A new week is upon us, and I am slowly getting us back to our normal daily schedule. We traveled a lot in May and early June. I want to stay grounded for the rest of this month! It’s been amazing to open K’s eyes a bit to a world beyond Los Angeles, but it has been rough on our routines and rituals. There were a couple of nights in Seattle where she didn’t go to sleep until 11PM or midnight! Oops. With lost bedtimes has come lost eating habits.

We are back to square one when it comes to toddler eating or lack thereof. (I wrote a previous post about K’s infant/toddler weight gain drama.) It is time for me to get back to the basics and regulate her mealtimes and snacks.

Here are some ways I am getting my toddler to eat:

1) I cook more and stay home. I found that when I am running K all around town, and eating out a lot, she tends to eat less. Maybe there are too many distractions when we are out? When we spend the day at home (or at least eat our meals at home), she will snack and eat a ton more. I make sure I find the time to cook nutritious meals whenever possible because she eats significantly more when I cook. I also try (when I have the time) to involve her and engage her somehow in the food preparation and/or cooking process. For example, today I was cutting up some grape tomatoes for a pasta dish. I let her try a bite, and it got her interested. She ended up eating a entire bowl of tomatoes. Then, when it came time to eat dinner, she recognized the tomatoes in our dinner and ate three toddler-sized bowls of pasta.

2) I write down everything she eats. A food journal or food log can be eye-opening for us all, toddler or not. I have been shocked (and ashamed) at the end of a day when K hasn’t eaten much. However, it has been a great learning tool to helping balance her nutrition. When I know she’s been eating empty carbs and junk all day, I really try and up the fruits, veggies, and healthy fats the next day.

3) Persistence, not force. I don’t force feed. I also don’t subscribe to punishments over whether a child eats or not. I know K is still very young, and we have many dinner table battles ahead of us, but, so far, trying to “force” K to eat doesn’t get us anywhere. Often times, K isn’t hungry or doesn’t feel like eating during meal times. I am not a short order cook (as many moms before me have said), but I have found persistence to be the best way to get K to eat more. Yes, I am offering her food a lot during the day. Yes, it is more work for me. Yes, we don’t always eat at the table. But, it’s part of the territory with a picky, underweight toddler

4) I rotate favorite snacks. K tires of foods easily. It helps to have easy, healthy snacking/meal options. I always have her favorite fruit on hand, fruit cups (like peaches and pears), string cheese, raisins, goldfish crackers, animal crackers, and something with a little chocolate in it. She’s developed a sweet tooth which helps as a bribery tool to get her to eat other things. Recently, she decided she is back on the edamame train. She loves edamame, but, for some reason, it had dropped off the favorites list for the past couple of months. It’s hard, because I get lazy sometimes, and I’ll just give her the same stuff over and over again. But it is usually during those times I find she gets bored and her eating falls off.

5) I provide distractions (ahem, the iPad). If we have had a day where K doesn’t want to eat much more than Cheerios, I let her have the iPad during mealtime. I know, I know. No screens at the table. That is a house rule I hope to eventually execute, but, right now, I need her to eat. The iPad sort of puts her in a trance (like only a small, bright screen can do) and then I can get her to eat a lot more. I don’t do this every day. It is a trick I reach for when all of my other tricks have failed.