It can be really stressful after you’ve spent the better part of half an hour steaming vegetables, cooking up meat and slicing it into bite-sized pieces –all while juggling an impatient toddler in the throes of the witching hour.
And then, to add insult to injury, they either throw food on the floor, stare at it blankly or worse, have a total meltdown.
This was my reality for years with my eldest son.
Apple slices? Nope. Boiled eggs? Nah. Steak slivers? Hell no!
Because he’s on the autism spectrum, he has unique food preferences. No major intolerances or allergies, but so fussy, it hurts! Sometimes, it’s the texture, other times, it’s the smell and often, it’s the taste. And when he did finally eat something, he ate like a sparrow!
So, if you’ve got a toddler anything like mine was, here are my top 5 tips to get you through:
1. Stay Cool
If you’re stressed, there’s a fair chance your toddler will be too.
Take a quick time out if you need to and remain calm. Let them have a little tanty for a minute (you can too!) and then come back to them after a deep breath.
2. Become A Vegetable Ninja!
You name it, I tried it. I’ve tried hiding extra vegetables in every conceivable dish you can think of! Lasagne, spaghetti sauce, pie mince, veg fritters, meatloaf, rissoles, the list goes on.
Research has shown that you may need to offer a new food to your children up to 10 times before they try it, so be persistent, keep trying until something works – on the plus side, you’ll have some great nutritious meals for the rest of the family!
3. Get Creative
I see a lot of mums on Pinterest going to a lot of effort to create edible artworks for their kids’ lunch. Meanwhile, I’m over here just trying to get my kid to eat a peanut butter sandwich!
You don’t have to go too far, but creating a fun little scene or face on a plate out of a variety of food can help distract them from the ‘I don’t like it’ auto-response!
4. Let Them Help
Get your little one to help you choose the food at the supermarket and help with the preparation. It will give them a sense of ownership and control knowing they took part.
As an active little fella, I was worried my eldest would run himself into the ground by not getting enough nutrients to sustain his high level of activity. Like a lot of kids, he only liked white food; bread, cereal, pasta, biscuits and milk. To bypass the stress and fear of him not getting enough, we supplemented his diet with a fortified toddler milk drink.
There’s no such thing as perfect parenting, we’re all just doing the best we can for our kids.