One way to help broaden your child’s willingness to try new foods is to present popular, common foods in their diet in different ways. This teaches them that foods always look a little different and don’t need to be cut or presented exactly the same, which allows them to be more comfortable with new or unusual foods in the long run. More variety presented equals more variety (eventually) consumed.
We all tend to default to the same presentation of foods like bananas - it’s totally natural - but if you could change it up every other time you present that food, you’re slowly helping your kiddo become used to variety. If you need help with picky eating, please check out our online Toddler Course.
Side note: we get asked all the time in our Facebook Group if it’s “OK” to serve a banana every day. First off, whatever you want to do and however your family eats is OK! Bananas are inexpensive, portable, full of minerals and fiber, and delicious - they’re an awesome option! As long as they’re not causing constipation and your child is seeing other fruits too, feel free to serve them daily if you’d like - we just recommend presenting them differently when you offer them.
Here are some easy ways to vary how you serve a banana:
Sandwiches are a simple, filling meal option that can help provide essential nutrients - like fiber, protein, and B vitamins - for kids. It’s very convenient if your child can eat sandwiches, as they’re a popular food in many parts of the world. Plus, they’re easy! Whether you’re filling them with peanut butter and jelly, smashed berries and almond or sunflower seed butter, chicken or egg salad, turkey and avocado, or hummus and grilled veggies, sandwiches are a simple option that works well for any meal.
However, many toddlers can’t quite figure out how to eat sandwiches because they require what Judy calls the “bite and pull” technique, where they bite off a piece of food as they pull it back and into their mouth. Some toddlers struggle with stuffing the whole sandwich in their mouth because they can’t quite feel the confines of the bread in their mouth as they eat it.
What are some ways to help your kiddo be more successful with sandwiches? Of course, you can just offer quartered/halved sandwiches at about 10+ months, but your child may have more success when you modify the sandwich to account for their current developmental stage.
Here's some considerations to keep in mind:
Do you have a toddler or baby that dislikes getting their face cleaned after mealtime? Did you know their reluctance to wash their hands after a meal can affect how they eat during that meal?
So much of mealtime success depends on the eating environment and how toddlers perceive the entire experience. If they get their face scrubbed after eating - which many toddlers perceive as a negative sensory experience - many toddlers associate the entire eating process with negativity.
One feeding therapy technique from Judy (as found in our Toddler Course) involves cleaning up using 2 bowls - one with warm, soapy water and one with clean water.
Sadie, Megan’s niece, is shown here playing with these bowls independently, but of course we recommend assisting your toddler in dipping their hands in the bowls while you very gently wipe their face with a separate wet washcloth. Of course, help them avoid dumping water everywhere or eating the bubbles!
This serves multiple purposes - it helps clean your toddler’s hands faster, it gets them used to washing up after a meal, and it distracts them with something fun while you gently wash their face. They may be more likely to come to the table because they see the end of mealtime as a fun thing!
Our Toddler Course is full of tons of feeding therapy and nutrition techniques like these that will help you feel great about feeding your family. No more mealtime battles, no more begging or bribing, no more frustration around food.
You’ll receive access to our course indefinitely (as long as we’re selling/hosting them) and you can go back and watch them as often as you’d like. Read the feedback our clients have given us about the course - we look forward to helping your family as well!
Do you have a child that wants to be independent? Perhaps your child is also becoming more selective about foods. Guess what? You can utilize their desire to do things themselves in a positive way to promote successful mealtimes!
Foodie Judy here, back for another feeding therapy installment! Incorporating a motor skill into the eating process can be a great way to interest children in food - kids are more inclined to eat what they created! Plus, children are hard-wired to practice, practice, practice until they master a skill, so even if they’re initially uninterested in eating a cutie mandarin segment (a wet, squishy food) when served, suddenly it’s a fun food to eat when they get to peel it.
We love serving cuties because they’re inexpensive, a perfect size for little hands, and contain a lot of vitamin C - important in absorbing iron! This is a great activity for kids 18+ months, as they start to utilize more bilateral coordination at that age (one hand holds the object, the other does the work). This skill is important for so many tasks as they get older, including playing instruments, cooking and creating artwork.
Here's the steps for teaching your child to peel a cutie:
If your child struggled to peel the cutie peel, start by having them pull apart the segments first. Get the peel started so they can more easily continue peeling it off. Check out Megan’s daughter Mia practice this exercise by swiping through this Instagram post. She happened to really want to eat the cutie because it’s a favorite food, but notice that she was adamant that she peeled it herself. The last video is my favorite. Show your kids the videos and try it together!
Here are some developmental goals of this activity:
Need more help with a picky eater? Check out our toddler course!
Have you heard of coconut butter, also known as coconut cream? It is made from pureed coconut and is similar to coconut milk - but it’s thicker and higher in calories! Coconut cream is made from 4 parts coconut and 1 part water, whereas coconut milk is 1 part coconut, 1 part water.
One tablespoon has 100 calories, so it’s an energy-dense food that’s great for babies, toddlers and kids, especially if they are struggling in the growth department and their pediatrician has recommended more high-calorie foods. This is the only time you’ll see us mention calories - simply just for comparison when talking about adding more calories to your child’s diet if needed for growth or medical issues. We do not recommend counting your child’s calories unless specifically indicated by your doctor or dietitian.
Coconut cream is a great way to add calories - and flavor - to your tot's diet:
Coconut is a great source of lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory compounds, and it’s a delicious, satisfying option for those with dairy, nut, or soy allergies. I got this Nutiva brand at Sprouts, but there are many different brands you can try.
Fork and Beans has a delicious vegan fudge using coconut butter that’s awesome for those who can’t tolerate dairy:
In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chips with coconut cream, non-dairy milk, and salt. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts if desired and vanilla.
Spread evenly into wax paper-lined small square pan. Place more chopped nuts on top if desired. If using nut/seed butter, drizzle it over the fudge.
Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares. Store covered in fridge.
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!