Have you ever woken up one morning and your toddler just refuses to eat something they enjoyed a hundred times before? If your child is between the age of 18 and 30 months, they may be going through a picky eating stage that is totally normal.
For my kids, there were a couple triggers. Milk, water, meat, carrots, pasta… all of a sudden they would give p these foods even though they’d previously been part of their regular diet. I could spend all day trying to get one of them to take a sip of water or milk, and even though I KNEW they had to be thirsty, they’d refuse. Or I’d go to Wendy’s and even though all they got was chicken nuggets which their siblings were wolfing down, they wouldn’t touch them. Or they’d nibble off the coating but not eat the chicken. I’d watch them put something in their mouth and then fish around to take it right back out. If I coaxed them with just “one more bite!” they’d get it down and then vomit it right back up. I soon stopped the coaxing.
This kind of thing would go on for a year or almost two, and then they’d suddenly decide a food was ok again. So don’t stress the pickiness. Some kids are pickier than others, and some of them don’t grow out of it quite as well. But on the whole, kids can grow up healthy on a startlingly slim repertoire of foods. As long as there is something in each major group: starches, fats, proteins—they will probably be ok. Aim for diversity as much as possible but if you just can’t achieve it without spilling blood, don’t sweat it. Plenty of kids continue to grow when all they will eat is bagels, peanut butter, and applesauce.
Picky eating is especially common around the two- and three-year old year. I would say the majority of kids in this age get pickier. A lot has to do with texture, I think. And it may have to do with slowing down and noticing more flavors in foods, some of which they might not like. That is why most kids give up vegetables and meat. It simply doesn’t feel good to chew or taste as much as breads and sugars. But lots of kids are bothered by fruits and pastas too, which again points to the texture demon. I have tried to fight this demon at least once with each child and usually give up because it is too frustrating for both of us. Around the age of four, they start trying to rejoin the land of the living… mainly because they are more swayed by the image of other people eating a food and enjoying it. They will try a bite of salad or a piece of Daddy’s sandwich when they never would have before.
If your child’s pickiness is out of control, run it by your pediatrician. But they almost always say it is something to tolerate. Obviously if you see red flags like not growing or gaining weight, excessive gagging, irritable bowels, or allergies, your pickiness issue has graduated to needing medical attention. But even severe pickiness like only eating three or four foods is common for this age. As long as there are no symptoms, try to be patient. Try some of the sneaky techniques available in most women’s magazines for getting in fruits or vegetables. Or if your toddler will tolerate one type of fruit/vegetable just go with it for awhile. Enjoy their predictability. Continue to introduce new foods occasionally but don’t expect much. Variation on a theme is probably good… applesauce to apples, peas to peas with cut up green beans, pizza to pasta with red sauce, cream cheese to cottage cheese, etc. Rotate nut butters and milks, cut carrots or bread up in different shapes so they get used to variety, try slightly different ingredients in yogurt or a soup with the same broth, put raisins or dried fruits in funny designs on graham crackers or pancakes, slip a tomato or thin slice of ham in a grilled cheese.
But if all else fails, DON’T WORRY ABOUT IT! Add a Flinstones vitamin and wait for day your little one looks longingly at your lunch again… it will come.