This post may contain affiliate links that I may receive a commission from if you click & buy. In addition, the information on this site is NOT intended to be medical advice. See my full policy for more information.
If you are the parent of a toddler, chances are, you’ve experienced or are experiencing the ‘Picky Eaters’ phase. Whether your toddler won’t eat dinner or at the very least, their vegetables, try these 5 tips to help!
As a parent who struggled tremendously with nutrition for myself, it’s important for me to set the example of healthy eating to our son.
However, it’s kind of impossible to pass on these healthy habits when all my kid wants to do is chuck his star-shaped veggies across the room.
If you’re feeling like you’ve tried EVERYTHING, unless your little one is actively losing weight or ill, chances are it’s going to be ok if they refuse a meal or two.
Toddlers are smart beings and typically know when they’re full (unlike us adults who love to over eat LOL).
However, if you need some tips, I’m here to help!
Why do toddlers become picky eaters?
For the past 18 months, your little one probably ate everything you offered them. Then one day, the brakes went on. And look, here we are!
However, it’s important to understand that your toddler suddenly becoming a picky eater is a normal part of them growing up and developing.
Your toddler has figured out the things they DO & DON’T like.
Up until this point, your little one wasn’t really developmentally ready to understand they actually get a choice to decide what they DO & DON’T like.
Now that they’re able to comprehend these abilities, you might find this goes far beyond vegetables.
For instance, those noodles they loved for the last 3 months may become their arch-nemesis tomorrow! Their favorite juice flavor might become icky instead.
However, you may find that if you “Experimented with a wide range of healthy foods early on, this may improve food choices later in life“, according to a Baby Led Weaning post on Mama Natural.
Your toddler is becoming more independent at this age.
At this age (similar to the point above) our growing little toddlers are simply becoming more independent!
They understand they can ‘do things on their own‘ and more often than not, they refuse to let anything (including us parents) stand in their way.
So how do you handle trying to feed a ‘picky’ independent toddler?
I compiled some helpful tips from my friend Thalia, the dietician from Plum Pantry who specializes in nutrition for parenting littles aka @family.snack.nutritionist on Instagram.
- No matter what, stay positive and calm.
- Offer a variety of textures and flavors often.
- Try to offer a favorite/familiar food along with new foods.
- Make it fun! (For example: “Eat Your Veggies” is a no on. Instead, try “I’m so hungry! Let’s share that celery stick together, yum!”)
- If all else fails, sign up for Thalia’s affordable course, Mealtimes Without Meltdowns.
Thalia’s amazing tips that she shares on her social media pages have greatly helped me with my own toddler. I mean, what parents skips the picky eating phase?
Considering we’re bound to experience it at some point (even if it doesn’t last long), implementing these tips above can help set such a positive foundation and relationship with food as your child gets older.
And the tips above are just a FEW of Thalia’s go-to suggestions when it comes to picky eaters. For all her tips and tricks to end the power struggle during mealtime, check out her online course for parents called Mealtimes Without Meltdowns.
How to get picky toddlers to eat dinner and vegetables:
Now that we know a little bit about how and why our toddlers become picky eaters, let’s dig into some of the ways we can sneak in some extra veggies into their meals!
Try something new!
In the midst of our anti-veggie eating antics, I needed a way to coax my little dude into getting SOME KIND OF VEGETABLES!
We give him the option to make his choice of what he WILL and WON’T eat, however, sometimes you’ve gotta sneak in those veggies.
Fortunately, I found the PERFECT food to get my son to eat a full serving of veggies each day:Veggies Made Great Muffins!
I have to also say myself when we first bought them, I ate half the box myself! These muffins are AMAZING! You literally cannot tell they’re loaded with veggies AND are allergy-friendly!
Currently, our favorite flavors are:
- Blueberry Oat Muffins
- Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
- Apple Cinnamon Muffins
They also have a line of Veggie Cakes & Frittatas, which we have yet to try!
They’ve been such a lifesaver in getting our little dude to eat his veggies.
Cook up some kid-friendly vegetable recipes!
Below are some yummy recipes we love cooking up around the house for our little dude to enjoy and get some extra veggies into his diet!
If you’re not too big into cooking often, the pre-made veggie muffins above would be a great alternative! However, I enjoy cooking my little guy’s food so, for the most part, I’ll try out new recipes from time to time and we’ve had success with these ones above!
Let your toddler help choose what’s on the menu
I know it sounds crazy and trust me, I’m not suggesting you let them choose chicken nuggets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What I am suggesting, is you set out a variety of options and THEN let them make the final decision as to what makes the cut for those meals!
My son is only 18 months old, so it’s a little tough at this age as he’s in the prime of learning how to communicate.
But when I lay out 3 options of ‘veggie-filled’ food choices, he will almost always pick 1 of 3 AND eat it successfully.
Sometimes he hates it and walks away, which is fine. However, I think the long term value he’s getting from being allowed to make the choice has been significantly beneficial in helping him to eat more vegetables.
Try changing up the texture!
Sometimes, it’s just a texture thing!
One little trick I saw is using fun cookie cutters to cut their veggies into fun shapes!
Instead of a plain circle of zucchini, try a mini-star shaped zucchini! The fun shapes and textures just might be the change your toddler needs to boost their interest in those veggies!
Be patient & don’t force the food
I know it can be challenging. Sometimes, it feels like you’re fighting this uphill battle that you just can’t get any leverage on, but trust me, you will!
It’s important to remember this is (yet again) another phase your little one will go through as they continue to grow and develop.
Instead of losing our patience and possibly creating poor eating habits or relationships with food, we want to encourage patience and options for them so they can learn how to do the same for themselves as they grow into mature adults one day like us!
If your toddler won’t eat dinner after trying the tips above…
If you are pulling your hair out because you’ve tried all the tips above, you may want to consider professional help.
Mealtimes without Meltdowns was created by a dietician who specializes in helping picky littles eat their food without struggles. If you haven’t checked it out yet, be sure to CLICK HERE before it’s too late.
Which foods does your little one struggle to eat the most? Drop your comments below.