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Beyond noodles: how to help your child try new foods

Does your 18 month to 3 year old seem to love only noodles, chicken nuggets and flavored yogurt? If so, this post is for you!

Picky eating is common in children age 18 months to 3 years. Most parents have at least one child who is choosy at mealtime. Picky eating is often a phase that passes by the time a child enters grade school. Sometimes picky eating sticks around until a child is much older. Knowing this doesn't make it easier to feed your child, but here is one tip that will make things easier:

Eat meals with your child


Eat the same thing as your child at those meals

If you are at home with your child, make breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Make foods you enjoy and adjust them for your child. Always offer your child the same things you are eating. Kids don't need "kid food." They can eat anything you are having as long as it doesn't pose a choking hazard. The only difference between a parent's meal and a child's meal is serving size.

The photo on top is a common lunch I eat with my 3 year old. He didn't start out liking tuna or avacados. For several months he would only eat the pears and the bread. I never told him that he had to try avacados. I never told anyone that he "doesn't like avacados." I just said nothing at all and kept on serving it every few days. Eventually he tasted them on his own and learned to like them. Avoid labeling your child as picky or saying they don't like certain foods. Just keep offering foods and eventually your child will try them.

It can be helpful to keep foods separate, kids usually don't like foods to be mixed up. That's why I've put the tuna on the side of the bread. He eats his tuna with a spoon and then eats the bread plain.

Serving the same meal from the start eliminates the chance of your child getting stuck on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or chicken nuggets. If you let your child know from the start that they always get the same thing you are having, then that is what they will come to expect.

Worried your child won't get enough to eat? Research shows that children are very good at regulating their intake. If they don't eat a lot one day, they will make up for it the next day. The key here is to keep your cool, keep offering new foods and never force your child to eat. Just offer food and let them decide whether they will eat it or not. Don't be afraid of your child starving. As long as you've offered a balanced meal, you've done your job. Now let your child decide how much to eat.

For more information about picky eating, ask your family advocate to show you the InJoy video about 2 year olds during your next visit. You can also read up on picky eating here, here and here.

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