselback opine about family values?

You are not alone, friend. All across this nation, parents’ knees collectively buckle at the thought of having to gently manipulate, massage, and cajole little Henry and Emily into eating their quinoa salad and hummus & curried cauliflower tartine night after night.

I am here to help you. While it is true I have zero qualifications for doing so, this is a blog. You may have noticed credentials are not required to dispense advice on a blog. You can be anything you want to be on a blog: a doctor, lawyer, pediatrician, nutritionist, marital advisor, an astronaut, or a dog on a blog. Today, I am the Dr. Oz of toddler mealtime subterfuge.

The following are some of my tips on how to get your little guy to eat.

  • 7 Smart Strategies for Getting a Picky Toddler to Eat 1 of 8
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    Have a picky eater on your hands? Don't fret — here are 7 genius tips to help you deal!

  • Do Not Serve a Food Blob 2 of 8
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    Are meals at your house served from a ladle and the color of cement? Yeah, don't do that. In prison and high school cafeterias the world over, this is known as "gruel." Small humans do not recognize food blobs as food but something the dog coughed up on its plate. This includes, but is not limited to, venison stew, pot roast, chili, meat loaf, deer neck tacos (don't ask), and anything out of a crock pot.

  • Get Rid of Your Crock Pot 3 of 8
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    It is a well-known fact crock pots produce food blobs. Toddlers hate food blobs. Therefore, toddlers hate anything that comes out of a crock pot. (Did you notice I just made a syllogism?)

  • Keep Portions Super Small (Unlike in This Picture) 4 of 8
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    You may be thinking to yourself, Yeah, thanks for the advice, Einstein. Never heard that one.  But I'm not talking about three small spoonfuls of macaroni and cheese. I'm talking about three pieces of macaroni. I'm talking about one bite of watermelon chopped infinitismally small. A pretzel cubed. A piece of cheese divided into sixteenths. A mandolined grape. Toddlers love discovering little mystery morsels they can pick up and deposit in their mouths themselves. It gives them a sense of mastery over their world and reminds them of what they find and snack on under the couch.

  • Invest in a Lunch Tray 5 of 8
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    Unlike "regular kid" plates, a lunch tray's handy portion dividers ensure a food blob can't happen — unless the child wants a scrambled egg, ketchup, and hot dog gruel.

  • Serve at Least One Home Run Item with Every Meal 6 of 8
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    You gotta throw your little eater a bone — something you know he or she will chew and actually swallow. Few things are more depressing than looking down at a full dinner plate and seeing nothing you want to eat.  Not the spinach. Not the Israeli cous cous. And definitely not the Dungeons and Dragon stew. The home run items in our house are string cheese, crackers, Goldfish and ketchup, a.k.a. gateway foods — vittles I like to think will entice June to try the other stuff on her plate. (It's wishful thinking, but still... )

  • Go Easy on the White Food 7 of 8
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    Serve white food  sparingly (Gwyneth Paltrow would be so proud!), since that's the stuff kids naturally gravitate toward— white pasta, white rice, refined bread— leaving the kale and sugar snap peas to die a lonely death on their plates. 

  • Turn Up the Color 8 of 8
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    A variety of color on the plate indicates choice, and choice fosters feelings of autonomy and independence, like the child has some control over their world, which may compel them to graze. Then again, color is also indicative of candy colored frozen "yogurt" with all the fixings and hunter's orange cheese curls so maybe don't read too much into this tip.

Have a funny mealtime story of your own? Share your “Stories from the Bright Side” on Happy Family’s Facebook page and enter for a chance to win $20,000 toward your child’s college education! 

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