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I’ve heard it a million times: “I don’t understand. As a baby, he was such a great eater and now that he is a toddler, he won’t eat anything!”. Is your toddler a picky eater? Don’t worry, for most kids this is a temporary phase that they will outgrow, but in the meantime meals can be frustrating for both parents and kids. So how do you serve your picky eaters healthy foods without bribery? 


Here are 4 ways to deal with picky eating:


1) Get your kids involved.

Getting your toddler involved in all stages of the meal process including grocery shopping and cooking can greatly impact their eating. Try taking your child to the store and allowing them to pick out a fun new veggie to try as a family. Have them set the table to help with meal time preparation. Give them a small but vital role in the cooking process, like washing the lettuce or preheating the oven. They will be more likely to eat a meal that they felt like they had a role in preparing.


2) Serve new foods with familiar foods.

There are so many new and overwhelming experiences when you are a toddler. Try to create opportunities for growth that are comfortable for your child. When serving new foods, be sure to always include some familiar favorites. By serving these together, your child will be more apt to try an intimidating food.


3) Exposure, exposure, exposure.

For toddlers, it is all about exposure. If they do not eat the broccoli one night, try again the next. Keep exposing your kids to the same foods in a multitude of different ways: steamed broccoli with butter, roasted broccoli with olive oil, broccoli with cheese sauce, etc. It can take up to 20 different exposures before your child feels comfortable with that new food or finds a way that they enjoy it. 


4) Don’t underestimate the power of a fun shape.

Fun shapes will make any boring or intimidating meal more appealing. Cut sandwiches with heart or star-shaped cookie cutters. Buy alphabet-shaped pasta. Make pancakes into Mickey Mouse. Whenever you can, add a face to the meal. This small change will make your child more excited about the eating process.

Kristen Carli, RD is the owner of Camelback Nutrition & Wellness, a private nutrition practice in Scottsdale, Arizona specializing in chronic disease prevention and management as well as vegan/ vegetarian nutrition. Kristen has a passion for helping others identify and knock down their individual barriers hindering them from living a healthy life.

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