6 Tactics to Try When Your Kid is on a Food Jag

My son, Sam, used to eat anything. Crazy amounts of vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses — basically anything I put in front of the kid would disappear into his mouth!

Then he started eating to the tune of his own drum, and everything changed.

Right around 2 years old, Sam started pitching major mealtime fits, screaming and shoving food away or dropping it on the floor. The foods he would eat were a handful of less-than-healthy items, like fish sticks and cheeseburgers.

What had happened to my perfect eater? Where did we go wrong?

In the months (and years) that passed, I tried everything, and I do mean everything, to get him to expand his palate. Some of these ideas worked, and some didn’t.

Every kid is different, so if you’re going through this terror of toddlerhood known as “food jags,” give these six tactics a whirl. And remember that you’re both going to live through this!

  1. All That and a Bag of Chips

  2. So your kid is only eating pita chips and refusing everything else? Give her some of those pita chips on a plate, but add a handful of cucumbers, some bits of cheese, and a few blueberries. Even if she turns all the other things away and still only eats the chips, you gave her options, and you didn’t get into a war of wills by refusing to offer her favorite food.

  3. Presentation is Everything

  4. Toddlers are usually drawn like a magnet to things they haven’t seen before, so try presenting foods to him in a new way. Buy some fun paper plates with his favorite character on them, or get some colorful plastic bowls to serve different foods in.

    Your child might just be having so much fun with his new distractions that he won’t even notice he’s eating what he’s supposed to eat!

  5. Shape Shifters

  6. Say your child used to love grilled cheese, and now it’s on the outs. Try using a flower or star cookie cutter on the bread to give the sandwich an intriguing makeover. If your toddler is doing away with cheese sticks, buy some deli cheese and fold or roll into different shapes. Make faces out of those grapes, raisins, and apples.

  7. What’s in a Name?

  8. Kids have quite the imagination, so why not incorporate some whimsy into mealtimes by re-naming previously-rejected foods? I finally got Sam to eat broccoli by telling him that he was a giant — a giant who ate TREES! Sam perked right up, picked up a broccoli floret, and popped it in his mouth while making giantesque sound effects.

    Mashed potatoes can be “mountains,” celery can be “boats,” and cheese sticks can be “magic wands.”

    With a little creativity, a lot of energy, and knowing what will light up your kid’s imagination, this idea is just crazy enough to work!

  9. Top Toddler Chef

  10. Not every parent will have the time or the patience for this one. If that’s the case, maybe this idea is best to try just once a week. Toddlers do like to feel important and independent. Who hasn’t heard their toddler say, “I DO IT MYSELF!” 99 times a day?

    Getting the kids to pack their own lunches is an outstanding method to gives moms back some of the precious morning minutes.

  11. Peer Pressure

  12. Invite another toddler, preferably an easy eater, over for a play date that’s followed by a lunch date. Your kid might see her buddy eating green beans and mac ‘n’ cheese and covet her friend’s meal just as much as she coveted that toy she kept snatching out of his hand during the play date! And just like that, you’ve turned “toddler envy” from a curse to a blessing.

I know how tough it is on parents, especially a first-time parent, when your toddler is experiencing a food jag. You want your kid to be healthy, and you want to feel like you’re winning at this parenting thing!

Toddler food jags are all about these little people exerting their independence by controlling what goes into their mouths, so comfort yourself by taking this as a developmental milestone.

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