Parents – throw those hands up in the air (and wave ’em like ya just don’t care) if you currently deal with or have ever dealt with a picky toddler who loves to give you a run for your money when it comes to actually eating something with nutritional value during the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’m left baffled and shrugging my shoulders trying to crack the super secret code to get my toddler to actually eat the food that I prepare for her and NOT solely eat graham crackers and Goldfish. The struggle is real, y’all!
I was that mom when my baby was starting solids when she was 6 months old. You know, the one who makes all of the baby food from scratch, only uses organic fruits and veggies in the purees and swears that introducing a unique array of foods to the baby while they’re young will make them develop a taste for healthy foods for the rest of their life – including the toddler years.
So not only did my toddler NOT develop a taste for fruits and veggies as she entered the toddler stage, but she also somehow developed a quite impressive skill for throwing an epic temper tantrum when we offer her something new on her plate outside of her beloved chicken nuggets and tiny cut up hot dogs. (She totally gets her stubbornness from me, but I’m just going to continue to shrug my shoulder and act like I don’t know where it comes from.) 😉
So after going rounds with my little one trying to make sure she actually eats and is getting all of the nutrients her little body needs throughout the day, I started to feel a little defeated. I felt like she wasn’t getting the foods that she needed, and I felt like I was completely to blame. I also felt like my struggle was my own, and that surely all other parents didn’t have this much trouble getting their tots to eat their fruits and veggies.
That’s when I picked up my phone and decided to get some answers.
I recently shared my experience using Amwell, the nation’s largest telehealth company. Last month I got to speak with a licensed lactation consultant to discuss a few common breastfeeding questions I had – and I did it all without ever leaving my couch! This time, I hopped right onto my couch again, opened up the Amwell app on my phone and set up and scheduled my own appointment with a nutritionist to help get to the bottom of my picky toddler dilemma. Amwell’s vision is to to offer a variety of physicians on demand for people to access 24/7 – meaning the physician can come to you wherever you may be instead of driving to an office, sitting in a waiting room and dealing with everything in between. Brilliant!
During my appointment, my nutritionist and I immediately bonded over the fact that we BOTH have a two year old child, and that we both have our own struggles trying to get them to eat the foods that we put in front of them. She quickly let me know that I am not alone in my struggles, and she answered a few questions I had and helped put my mind at ease about making sure my toddler was getting the nutrients she needs.
Here’s what we discussed:
Q: What foods should I be incorporating into my toddler’s diet?
A: Aim to make about half of their plate contain fruits and vegetables. Encourage a good variety of the basic food groups. We discussed my toddler’s love for cheese and how I was concerned that I was allowing too much of it in her diet, and she explained to me than non-processed cheese can be a good source of protein and healthy fat, so a little bit of cheese each day is perfectly fine and normal.
Q: How much food and water should my toddler consume a day?
A: The most important thing is just to make sure that they’re properly hydrated. Focusing on a number amount of both water and food can cause unnecessary stresses. Seeing to it that your toddler has milk or water at every meal is a great starting point. It’s not uncommon for a toddler to pick over their food and to graze throughout the day rather than eat a full meal. It’s important to remember that they know their hunger cues better than we do. If they’re hungry, they’ll eat. Try not to force a toddler to eat food just to reach a daily recommended amount.
Q: What foods should I avoid?
A: As a general rule, it’s a healthy practice to teach that there is no such thing as a “bad” food. Every food can have it’s place in our daily diets, but moderation is key. It’s important to implement a healthy relationship with foods at a young age. It’s good to keep sugars and high fats at a minimum, but do not completely remove them from the diet. Watching the sodium in the foods that you give your toddler is important, as a toddler’s kidneys do not process it very well. Many popular snacks can contain a lot of sodium, so just be mindful of that.
Q: Is it normal for my toddler to be picky about their food?
A: 1000x YES! It’s completely normal for a young child to be picky about food, and it can often be frustrating to the parent when their child isn’t eating the food you provided them. She explained the “Division of Responsibility” rule, which simply states that as adults, our job is to determine what, when and where the child eats. It is up to the child to determine how much and whether or not they want to eat it. As frustrating as it is to see a toddler refuse their food, creating the routine of sticking to your job and not making a fuss about it can go a long way in how the toddler approaches eating at each meal.
Q: What are some ways I can encourage my toddler to try new foods?
A: It takes toddlers about twenty times seeing a food before they grow to like it or accept it. Being repetitive about offering a child a new-to-them food will create familiarity in their mind, and the more they see it, the more likely they are to try it. If you want to get your child to start eating peaches, place a few peach slices on your child’s plate every day next to a food that you know they eat. They may refuse it several times, but eventually they will grow to feel that it belongs on their plate, and will ultimately begin to try it.
Q: What do you do when your toddler refuses to eat?
A: Remember to trust their hunger cues. Don’t worry about their food intake unless they truly aren’t eating or drinking anything for the length of a few days. Lack of appetite can be caused by numerous things, but a toddler opting to not eat isn’t always caused by an illness. Toddlers are learning at such a rapid pace, and their new independence will guide them in many different directions. Don’t stress, and just remember the division of responsibility!
Chatting with the nutritionist brought a lot of new ideas and practices that I’m excited to implement with my daughter. I’m definitely going to aim to do my job and not make a fuss when she doesn’t eat, and introducing new foods to her along with foods that she already eats is a great idea! For the past several weeks, I almost completely quit trying to introduce new foods to her, because I knew she’d just shoot them down. Today, I’m starting with this apple. A few days ago I would’ve looked at this apple and rolled my eyes at the thought of giving it to her. Today, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about it! When she wakes up from her nap, I’m going to present her with a few apple slices next to her string cheese snack. Do I expect her to eat it? No. Will I present it to her daily, choose not to fuss, and rejoice when she decides the time is right to take a bite? You betcha!
I’m so thankful for the roll that Amwell has played in my life so far. It has provided so much convenience, peace of mind and answers to some tough questions that I certainly could not have sorted out myself. If you haven’t given Amwell a try yet, what are you waiting for? There’s a licensed medical professional on the other end of your phone that’s excited to chat with you!
Ready to get started and chat with a nutritionist or other medically trained professional? If so, I’ve got a special discount just for you to help you save some $$ off of your first visit! To get started, go ahead and sign up for Amwell services ( it’s super quick and easy!) Once you schedule your appointment and enter into your visit, use code MOMHELP10 when entering your payment information to get 50% off of your first visit! (You can use this code once. Offer expires 12/31/17. Please note that you have to put your credit card information in to hold the appointment, then once you log back in for your appointment time you will be prompted to enter the promo code.)