How can I make sure my picky toddler is getting enough nutrients?

Real Mom Problem

“Every meal is a fight. He won't eat anything remotely healthy. I'm exhausted from it and frustrated because I feel like I'm a failure.”

by ArmyWifeAshlie ArmyWifeAshlie

Quick Tips

  • 1. Check with your pediatrician to make sure your toddler's growth and development are on the right track
  • 2. Work healthy ingredients into meals by disguising them in purees or incorporating them into dishes you know your toddler loves
  • 3. Offer dips and sauces to make healthy foods more fun
  • 4. Aim for providing your toddler with a balanced diet for the week rather than focusing on what they eat daily
  • 5. Remember that toddlers have small stomachs and only need about a quarter the size of an adult portion

Real Mom Solutions

Don't give up! Picky toddlers can become good eaters, and there are tips and tricks to make sure they're getting all the nutrients they need in the meantime. Try some of these ideas from the moms of CafeMom.

Make Healthy Additions

  • LOVE_mygirls58

    She LOVES a tuna sandwich but I make the sandwich look like a fish with a heart tail and a circle head and then I take cucumbers and carrots for the eyes and smile. She loves it!

  • H696969

    I give my daughter carnation instant breakfast in her milk a couple days a week. They have about the same amount of vitamins that Pediasure does, but it is a lot cheaper! My doctor recommended it when I was going to use Pediasure.

  • TonyaLea

    I don't make pasta anymore without throwing in some chopped broccoli, peas, or asparagus. I also boost bread/muffin recipes by adding shredded carrot. It blends well with sweet flavors. Our PB sandwiches almost always have sliced fruit on them like apple, banana, or strawberry. And I only make blueberry pancakes. To my daughter they are not real pancakes unless they have blueberries in them.

  • HeeJeong

    My 4 year old doesn't notice when I puree veggies into soups, hamburgers and even mac 'n cheese. It tastes different to me but since it's the only way he knows, he's used to it.

  • RockinMama0608

    This morning I made scrambled eggs and added shredded cheese and green bell pepper. My son loves eggs, so I thought each time I make it, I will add a new veggie.

  • TonyaLea

    I always add extras to things. When she has oatmeal in the morning I add some extra chopped fruits, sometimes some raisins, craisins, or chopped nuts. When I make any pasta I always throw in some sort of veggie like corn, peas, broccoli, shredded carrot, or asparagus. I do the same thing when baking breads. I often add homemade salsa to dip or top things with. I find that mixing the veggies into other stuff increases their chances of being eaten.

  • flowrchild77

    I put wheat germ into so much stuff! I mix it in tuna sandwiches (my son's favorite), sauces, almost everything! I also put pureed carrots in a lot because my kids won't eat carrots. I made tacos the other night and put the carrot mush & wheat germ in it, and no one (not even my husband) knew it.

  • Mona949

    Soups, stews and pasta sauces are great for disguising things. You can puree a ton of vegetables into them with a hand held blender while it's cooking. I do it all the time with Chicken Tortilla Soup. My 4 year old has decided that he doesn't like onions or spices. That's his new gig. Coming from New Orleans, everyone in my family was shocked when they heard the news. But he's still eating and hasn't even noticed that they are still in there.

  • RockinMama0608

    In the past few months, I have been using whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta and even using barley in soups. When I make meatloaf or meatballs, I will sometimes add whole-grain bread crumbs, oatmeal, or brown rice.

Hiding Veggies: Yea or Nay?

  • RockinMama0608

    If you would like to get her to try new veggies, I'd suggest making purees. If you make your own pizza sauce, puree some veggies and add it. Or, you can try making a smoothie with the fruits she likes and add some spinach.

  • TonyaLea

    I agree that adding pureed veggies to foods works to get the nutrients in them, but with the caveat that you have to keep feeding them whole veggies too because familiarity brings a higher willingness to try something, if they never SEE the veggies they will never become familiar.

Make Healthy Foods Fun

  • 2-point-doe

    We use creative names like dinosaur trees (broccoli), moon beam meat (carrots), and my daughter's favorite, peas with points (green garbanzo beans). She not only helps prepare but often times gets to choose the vegetable or fruit we will have with dinner. I also let her determine how much to put on her plate and she must put some of everything on it. Then it is up to her what and how much she eats. If we are having a dessert (we don't very often) it is put on her plate with everything else. She is three-and-a-half and a very healthy eater. She loves fruit and veggies and we don't have any arguments or control issues.

  • TonyaLea

    Chop up some veggies and fruit and place them on the table. Give your child an empty plate, and tell them you are going to make faces with the food. You can make it a competition, take pictures, or anything else to make it exciting for them. When you are all done, eat the faces for a healthy snack. You can even do them on English muffins for mini pizza faces.

  • 2littlemonkeys2

    Dip healthy foods into yummy sauces. My son dips almost anything in ketchup. And I actually got him to eat carrot sticks by giving him ranch dip at the same time. He watched me dip some in it and then he followed. Salsa works too.

  • LOVE_mygirls58

    Tonight for supper we had burgers and my daughter has always hated them. Well tonight she ate 3 bites! She dipped it in BBQ sauce.

Lead by Example, and Don't Offer Junk

  • BethBader

    Parents should also eat healthy and enjoy their healthy foods as a role model. It makes a big difference. In time, kids' behaviors will improve. It's a lot like everything else. They aren't born knowing how to pick up their rooms and toys, either! Repetition, patience, modeling, and knowing how to prepare foods to the best of their flavors are all good tools for us parents."

  • ardiaxe

    I started falling into the trap of offering unhealthy bland foods just to get my son to eat. Then I decided to ban that stuff from the house and he actually eats the healthy stuff just as much as the junk before.

Try These Clever Tips

  • rkoloms

    Another great idea is to let them pick a new vegetable at the grocery store, to introduce to the family. The two of you can find a recipe, and prepare it together.

  • Kristine316

    My son doesn't like veggies. I know, a lot of you say the same. I found that he likes frozen peas. Not heated, just out of the freezer into a small bowl. He'll eat them like snack mix. This is a nice, healthy snack and also is used for him when we have a side salad.