1. Dare to be different
Add two or three different items to your shopping each week and let your toddler help choose. Instead of apples, try mangoes. Tired of carrots? Opt for avocados. Include herbs and spices. Being enthusiastic about new flavours will show your child that food is there to be savoured and enjoyed.
2. Broaden your baby’s taste range
In the early months of weaning, offer your baby a diverse range of tastes and textures and make this your mission. Reduce portions of the savoury course at lunch and dinner time and offer a wholesome pud as well (like semolina topped with pureed fruit). Your aim is to broaden the variety of foods she enjoys.
3. Presentation is everything
Be honest; a big splodge of shepherd’s pie in the middle of a plate doesn’t look too appetising, does it? By the age of two, your toddler will be influenced by how her meals are presented. Big colourful platters are great for crackers, cheese, dips and fruit, while ramekins are perfect for child-size portions of pasta bake or pie. And don’t forget the power of a plate emblazoned with her favourite TV characters…
4. Get ready…go!
Be prepared for days out, for example by bringing a tub of favourite baby food or a box of sandwiches for your baby’s next meal. Ensuring you’re equipped with something she likes will eliminate the stress of eating out, without you ending up by default in a fast-food outlet.
5. Don’t be a fusspot!
Is your child fussy because you are? Our children are influenced by our tastes and reactions. If you skip meals, turn your nose up at sprouts and declare that certain foods are off limits because of your ‘diet’, then you’re reinforcing negative messages about food to your child.
6. Curb snack overload
If your child has snacked all day, then it’s not surprising that she turns her nose up at dinner time. Try to introduce a better food routine, with three set meals a day, and just two healthy snacks in between, and not within an hour of a mealtime. Toddlers can fill up easily on drinks, too, so limit the amount of milk and juice she has between meals.
7. Exercise portion control
Some meals, particularly protein-rich ones, are naturally more substantial and bulky than others: like for like, a spoonful of beef and mixed bean chilli will fill your child up more than a spoonful of pasta with tomato sauce. Adjust serving sizes according to how filling the dish is, and serve her meals on a smaller plate to avoid overwhelming her.
8. Amazing plates
Toddlers love food with a sense of fun, so get artistic. Try making a mashed potato volcano with gravy ‘lava’, a mini edible garden with broccoli trees and carrot flowers, or an edible pizza face with olives for eyes, a cherry tomato nose and a smile made of red pepper strips.
9. Keep a food diary
Worried your child is missing out? Examine her food intake over a week, rather than a day. Toddlers are very good at making sure they get the nutrients they need, and if you look at her diet over the course of seven days, you may well notice that those bad days where she eats next to nothing are balanced by days when she has a much healthier amount.
10. A little helping hand
Let your child experience the joy of cooking. She may claim to hate eggs, but when she sees how much fun it can be to whisk them up for a delicious omelette or messily crack a couple into a pancake mix, she’s likely to change her mind.