Top 10 Feeding Challenges -- and How to Solve Them

Expert help on combating your biggest mealtime problems.

Food Fixes 1-2

picky eater

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You knew parenting wouldn't be a piece of cake. But what are you supposed to do with a child who won't eat anything but? The good news: "Meal" and "ordeal" only sound alike; they needn't be synonymous.

We invited nutrition experts to tackle some common feeding challenges that you, our readers, voiced in answer to the question: What's your biggest feeding challenge? Here are practical solutions -- along with some food for thought.

My 19-month-old son used to love healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whatever meat I made for supper. Now, he only wants to eat starchy foods -- macaroni and cheese, potatoes, and toast. I tell myself he'll outgrow this, but I'm worried.

It's not the end of the world if your toddler swears off certain food groups for a while. "He will outgrow this," says Jatinder Bhatia, MD, a pediatrician and nutritionist at the Medical College of Georgia. In the meantime, try these options:

  • Give him the foods he likes for meals.
  • Take advantage of snack time to diversify his diet with fruit, veggies, yogurt, and if allergies are not a problem, peanut butter.
  • Make a ho-hum cup of yogurt more attractive by adding sprinkles, or stir chocolate syrup or Ovaltine into his cup of milk.
  • You can also try to expand his starch-heavy menu with more nutritious alternatives. For instance, serve sweet potatoes instead of garden-variety Idahos.

My 7-month-old daughter eats cereal and veggies three times a day, but she's not interested in her bottle and drinks just 15 ounces of formula daily.

You should address this issue with your pediatrician to make sure your daughter is growing steadily. But even if she is, she is not getting enough calories from her formula.

"Babies get energy from solids, but until they're a year old, they need formula or breast milk to satisfy all their nutrient requirements," explains Dr. Bhatia. He suggests trying to boost her formula consumption by introducing sippy cups; the novelty may increase her interest in drinking.

While babies typically rely on formula or breast milk for the first year, you can experiment with semisolid milk products, including yogurt and even an occasional ice cream. (Though the proteins in cow's milk can be difficult to digest, a small serving of yogurt is unlikely to cause anemia or excess weight, which can become problems when babies drink a lot of cow's milk.)

Finally, try to determine why her appetite for formula is limited. She may be hungrier for formula if, at mealtime, you give her a bottle first, and then try offering solid food afterward.

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