How to Get Picky Toddlers to Eat: Lunch Ideas to Try

Healthy Eating Habits

Tired of mealtime battles with your picky eater? 

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Discover effective strategies to introduce new foods and recipes to your toddler, making mealtimes healthier and more enjoyable for everyone. 

It’s never too late to transform your child’s eating habits.

Why is My Toddler a Picky Eater?

Toddlers who aren’t introduced to various foods early on in life can become picky eaters later on. This is because they’re less attuned to change, so introducing them to new foods may overwhelm them. 

Picky eating is common among toddlers, but if left unaddressed, it can persist and impact your child’s long-term eating habits.

For this reason, it’s important to take proactive steps now to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food that will benefit them as they grow older.

How to Get Picky Toddlers to Eat

Eat Together as a Family

Strengthen family bonds with shared mealtimes. Avoid giving food to your child when they’re distracted by play, TV, or bedtime. Make the dining table the designated place for meals, where everyone gathers to enjoy food and each other’s company. 

Talk About Food

Create a positive food culture at home by talking to your child about their meals. Instead of using negative terms like “yucky” or “gross,” describe the food’s appearance, aroma, and flavor. This sparks curiosity and cultivates a sense of wonder, inspiring your child to give new dishes a try.

Eat at Regular Times

Establish a consistent eating routine for your child’s well-being. Ensure they have three meals a day, along with snack time, scheduled at appropriate intervals. By establishing this routine, you’ll help nurture their natural appetite, guiding them to anticipate and enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Start with Small Portion Sizes

While it’s crucial for children to get sufficient calories and nutrients, overwhelming them with large portions of new foods can be counterproductive. Instead, introduce new dishes gradually by placing a small bite on their plate. 

They may be hesitant at first, but starting with small portions encourages curiosity and increases the likelihood of them trying and eventually enjoying the food.

Make Meals Fun

Make mealtimes enticing for kids by adding a dash of fun and excitement. Avoid unappetizing meals by getting creative with the presentation—cut their food into fun shapes, add food coloring, or sprinkle on some magic. When food looks appealing, your child’s eagerness to eat will soar! 

Plan Meals with Your Kids

Turn mealtime into a collaborative adventure by including your child in meal planning. Take them to the grocery store and let them choose foods they’re excited to try. Back home, involve them in the cooking process—stirring, mixing, and plating. When kids have a hand in creating meals, their curiosity and willingness to try new foods soar.

Limit Mealtime

Limit meals to 30 minutes, as prolonged sitting can hinder a positive experience for your child. Avoid pressuring them to finish their meal within that time frame. Instead, simply store any leftovers and offer them again during the next scheduled meal or snack time.

Limit Distractions

In today’s digital age, it’s tempting to let our children use gadgets during meals for convenience. However, this can distract them from the purpose of mealtime and disrupt their eating experience. 

Minimize distractions by emphasizing that mealtime is meant for nourishment and quality family interaction. Let’s create tech-free moments where everyone can fully engage and enjoy the dining experience together.

Don’t Force Feed

Encouraging a healthy relationship with food means avoiding pressure tactics. When you let your child decide how much to eat, you empower them to develop their own eating habits. 

While it’s fine to encourage trying new foods, respecting their decision when they refuse is important. Trust that they will explore and embrace new flavors when they’re ready, fostering a positive and independent approach to eating.

Set a Good Example

As a parent, being a positive role model for your child is paramount. By leading by example, you have the power to inspire them to explore new experiences. When your child sees you enjoying certain foods, they’re more likely to be open to trying them too. Set the stage for healthy habits by setting good examples, and watch your child follow in your footsteps.

5 Toddler Lunch Ideas for a Picky Eater

Need more help to start? Here are some toddler lunch ideas for picky eaters to try out.

Puff Pastry Pizza Bundles

Indulge in delicious homemade pepperoni puff pastries that are easy to make! With just a few ingredients like puff pastry, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese, you can create delectable bite-sized treats. 

Simply roll out the pastry, add the toppings, fold, and brush with egg wash. Bake until golden and serve with warm pizza sauce for dipping. 

These flavorful pastries are perfect as appetizers or snacks. Enjoy the irresistible combination of crispy pastry, savory pepperoni, and melted cheese!

Broccoli Pesto Pizza

Whip up a vibrant and flavorful broccoli pesto pasta dish in no time! Boil broccoli florets briefly before blending them with pine nuts, green olives, basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil. 

Toss the creamy pesto with al dente pasta, adding reserved pasta water to achieve your desired consistency. 

Top it off with a sprinkle of black pepper and enjoy a satisfying and delicious meal. For leftover pesto, freeze it in convenient ice cube trays for future use. A perfect way to savor the fresh flavors of summer.

Tic Tac Toe Sandwiches

Prepare a delightful and interactive Tic Tac Toe sandwich with just a few ingredients! Spread cream cheese on two slices of bread. Layer one side with thinly sliced cucumbers. 

Cut the sandwich into 9 squares. Use mini cookie cutters to create X’s and O’s from red and yellow bell peppers. Add extra X’s and O’s on the side for playing the game. Let your child enjoy a playful meal by playing Tic Tac Toe with their food, making lunchtime even more exciting.

Baked Mac-and-Cheese Bites

Indulge in delicious bite-sized mac and cheese! Boil elbow pasta until al dente. In a pot, sauté minced onion and garlic in melted butter. 

Add flour, then milk, whisking until smooth. Season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir in white and yellow cheddar until melted. Mix in pasta, then scoop into greased mini-muffin pans. 

Top with yellow cheddar and bake until golden. Let cool before serving. Enjoy hot or at room temperature. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to two days.

BLT Pasta Salad

Create a mouthwatering bacon pasta salad in a few simple steps! Season bacon with black pepper and bake until crisp. Cook pasta until al dente, then cool. Whisk together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and cider vinegar for the dressing. 

Toss pasta, tomatoes, avocado, romaine, and crumbled bacon in a large bowl. If serving immediately, add the dressing and toss. Enjoy this delightful combination of flavors and textures. Perfect for a satisfying meal or a crowd-pleasing side dish.

Satisfy Your Child’s Picky Appetite

It’s normal for toddlers to be picky when it comes to food. Figuring out how to get picky toddlers to eat is difficult, but with patience and determination, it’s possible. 

At Rayito del Sol, we value your child’s growth and development. Learn more about our advocacy and mealtime experiences by checking us out today. 

December 21, 2023