The Food Battle

by Jasmine Carlson on January 20, 2011

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It is raging. You know what I am talking about:  the toddler food battle. My mom keeps quoting someone that she read (and I honestly would tell you who it is but she doesn’t remember, and it is paraphrased I am sure): “Any child worth his salt will put up a fight.” Well, my son is worth his weight in salt. Most of us could probably say that about our toddlers.

I am not a restaurant. I am not planning on becoming one either. I also don’t want my child to be someone who eats at someone’s house and refuses to eat anything or doesn’t eat a healthy variety. Now, on the other hand the picky eating of toddlers is not all their fault. They are super sensitive to both texture and taste which sometimes makes it completely maddening to try and feed my mini man.

We’re working on striking a balance. I feed him a breakfast that I am as sure as I possibly can be that he will eat though he sometimes refuses the fruit that I serve with breakfast. Right now his current favorites are flapjacks and oatmeal and occasionally an omelette. OK. Sometimes he refuses and we have an early lunch.

Lunch is a bit trickier but I’ve found that quesadillas with some hiden shredded or chunked chicken will work, usually I try to use whole wheat tortillas. Macs n’ cheese, I have found some great corn macaroni and use real cheese. Whole wheat pigs in a blanket. And then there is the good ol’ pbj. Bananas, he’ll eat bananas and apples sometimes as well, I’ve tried every berry in the book and the occasional strawberry or grapes.

Dinner is tricky. I like to eat adult food. He does not. I am also not a restaurant and there are quite a few foods that we eat and are good for him that my son can eat but doesn’t. So now what? I do offer one other choice that we are serving, he doesn’t have to eat the peas but I will offer another slice of bread etc. But then it’s done. I will offer something like yogurt or cheese, something I choose sometime before bed. There isn’t a discussion about it, I offer because I don’t want him to go to bed hungry.

Snacks. Right now they are the children’s Clif bars.  Yeah, I would love to say that I am making the snacks, but he isn’t eating what I make as snacks for the most part, so there ya go. There are some battles that just aren’t worth fighting.

I am holding out for the day where his taste palate expands somewhat until then we’ll keep walking the fine line between letting my little dude know that he can’t order from me like a restaurant but also that he eats as healthy as possible on a regular basis.

That, and I give him a good fruit and veggie based supplement.

Photos used from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/polishfoodinfo/4146917212/

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Jasmine Carlson (50 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica January 20, 2011 at 8:10 am

I am having this same struggle with my 22 m/o, but he is still nursing & if he doesn’t feel like eating, he will just hold out until he can nurse. I am a little concerned, b/c I am ready to start a gentle weaning, but I feel bad if he hasn’t eaten and end up giving in with the breast. Very frustrating!

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Natalie January 20, 2011 at 8:57 am

How about including your toddler in the food preparation process. When kids are involved in the process they are more likely to eat the food (because they had their hand it in, so to say). Try involving your kids in the breakfast, lunch, dinner process. Let them pour milk, cut simple, soft fruits/veggies (which an 18 month old can begin to perform), butter sandwiches, mix pancake mix, etc. Once they become more involved, they will be more likely to eat the food :)

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Erin January 20, 2011 at 9:04 am

Sounds a lot like our house. Fortunately the EBF makes me feel a little bit better, since I know he’s getting a little something extra from me.
Favorites for him:
Pancakes
Pasta (with about 4 or 5 different sauces)
Grilled cheese
Pieces of cheese
Yogurt (typically only the chocolate flavor from Stonyfield Farms)

Sometimes I can get him to eat whatever I’m eating if it comes off of my plate and my fork. I know that it’s not teaching him good table manners, but it’s getting him to try all sorts of new foods. It always tastes better off of someone else’s plate.

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Sarah Hammond January 20, 2011 at 9:06 am

I could have written this post myself. My two-year old daughter is going through the same things. Your dinner is my dinner! I really just think that as long as I’m offering up healthy selections, my daughter will see these and hopefully come around someday. I’m not a restaurant, but I also can’t let her go to bed hungry either. This is all just part of parenting I guess!

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Kelly January 20, 2011 at 10:29 am

I’m in exactly the same place with my almost 2.5-year-old, with the extra challenge of his gluten-freeness thrown in. May I ask what supplement you use? I give mine a multivitamin but would like to use something more food-based.

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Rachel January 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Did anybody struggling with getting their toddler to eat use the baby-led solids method? Cos we don’t have any food issues with my 33 month old and never have. I’ve always put that down to giving him control over his eating through baby-led solids, but it could be his personality, or a combination of the two, or just simply luck!!

Anyone have any thoughts?

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Schussel January 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm

We did baby-led solids from the beginning. Now (2 years old) we don’t have a picky eater, but also not a child who eats everything on the table. There is not a single thing which I could describe as not being liked, but his eating behavious changes greatly with each day. One day he may eat whatever we cook – any kind of vegetables, sauce, even spicy things. The next day he might eat nothing but bread. Without anything on it. Or only, say, bananas. We let him have his way and he seems healthy and thriving. So why should I mess with that, even if it means only potatoes for a week?

It also helps a lot here to keep some of the ingredients separate when I prepare combined dishes. Often he will eat e.g. broccoli, pasta, tomatoes, one after the other, but refuses to eat a stir fry including the same ingredients.

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Angela January 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm

We had some picky eater issues (mainly from teething pain and constipation) with my 28 month old until I started making him popsicles. I found some smoothie recipes, blended them up and froze them. The smoothies typically consist of spinach or another type of green leafy vegetable, bananas (enough to mask the greens), and other fruits such as frozen blueberries or strawberries to change the color. At first he was hesitant to try the popsicles, but once he discovered they tasted like bananas, he’s been a fan ever since. I did start out light on the greens and then increased as he became accustomed to the taste. I’m always mixing up the greens (spinach, lettuces, kales, bok choy, to name a few) and fruit. I also like to add sesame seeds for calcium, pumpkin seed butter or hemp seeds for added protein, and liquid minerals or a bit of sea vegetables. I’ve found if I give him two popsicles a day, his digestion works great and I feel like I’ve covered my bases for veggies that day. He loves to help me make them and tells me it’s his job to add the greens to the blender. :) They’re also easy to transport. I freeze some into portable baby cube containers and take along a little wooden spoon so he can eat a slushy popsicle on the go.

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apprenticemom January 21, 2011 at 12:24 am

My 2.5 year old used to eat EVERYTHING, but now leans in the opposite direction.

He won’t eat fresh fruit except apples (sliced, without peels) and banana. Berries? Forget it! He also won’t eat avocado (unless we are at home); or tomato (unless it is in the form of ketchup). If any food he doesn’t like accidentally gets into his mouth (like avocado served outside of our house, even if it is by me), he literally gags and wipes his tongue (yes, he does this in public).

Oh, and he will eat goldfish crackers, but only the ones with faces; if they only have half a face or no face, he won’t eat them. Who knew there was any difference between them?

Usually, he will eat rice with beans or dahl; anything wrapped in a tortilla seems to be passing muster these days too. Cream of wheat or oatmeal with raisins are also always a safe bet!

On the other hand, in the last 6 months, my 5.5 year old has gone from eating NOTHING to eating almost everything on offer, or at least trying it.

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Sharron January 21, 2011 at 8:09 am

My pickiest eater is my first-born. It’s part personality, part parenting mistakes. She is now 8.5 and will refuse all fruit and veg. She is small for her age and it is simply painful for a mom who grows and eats organic produce, lots of beans and very little meat. My second and third children are great eaters. (Apples, all berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, salads, broccoli… basically anything.) The main difference? No choices on meals. Never ask what they would like to eat. Seriously. Do not ask. Simply put the food in front of them at every meal. When they don’t eat, take the plate away but save it. When they ask to eat later, put the plate back down. You must be 100% consistent and start now. I didn’t put my foot down until my oldest was 4. Her patterns were already established by then. She is now required to eat one fruit and one veg for dinner, but she hates it and takes forever. I hide a lot of veggies in foods that she likes (winter squash in mac & cheese, tomatoes and pureed greens in tacos) and give her a supplement but don’t feel like it’s enough.
One option on what to offer; try frozen blueberries and frozen peas. Sometimes they hate the texture of fresh fruit. If he doesn’t like raw veg, try cooked. I chop up apples into little cubes and microwave for about a minute then sprinkle with cinnamon. That’s the easiest way to get her to eat apples or pears. Also, offer lots of small servings of different whole foods. One cut up strawberry, one scoop of peas, one carrot. And maybe something he likes such as a few crackers. Don’t overwhelm him with a big serving of something he’s afraid of. (This is how I got my 6 and 2 year old to be such great eaters.)

When our children have never known hunger (thank goodness) they are bold and stubborn enough to demand certain foods. Trust me, when we are on the go and haven’t had a chance to eat, the girls will devour whatever is in front of them simply because their body takes over for their minds. While you are reestablishing the eating rules, be firm but very kind and loving. You can make up a game or a song or whatever it takes to make trying new food fun. Never make it about rewards or punishment. And don’t give in because you think your toddler is starving.
Sorry for the long post! This has been one of my worst challenges as a mother. All children are different and will put up a power struggle on something, but eating habits are so very important. I wish you all the best on this!!

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Sharron January 21, 2011 at 10:11 am

Okay, one more thing. It is at the age of 2 that all three of my children started to assert themselves about food. (Prior to her revolt, my oldest child loved black bean and broccoli burritos and peas.) You really have to push past it and realize they are testing their limits as they will do with everything from here on out. Of course they want french fries instead of apples, or buttered pasta instead of broccoli… those choices are tastier at this age.

My younger girls are only allowed one cup of juice per day. I offer it for breakfast so I can brush teeth afterward. They both started whining, crying and demanding juice at every meal when they were two years old. I had to be consistent: one cup a day and no exceptions. The other options are milk or water. All three girls drink tons of water now and have lost their fascination with juice.

And my exception on food choice is when we dine out. They can order anything they want. It was painful at first when the oldest girl ordered buttered pasta at every restaurant, but I let her decide. She now orders fairly healthy and broad selections when we eat out.

I’m done now! Cheers.

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Nana (3 DS's!) January 22, 2011 at 5:14 pm

A Childs own appetite is the best guide. A sensitive attached family “knows” when to sleep without any “training” — just like this they will know what to eat. Listen to your babies cravings there is wisdom in them. We feed our child whatever he wants, just as we soothe him in the night when he wants. The lack of crying and peace speaks for itself.

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Jasmine Carlson January 23, 2011 at 5:34 pm

We also did “baby led solids”. My son pretty much ate anything and everything until he turned 2. As far as I can tell it is another stage that he is going through. Making it as comfortable for him and us without turning out with a tyrant is the goal, haha. Nice to hear everyone’s stories.

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Jasmine Carlson January 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Also I wanted to add that I give my son Juice Plus + as a “supplement”. It is fruits and veggies that have been juiced and dehydrated and encapsulated, I like that I am just giving him extra food not a supplement especially since he isn’t really big on eating veggies right now.

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