I can’t tell you how many strangers have come up to us in restaurants and told us they were amazed by what our toddler was eating — whether it was Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tofu, etc. Abby, now two years old, loves to eat. And even though I’d like to take all of the credit for her great diet, I know that parents have to work with the cards they are dealt. Some kids are naturally picky eaters, and there isn’t much parents can do about it.
Believe it or not, Abby went through a picky eating phase when she was about 18 months old. She suddenly rejected foods she had happily eaten before, like blueberries, broccoli, beans, and avocado. Rather than offer her unhealthy alternatives, I continued to serve those items regularly (usually having to eat Abby’s portion myself).
This may sound cruel, but I even force-fed Abby some foods I knew she liked but refused to try. For example, if dinner was a stir-fry and she wouldn’t touch the broccoli, I’d put a piece on her fork and press it against her lips so she could taste the sauce on it. Usually she’d decide she actually did like the food, then would start to eat it by the handful. If she still refused to try it, I’d drop the issue until next time. After a few months of gently “reminding” Abby that she liked those foods, she stopped being picky. Now she at least tries foods before placing them in the reject pile on the side of her tray.
Right now Abby’s favorite foods consist of veggie sushi, tofu cubes, almond butter, tomato soup, kiwi, blackberries, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts (really!), green juice and smoothies, and medjool dates. She eats everything we eat except for salads, but we’re working on that!
Abby is in great health, which I attribute to her plant-based diet. She has never had an ear infection — a frequent health problem with her dad and me when we were young. She has gotten a few colds, but they amounted to nothing more than a runny nose and maybe a cough that lasted a couple of days. She has plenty of energy, sleeps well at night, and is generally a very happy toddler!
This post is a continuation of my previous articles,
Tips for Feeding Toddlers:
1. Make sure all foods are cut up into small pieces so that your child does not choke.
2. Feed your kids what you eat so they can follow your lead. If you eat junk, that’s what they’ll want too. So be a good role model!
3. Offer them a good variety of foods at each meal, and offer them regularly.
4. If kids refuse to try something based on the way it looks, consider making them try it once. You’re in charge!
5. Keep nutritious snacks* in a bottom drawer so kids can reach them. Store the less nutritious snacks out of sight so the kids aren’t throwing a tantrum because they want Mommy’s dark chocolate.
6. Don’t be afraid of flavor! Tofu is bland, so we serve it with reduced-sodium tamari (soy sauce), curry sauce, peanut sauce, etc. Abby loves dipping her foods, so we often put a small puddle of sauce or soup on her tray and let her dip away. She loves it!
7. For beverages, stick to water, unsweetened nondairy milk (we like almond), or the occasional green lemonade.
8. For extra reinforcement, grow some of your own produce and let the kids help in the garden. Studies show that kids who grow their own food are more likely to eat it. It’s also good to let them help out in the kitchen!
*Snack Ideas for Toddlers:
Fruit – always a good option!
Fruit and veggie purée pouchesFlax crackers or other seed crackers
Mini cinnamon rolls
Plain or lightly salted popcorn, eaten with supervision
Pitted dates with almond butter (or other nut butter)
Veggies and hummusSeed bread with nut butter, hummus, avocado, or almond cream cheese
Peanut butter & jelly cookies (recipe coming soon!)
- 1 frozen (peeled, obviously) banana
- 1 large kale leaf, stem removed
- 1 heaping T. almond butter (or other nut butter)
- 1 T. vanilla extract or flavoring
- 1-2 T. milled Chia seeds
- ~ ¼ cup frozen blueberries
- ~ 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or nondairy milk of your choice), plus more if needed
- Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until completely smooth. You may need to add more milk to reach desired consistency.
- Pour into a cup with a straw, and serve!
Even though Abby eats a balanced diet, I give her one Pixie Vite multivitamin per day to make sure she gets enough vitamin D and B12, which can be deficient in people on plant-based diets. I doubt she really needs it, but I think of multivitamins as safety nets — better safe than sorry!
I hope you try some of my tips to encourage your little ones to be better eaters. Establishing good eating habits is so important at this age because it sets the foundation for a good diet later in life and reduces your child’s disease risk.
For more reading on the subject of feeding toddlers, I recommend Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Disease-Proof Your Child.”
If you have any questions or concerns about anything in this post, please comment or email me!