Q: I have been struggling with getting my almost 3-year-old son to eat fruits and vegetable, or any food really. When he first started eating solids, he ate everything we put in front of him. Now he eats very little and only pasta with marinara sauce, hot dogs, and peanut butter sandwiches (which usually results in him licking off the peanut butter and discarding the bread). I can't even get him to eat vitamins. I have tried disciplining, bribing, making eating fun, etc., but nothing works. I worry about his nutrition. How can I get him to try new foods?
A: It’s perfectly “normal” and age-appropriate for toddlers to find interest in everything but eating. It’s our job to provide healthy food options and to set some sort of routine. Offer new foods repeatedly. Start by offering one new food for a few days, and then rotate to another food. Patience needs to be a virtue here -- you may need to offer a new food as many as 20 times before your toddler accepts and actually enjoys it.
Keep mealtimes pleasant and positive, gently encourage without pressuring (or bribing) your child to eat. Limit distractions and eat together as often as possible. Involve him in grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation; this may empower him to take more interest in food and eating.
Chances are, as your toddler grows and matures, he will likely want to try new things and enjoy family meal time. And keep in mind that your child is likely to eat more when he goes through a growth spurt. As long as his pediatrician determines that he’s growing adequately and consistently, he’s probably eating enough to meet his needs.