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5 Tricks for Coaxing a Toddler to Eat

5 Tricks for Coaxing a Toddler to Eat

When Anika M.'s baby hit the toddler stage he suddenly became a picky eater. “I'm getting very frustrated,” she says. “My son ate very well up until around 14 months old; he would eat all fruits and veggies, cereal and yogurt. Now, I’m battling with him to eat anything.”

If you’re in Anika's shoes and have unsuccessfully tried it all — from trying to make eating fun to promising a gooey desert at the end of the meal — you may want to pay attention to the secret of many moms: deception.

Here are five “sneaky techniques” for getting your toddler to eat healthy, as suggested by Karah C. and several other Circle of Moms members who've been through a picky eating phase.


1. Hide in a Wrap

Like rolling a vitamin into a slice of cheese or a peanut butter sandwich, several Circle of Moms wrap “the healthy stuff,” inside egg rolls and other kid-friendly foods. Karah hides healthy food inside egg rolls, which her son loves. "You can buy wonton wrappers at the grocery store and make your own,” she advises. “I started my son with eggs and cheese inside them and then we added veggies later. He liked them because it was portable and fun to eat. Maybe you can start with pizza toppings and call them pizza roll-ups. Also, he didn’t realize I was hiding the veggies in the sauce of the pizza."


2. Chop, Chop, and Puree

Expanding on the “hiding” concept, other moms find they can sneak nutrition into their picky toddler’s mouths by  pureeing or finely chopping vegetables and fruits and adding them into cookies, spaghetti, and other toddler-friendly foods. Kara B. explains: “I usually puree the veggies and hide them in something else, like a sauce for something that she does like to eat. She doesn't even know they are there. Keep trying different vegetables at every meal.”

Karah C. says that shredded carrots are easy to hide in many foods, and Amy R. sneaks sweet potatoes and carrots into her son’s macaroni and cheese. “At first he didn't like it but now I don't think he knows it’s in there,” she shares.

3. Show That You Think It's Yummy

Many Circle of Moms members find that biting off a piece of the offending veggie and saying how yummy it is can convince their toddlers to eat up. Others pretend they are taking the food away and eating it themselves, which irks their kids into a classic toddler protest: Mine!

Sarah S., who hides veggies in all kinds of foods, also talks up how much she herself loves the foods as she serves them to her son. Menu items include pumpkin or carrots mixed into applesauce and almond butter as a dip for chicken nuggets. “He doesn’t even notice [the healthy additions] it if I start eating first and dipping the foods,” she says. “It’s a great way to get him to finish off meat or the other foods with healthy stuff in them.”


4. Appeal to a Toddler's Sweet Tooth

Another time-tested trick for slipping nutrition into a fussy eater is to appeal to her sweet tooth. Jennifer S. serves up flavored nutrient drinks. Anika M. and Erin S. both make fruit smoothies and popsicles, mixing in veggies. Stacey C. sneaks veggies into brownies. “The kids have no idea,” she shares.

5. Eat with Friends

Circle of Moms member Skye takes advantage of the fact that toddlers love to mimic their peers to get her son to eat healthy foods he normally shies away from. “If you can arrange a play date, I found [that] serving something new at snack time was a surefire way to get something new near my son's mouth. I spread out a blanket on the floor and served up bite-sized pieces, buffet style, on little plastic saucer-sized plates (like a toy tea set, for example). The change in venue was less intimidating for him and watching a friend munch down on something gave him the courage to try something new.”

A Fall Back Plan: Vitamins

When toddlers are refusing to eat anything healthy, many moms supplement their diets with vitamins. “My three-year-old won’t eat anything but hot dogs, chicken nuggets and pizza, and even then it is a fight,” says Monica Y. Rather than force the issue with her son, she simply goes with her doctor's advice, which is to give him vitamins.

What's your secret for getting a toddler to eat?

Image Source: CarbonNYC via flickr/creative commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Join The Conversation
RobinValdes RobinValdes 5 years
These are some really great ideas... that I wish I woulda thought of before! lol I have some recipes for fruit cookies or veggie crackers that use up extra baby food still in my cupboard. For the vitamins i bought gummy ones and, and even got my boyfriend to take them! I am definately gonna try the eggroll idea, my daughter loves them already and i can sneak new/different stuff in there!
GlennaFord GlennaFord 5 years
Thanks for the article MaryBeth! I especially love the eggroll idea. My daughter loves wraps so I will have to try this. All children are different, but one thing remains the same, 99% of them will go through some sort of picky phase at some point in their life. It is so helpful to hear the tips and tricks that other parents have up their sleeves. Jessica, please don't be so critical.....isn't that the thing that drives mothers crazy, when other people are critical of their parenting techniques, so please don't do it to others. My daughter used to LOVE green beans, peas, broccoli, anything GREEN! I thought I was so lucky! And I was/am. But they have their phases and one week she might only want broccoli, one week she might actually be willing to try a carrot, one week it is nothing but hot dogs and mac n cheese. The trick for me is to keep it interesting...lately I have tried making "fun" foods like Octopus hot dogs in a sea of macaroni Shells with pea Pearls. Or a Caterpillar sliced roll up using a spinach wrap with meat and cheese or tuna, chicken salad, etc. Eating hot dogs or chicken nuggets or macaroni is not going to kill or harm a child or deprive them of nutrients. They will go through phases in life, and as long as you keep trying to introduce new things (without forcing!) they will eventually change. If not, oh well. I'm sure they will still grow up to be wonderful people if you just give them the love and encouragement that all kids need.
StevieWhite StevieWhite 5 years
I think we have been fortunate that our 3yr old son has never been terribly fussy.. though I wasn't fussy during pregnancy... What we did to encourage him to try new things, like fruits, cheeses, pesto, salmon etc, is we would put together a platter and leave it on the table, but made a point of not specifically asking him if he wanted any, and we found bite marks in different fruits, a little bit of blue cheese and salami on a cracker (obviously created by a 3yr old hehe:o) ) We have always followed the relaxed approach.. Kp now helps me cook everything, which is awesome to have him involved but he is also learning about different tastes... Kids come right when they are ready, just don't force it, get them involved and always make sure you have a 'basket' in the pantry with a variety of snacks like nuts, dried fruits, muesli bar or sultanas... We even took Kp out to lunch and got him trying salt and pepper squid ! Thought in saying that, Kp thinks a lolly is a lemonade iceblock and a prune is a superman candy ! (Hes a toddler that after having unforced options would prefer blue cheese and smoked salmon, or home made gratin and venison) Put the food out there, get them involved and don't force it, honestly, just start with a basic platter, grapes, 2 types of cheese, crackers and hummus or pesto.. just put it out like its nothing different, and don't even offer it to them, you will be amazed.. they will either come to you and ask for som or whilst your not looking will attempt it themselves, which also creates that self confidence, in self achievement :o) Give it a go, then every 3rd or 4th day or so, maybe not so many grapes but add a little salami or ham :o) Good luck :o)
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