Often toddlers have issues with some types of foods. The following ideas can help you overcome these issues.  

Your toddler only eats white foods

Typically these foods are milk, white bread, yoghurt, white pasta, white rice, crackers, potatoes, and sugary foods.

What do they have in common? All are easy to eat, fill the tummy quickly, are easy to digest and involve minimal chewing. They are almost 100% starches.

White foods may also be appealing because they are bland, look ‘safe’ and are texturally reliable. They are not known as ‘comfort foods’ for nothing.  

This tells us that the child is probably swinging from one insulin high to another and is often desperate for food that quickly fills the tummy. These foods will do the job.  

Meat, vegetables and fruit do not give the same instant ‘hit’. In fact, like our brains, our digestive tract has opiate and serotonin receptors that are satisfied immediately with this type of food, so even ‘addictive’ behaviours can sometimes be observed around this type of white food. 

The nutritional problem with these starchy foods is the low nutrient density – poor vitamin and mineral content – and the fact that most are made of highly processed, finely milled flours. 

If your toddler drinks lots of milk
  • It may sound contradictory, but skim or semi-skim milk may be a factor in craving more volume, as it is not nutrient-dense enough to be satisfying. Offer full fat milk, but limit to no more than 600ml a day.
  • For a ‘milk-a-holic’ toddler, try watering down the full fat milk to give them more of an appetite for solid food.
  • Add fruit to milk as a shake to add more nutrition.  
  • Sweeten plain yoghurt with honey or stevia instead of commercial sweet toddler yoghurts.  
If your toddler loves rice/pasta/bread/potato
  • Mix ½ and ½ brown rice/pasta/bread with the familiar white type to increase the nutrient quality, gradually building to a full portion.  
  • Shred raw cauliflower and boil half/half with white rice. It really blends in, believe it or not!  
  • Make your own white bread but add to the dough things like chia seeds, nut flours (watch for allergies) or top with sesame seeds.
  • With pasta go for egg pasta to increase nutrient density.  
  • If mashed potato is a craving, increase the nutrition by adding an egg, butter or cream.  
  • Try mixing in cauliflower puree and add half/half with mashed potato.  
Crackers for crackers?
  • If crackers are on the menu, go for ones without artificial flavours and colours—plain or salted offered with a dip or cheese.
  • Finally go ‘cold turkey’! Take the craved for foods off the menu—just don’t buy them. Trust that your child will eat when they are hungry. 

Refusing to drink milk  

This is more common than you may think and, happily, this is not a problem!  

Many toddlers wean from breastfeeding and dislike the taste of cows milk (while tolerating it in sauces or on cereal), or like to stick to familiar formula milks. It is true that they do have very different tastes. 

As mammals, we were designed to drink nutrient-dense live milk as babies to give us a source of nutrition that was easy to digest, initiate gut flora and immunity, and facilitate bonding between mother and child.  

As your toddler grows up there is less need for milk and many adults do not have this infant food as part of their diet at all.  

But what about the calcium?  

While milk does contain calcium, there are many other foods which are as high or higher in calcium and more bio-available than calcium from milk.

A well known study cited that women who drank the most milk in their diet, relying on that as a source of calcium, had the highest rate of osteoporosis in older age (Boston Nurses Study, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2003). 

The good news for your milk-refusing toddler is that there is a long list of foods that can be substituted. Remember other dairy products like cheese and yoghurt also count as very good sources of calcium!  

Don’t feel that you have to use substitute milks like soy or nut milks. These are not necessarily good for health at this time.  

 

Calcium sources  

Calcium in a serve of milk: 285mg in a cup (250ml). However, other calcium rich foods you can use instead to provide an equivalent amount are:  

  • Matchbox size of cheddar cheese /other hard cheeses  
  • 250ml of goats milk  
  • 150ml natural yoghurt (live)  
  • 2 tbsp sesame paste (use in hummus)  
  • 2 sesame ‘bars’  
  • 100g of almond meal (use in cakes/curries/custards) or nut butters  
  • 2 slices of mixed grain bread  
  • ½ cup cooked spinach  
  • 3 tbsp canned salmon or sardines (mash up, including bones)  
  • Make bone broth (stock) and make soups or boil rice or couscous in it  

Other foods providing a serving of 100mg of calcium are:  

  • 2 small oranges
  • 12 dried apricots  
  • ½ tin baked beans or haricot beans  
  • 2 figs   
Vitamin D and calcium

Getting adequate calcium is one thing but children (and adults!) need regular exposure to sunlight to stimulate production of vitamin D which is actually a hormone required to facilitate the creation of bone and teeth.

Dietary vitamin D is found in oily fish, egg yolk, liver and fish oils. However, sunlight is vital to convert dietary vitamin D to a useable form in the body. Sensible regular sun exposure is essential for small children to facilitate healthy bones as well as general wellbeing. 

Want to know more?

The Raising Children Network – Fussy eating 

Healthy Kids Association – Take action on fussy eaters and Solutions for fussy eaters