Solutions to Meal Time Madness

One challenge that the parents of toddlers often face is nutrition. Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters. They also tend to become so engrossed in playing that they are reluctant to come to the table at mealtime and resist staying at the table once they are there. Of course there are things that toddlers are perfectly willing to eat – things like sugary sweets that you are probably trying to keep out of their diet, at least for the most part.

So, what’s a parent to do when their toddler turns up his or her nose at the nutritious, lovingly prepared meals that Mom and Dad have made for the family? You may wish to keep some “emergency rations” on hand for times when this happens. Figure out a few nutritious, easy to prepare items that your toddler will eat and be ready to provide them as needed. Some suggestions include fruits like apples and bananas, peanut butter on toast or whole grain crackers with a cup of milk, string cheese, and low sugar, whole grain cereal with milk. The items should be easy to prepare so that you are not preparing an entirely separate meal. Also, if there is a part of the meal which is being served that your toddler will eat such as the mashed potatoes or the scrambled eggs, give her plenty of it. It is more important that a toddler’s diet be balanced over a period of days, weeks, or months than for her to have a perfectly balanced meal every time.

This idea may run contrary to many parents’ idea of meal time discipline. Sometimes, though, it is important for nutrition to take the upper hand over behavior management. In the past, parents may have told their children to eat what was on their plate or go to bed hungry. Many of today’s parents recognize that their toddler’s growing body needs a steady supply of good food and that skipping meals is not recommended. We also know that letting a toddler go hungry usually ends up punishing the parents more than effectively disciplining the toddler.