“No, no, no!” Your baby’s head shakes vehemently, food flies across the room, and the plate crashes to the floor. If this frustrating scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. According to HealthyChildren.org, it’s quite common for 1-year-olds to start becoming picky about food. Why does this happen and what can you do about it?
What’s Going On?
The first year of life is a time of tremendous growth, but as children pass the one-year mark, their rate of growth slows down quite a bit. As a result, they don’t need as much food and they may eat less, show less interest in food and reject both new foods and old favorites. Many children this age are just starting to walk, which gives them a whole new way to discover their world. They’re also maturing and developing a sense of independence, and as they learn to take control of their environment, they find that one thing they can absolutely control is what they put into their mouths.
What Should I Do?
As hard as it can be to see your child turn down food, sometimes the best course of action is to simply let things be. HealthyChildren.org notes that 1-year-olds need about 1,000 calories to keep them going strong, which doesn’t add up to a whole lot of food, especially when you split it up into three meals and a couple of snacks.
Offer a variety of nutritious choices at each meal and then let your child choose what to eat. Don’t stress over the amount or type of food your child eats at any one meal; instead, consider the bigger picture. If you look at everything your child’s eaten over the past three or four days, you may realize that the little tyke is getting more nutrition and variety than you thought.
Finger Foods and Family Meals
Have you ever noticed that your child is more interested in what’s on your plate than on hers? One-year-olds love to explore and discover things for themselves, so your child may find it more exciting to try food off of Mom or Dad’s plate. When you sit down together as a family for meals, you may inspire your child to try something new.
Remember, too, how much kids this age love to grab at things and put them in their mouths. Give your child a plate full of finger foods of different sizes, shapes, colors and textures to choose from, making sure, of course, that all foods are in pieces small enough for your little one to eat without choking. Get creative by arranging the foods into faces or other intriguing designs. Your child may get a kick out of eating a strawberry “nose” or shredded cheese “hair.”
If you find that your child is extremely wary of new foods, don’t despair; just keep trying. Kids often need to see, smell and try a food many times before they will embrace it.
While it’s totally normal for kids this age to reject foods and eat less than they used to during their first year, if you find that your child’s food preferences have dwindled to the point where you can count the foods he eats on the fingers of one hand, and you aren’t making any headway in your attempts to widen his horizons, it might be worth checking in with the doctor. Likewise, if you’ve tracked the food your child is eating over the course of a week and find that it’s truly lacking in variety and sufficient nutrition, talk to your child’s pediatrician. The doctor can check to make sure your child is growing appropriately and can point you in the right direction if anything is amiss.
Most likely, though, your child’s appetite will pick up with the next growth spurt, and before you know it, you’ll be wondering what happened to all the food you just bought!