The Best Foods for Picky Toddlers
It may feel impossible to choose the best foods for your picky toddler, who seems impossibly difficult to please. The good news is, when you understand why toddlers tend to be picky eaters in the first place, you’ll be able to find the foods that appease your little one. Melanie Potock, Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist, explains that toddlers tend to be picky eaters for a few reasons:
- They’re entering a natural stage of being hesitant about new foods. This “aligns with their cognitive development,” which is why they challenge nearly anything, including the food you want them to eat. Potock explains, “It’s their job to do that, it’s how they learn about the world.”
- Your toddler may simply not be hungry. Potock says, “Between the ages of 2 and 3, growth slows down as compared to the first two years of life.” Without a lot of words to express this, it may simply come out as being picky.
- Eating isn’t quite as fun as the other “toddler” things your little one is into these days, like playing, running and exploring the world. As Potock puts it, “Sitting still to eat a meal is overrated, in their mind.”
While there’s a certain amount of understanding that perhaps your toddler simply isn’t hungry or too interesting in exploring to sit and eat, it’s also important that your growing child gets the nutrients needed to thrive. To get your picky toddler eating once and for all, focus on the foods they’re most likely to want.
Small Finger Foods
It’s important to remember that your kids are more interested in playing with their foods at this age than eating them. That’s why “finger foods” or foods that they can pick up and touch with their hands, are ideal to get the necessary nutrition for growth.
Here are a few fun recipes to try:
- Baby French Toast
- Sweet Potato and Apple Fritters
- Chocolate Banana and Oat Cookies
- Potato and Butternut Squash Tots
Many adults love the satisfying crunch of chips or french fries and your picky toddler is no different, suggests Potock. She says, “Toddlers typically like a moist crunch, especially if they are still teething, and the sound of that crunch gives them satisfying feedback to keep them interested.”
One healthy, but crunchy food option is a bowl blanched vegetables, recommended by Potock, who says, they “offer a crunch with a bit of moisture for easier chewing, are flavorful and easy to hold in little fists.” Some other crunchy foods to consider include:
If you don’t think your picky eater will be interested in blanched vegetables, pair them with a nutritious dip. Not only does this make the veggies, or other healthy foods more interesting, but you can add boost the nutritional value and add a few extra calories. Here are a few ideas to try:
- Creamy, rich tomato soup, thickened with potato flakes instead of ketchup
- Pulverized mac and cheese with a splash of milk (serve with crackers)
- Banana puree with a tablespoon of nut or seed butter
- Yogurt mixed with Healthy Height Shake Mix
A Variety of Sweet and Savory
At this stage, it’s important to expose your kiddo to a wide range of flavors. That’s why it’s wise to focus on a serving them a blend of sweet foods and savory foods. As Potock says, “The more flavors they are exposed to, the more likely they will climb out of the picky eater rut.” Here are a few healthy ideas to blend sweet and savory:
- Hummus served with apple slices
- Cheese and cracker sandwiches with jam filling
- Pumpkin Almond Butter Muffins
- Beet Chocolate Muffins With Cream Cheese Filling
Find The Best Foods for Your Picky Toddler
When you know why your picky eater is so fussy, it’s easier to find foods that will get her or him to eat. Use these ideas to appease your kiddo and ensure she or he is getting the nutrition needed to grow and thrive.