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When your Toddler Won’t Eat Anything ~ Part 1

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Chasing Babies... Growing in Grace: When your Toddler Won’t Eat Anything ~ Part 1

Monday, January 21, 2008

When your Toddler Won’t Eat Anything ~ Part 1

Nichole left the following comment on my first Sample Weekly Toddler Menu post...

That's a great menu! Sadly, my toddler's weekly menu wouldn't take long to type; she won't eat much other than veggie sausages, bread and rice.

I hear this sort of thing all the time and I’ve watched friends and family battle it with their own children! “My son/daughter just won’t eat anything but…” (fill in the blank with whatever your child’s food preference is!)

So what are you supposed to do? Ultimately it helps to start from the beginning, when first introducing solid foods to your children, but what can we do now that we are in this rut? I have some strategies you can use and adapt for your own children. I found these strategies in the book Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health. I found this book at the library and fell in love with it (well… the basic concepts it teaches anyway ~ it is written from a wildly atheistic and evolutionary perspective [so read it with a grain of salt if I may use that pun here], but the nutrition concepts are great!)

Throughout this week and next (I'm breaking it up into multiple posts because this one is already pretty long) I would like to share with you some basic strategies for encouraging your toddler to eat healthy. So the first strategy is...

Number 1: Be willing to compromise!

Our toddlers are growing, changing, and maturing every day. Part of this maturing is a growing desire to control their own lives. This started from day one and will continue throughout their lifetimes. Meal time is one of the first things they try to take control of. You’ve experience it… the “you can’t make me eat that” attitude or response from your little one. And they’re right… can we really make them eat anything? No! Likely it will end up on you, on the floor, or anywhere else.

It gets worse… even if you have succeeded in forcing them to eat something they refused to eat, you may have won the battle but you are loosing the war! If your toddler learns (or has already learned) that you are willing to do battle over meal times, he/she is likely to accommodate by refusing for the simple pleasure of demanding his/her own way. I feel very strongly about disciplining our children and about teaching them obedience the first time, etc. That said, I try not to make meal time the primary training grounds for these lessons. The other danger is found in giving in. When we “give up” on “forcing” our children to eat what they should, we are giving up on the good nutrition we know they need for proper growth! But what can we do?

Start by setting yourself up to succeed! When I said to be willing to compromise, I didn’t mean to compromise your standards of nutrition or to compromise on the level of obedience you expect from your little ones! Those two things are non-negotiable! Your toddlers need to eat healthy foods and they need to obey! Both are for their own good.

You can compromise by sharing control of the situation. You control what foods are available at each meal and snack and your toddler controls how much he/she wants to eat. Don’t put pressure on your little one to eat a certain amount or even to eat certain things (at least not at the beginning). Perhaps for a while (while retraining what your little one can expect from meal times) meal time rules can be limited to not throwing anything on the floor, or keeping things on a plate whether they want to eat them or not (these are what we focus on in the obedience arena during meal times and I am blessed to have very little on the floor in a given week). If your toddler is hungry, he/she should eat something you’ve made available to him/her.

Borrow ideas from my sample toddler menus here and here to get you started. Choose foods you have introduced before and start with the things your toddler likes, but offer a variety. Then, whether you are spoon feeding or your toddler is self feeding, let him/her decide how much to eat. If you don’t think your little one has eaten enough at a meal, be prepared to offer a snack after a while when hunger strikes again, but be sure to offer healthy options.

I will continue with more strategies of what Works for Us in posts throughout the week. Let me know what you think of today’s strategy by leaving a comment! Or even better, if you’ve tried something similar with your little ones, let us know what your experience has been!

When your Toddler Won't Eat Anything ~ Part 2

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At January 21, 2008 at 9:49 PM , Anonymous Kurt Yordy said...

Here is a success tip that worked with both my older two kids (4 years old each). When they were around two, they each did not like something. I cannot remember my son, but I remember my daughter did not like to eat burgers. So one night we were having burgers and she did not want to eat them. So we told her she could be all done. She said ok. (kids do not start to death by skipping one meal). The next morning, guess what was for breakfast. Thats right, her burger. She ate the whole thing in no time flat, and she has loved burgers ever since. Kids will eat anything if they are hungry enough and do not have other options.

At January 21, 2008 at 10:53 PM , Blogger ~Babychaser~ said...

Great idea Kurt! Thanks for sharing!

At January 22, 2008 at 11:10 AM , Blogger Irene said...

From time to time my daughter will say she's all done after eating only a couple bites of her dinner (and of course its not the chicken she's eaten but the pasta), I take her plate out of her reach. I make her sit with us at the table though as we continue eating. Nine times out of ten she asks for her plate back. I think she just appreciates that I respect that she says she's done. Besides, I want her to be able to decipher when she's full and had enough without me saying she has to eat it all.

At January 23, 2008 at 5:50 PM , Blogger SAHMmy Says said...

Great article and I'll check out your menus. My second baby is much more opinionated when it comes to both food choices and feeding methods than my first was!

At January 23, 2008 at 7:26 PM , Blogger Annette said...

One of the things I find works great with my boyo is have him make supper with me. Even if something is odd...if he's helping me cook...he'll invariably try something unless it's totally odd (i.e. red soft tomatoes) that's just too weird for him...but that's how he learned to eat potatoes, barley, fresh (not canned) pasta, broccoli, meat! :) Sometimes he'll eat his whole meal helping me cook :)

At January 24, 2008 at 9:34 AM , Blogger Marva said...

Thanks for the great ideas. Your articles are such a blessing! Keep up the good work!


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