Toddler Being Difficult at Mealtime? Try This Smart (& Easy) Tip.


On Tuesday, I interviewed Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and co-author of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insight, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, for an article–and I admitted that I’ve been having trouble getting Mason to eat his fruits and veggies lately. I explained that he happily eats the good stuff at school, which she attributes to positive peer pressure, but not at home. She had plenty of tips, but the one I tried first? Take him grocery shopping.

I’ve heard that tending a garden with your kid could make him eat more healthfully, but it honestly didn’t occur to me that shopping for food would be intriguing to a 20-month-old. Dr. Shu explained that participating in the process of selecting the food and even seeing it before it’s cooked could make Mason more interested in eating it.

I thought back to our baby food days and how we used to wander around the farmer’s market in our quest for organic produce to puree. I have no idea whether that experience, back when he was so young, had any influence at all in helping him become such an adventurous eater as a baby (he was into curry at nine-months-old), but we certainly bonded during those outings. And then somewhere between work and our crazy schedules, I started ordering most of our groceries online to save time. So Mason’s only real connection to the food was helping me unload it from cardboard boxes. Which he loves, but it’s just not the same.

That night we headed to Grand Central Market after I picked him up from school. The place is inside Grand Central Station, in the heart of NYC’s midtown East neighborhood, and it’s filled with stalls brimming with fresh produce, meats, spices, and cheeses. We browsed the fruits and veggies and I let him hold different things while I explained what they were. He was most interested in a mixed fruit salad of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and mango, so we purchased it. Then we headed over to the fish counter and picked up a shrimp-and-bell-pepper salad flavored with cilantro and lime juice, as well as a calamari salad with peppers, onion, and jalapenos. Mason appeared to have a great time–and he spent the entire commute home eating strawberries and mango. I was absolutely thrilled. Once we got home he ate shrimp and calamari.

Wow!

Not to sound like a loser but the meal made my week. Dinner was FUN. And, honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that. My plan now is to take him shopping every week and really the different fruits, veggies, and meats–and let him help me choose what to buy. And then he’ll hang out in the kitchen while we cook it.

Any mealtime tips of your own to share?

Photo: Fresh fruits at a market via Adisa/Shutterstock.com.

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  1. by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP

    On May 2, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Excellent article! As a national speaker and author on the topic myself, I just want to say “BRAVO”! I especially love the comment: “Dinner was FUN.” It is so easy to focus on the # of bites instead of the fun of preparing the meal (including shopping!) and being together at the table, as a family. Learning to become an adventurous eater is a step by step process. Focusing on the fun and celebrating the journey is key.