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Experts Corner

Nutrition / Children's Health

Toddler Is a Picky Eater
By Jennifer J. Francis, MPH, RD/LD

Jennifer FrancisQ. My daughter is 15 months old and is only eating a couple of things... Gerber Graduates Beef & Tomato Ravioli, Gerber Graduates Chicken & Carrots Ravioli, crackers, yogurt and Turkey hotdogs. I know that she's in the age bracket when toddlers can become picky but she's been doing this for a while now (Note: she stopped eating veggies around 12 months and has stopped eating fruits around 12.5 months). I've tried mixing fruits or veggies in but 3 out of 4 times she'll eat around the fruits/veggies. I've really been thinking about this and I haven't been eating right myself lately. Could she be taking my lead? Any suggestions?

A. Children at this age are beginning to experiment with how they can assert their own will. It's a very important part of their development, and crucial for them to form their own personality separate from yours. Often food is involved with this developmental stage. Your daughter wants to see what happens when she makes a decision that is possibly separate or opposite of what you want--specifically, "Mamma wants me to eat this, what happens if I don't?"

The best thing to do is just to sit tight and try not to worry too much. You should continue to offer fruits and veggies at every meal and for snacks, but allow your daughter to decide if she wants to eat them or not. The more familiar she becomes with seeing the fruits and veggies on her plate, the more likely she will be to try them. The less you pressure her to do so, the sooner that will happen.

And you are right in guessing that if you are not eating as well as you should, it's possible some of that influence is rubbing off on her. There is a book I *highly* recommend to you and any other parents with feeding questions. It's called How to Get Your Kid to Eat but Not Too Much by Ellyn Satter. She is a registered dietitian and a clinical social worker who has a lot of experience and knowledge with the physical and emotional issues of feeding infants and young children. Her whole philosophy, (and I believe in it whole-heartedly) is that it is the parent's responsibility to offer a variety of healthy foods, and the child's responsibility to choose what foods they accept, and how much they eat. When parents cross the line of responsibility, and try to take on the role of deciding how much, or what the child eats, that's when the struggles and resistance begin. I think Ellyn's book can really help you develop some good strategies that will lead to a healthy feeding/eating relationship with your child.

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