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"Feeding toddlers can be... a challenge. Here are 5 things to try."

Care A2+
Thanks to our brand partner, Care A2+

Our third daughter has just turned one and is in the throes of discovering the wonderful world of food. But as parents know all too well, it can be an overwhelming time for us to navigate.         

We want our toddlers to go to bed with full tummies (hello sleep!) and ensure that they get all the nutrients and vitamins that their little growing bodies need. 

I’m very familiar with that feeling of desperation when faced with a toddler who won’t eat anything. It’s tempting to resort to serving them chicken nuggets and custard most nights to avoid the inevitable meltdowns.

Toddlers are wonderful little creatures, but they can also be fussy and unpredictable. This mixed with the mental load of parenting small children on the best of days, can still make mealtimes a battle. 

Here are a few things that I’ve personally found to help feed toddlers. They're just from my own experience with three little girls, but might even help another parent.

1. Repeat after me: it'll get easier.

It's the first thing to remember that can hopefully ease your mind – of course though, easier said than done. My mum always told me the phrase, 'You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.' 

That literally applies to toddlers, too. (Sorry kids, but you're the metaphorical horse in this scenario!). 

Remind yourself that you can’t force a toddler to eat everything you serve them, and that it all takes time for them to learn the ropes. Repeat after me: it'll get easier. 

When a toddler is learning about solid foods, a lot of their experience will just be about touching and exploring. It’s recommended that a toddler eats approximately 2.5 serves of vegetables a day, which I doubt my toddler would be consuming solely from finger food. 

Image: Supplied.

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Instead of stressing out on the days I'm struggling to have her eat enough during a mealtime, I just (try and) take the pressure off myself, and offer her toddler formula with her food. It gives me the peace of mind that she’s still getting vital nutrients across her day to support her healthy growth.

At 12 months old, she was still breastfed morning and night. Along with her food at lunchtimes, I’ve started offering her a sippy cup of Care A2+ Toddler Formula (for toddlers over 1 year). As a mum of three juggling what feels like 17,000 other juggling balls, it really works for me to hand her a cup of toddler formula with her lunch, rather than physically feed her myself. 

Like most parents are with anything their kids are consuming, I’m pretty fussy about what formula I give her. After trying a few options, my preference has been Care A2+. It's an Australian formula, made from milk sourced from Australian farmers (actually in southwest Victoria, which is so nice to think it's coming locally to us). 

It contains A2 protein that is traceable from grass to tin which is something I find really reassuring. As soon as I scan the QR code on the bottom of the tin, I can see that the milk is fresh and not dried. It's designed to provide nutrition for toddlers in the way nature intended. 

Conventional cow’s milk contains two main types of protein – A1 protein and A2 protein. Care A2+ is certified A2 because it’s free of any A1 protein. (In my experience, I’ve found that A1 protein can sometimes upset little tummies.) 

I found it really interesting too that Care A2+ is also the only formula available in Australia that adds Lactoferrin. I found this surprising because Lactoferrin is a key ingredient of breastmilk which helps build a child’s immune system and ensure healthy brain development. It makes a huge difference to the rest of their lives so it's great to know that Care A2+ includes it in their formula. 

If toddler formula might be an option that works for your family, it's the one I'd recommend to check out.

2. Creating an environment that's as relaxed as we can make it.

Because I can be a massive stress-head, I find that once I know our toddler is getting the bulk of the nutrients she needs through variety in her mealtimes; I tend to be a bit more relaxed about mealtimes. I try not to hover over our children while they’re eating, or act like I’m too keen for them to eat something specific.

I’ve found that the more I act like I want them to eat what I’ve served, the more they will often refuse it. 

This leads to stress, and a mealtime that isn’t enjoyable for anyone. We sit down as a family for meals when we can and try to create an environment that’s as relaxed as possible.

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Image: Supplied.

3. Involve your toddler.

Take your toddler to the supermarket with you and help them pick out the ingredients you’re shopping for.  

When they’re old enough, even encourage them to be involved in the food preparation process at home (despite the inevitable mess that ensues... I recommend a few deep breaths in the pantry at this point!) 

Our 12-month-old is a bit too little for this yet, but our two-year-old loves to stand in one of those kitchen helper stools at the bench and ‘help'. Sure, there's a lot of sticking her fingers in the food (hilarious to watch), but she also uses a plastic kid's knife to cut super soft things, 'helps' pick up the vegetable peels at the sink, and licks brownie batter off the beaters (also great entertainment).

Listen to Mamamia's podcast for parents, This Glorious Mess Little Kids. Post continues below. 


Admittedly, it takes longer and is significantly messier to have children help with meal preparation, but when there's some time to fill in together, it's always entertaining for us all to go to the effort. 

My kids love to feel like they’re helping and are often more inclined to eat a meal they’ve helped prepare (even the toddlers, so huge bonus).

4. Offer a variety where you can on the one plate.

I try to offer a variety of food on our toddler's plates – something they always eat, something they sometimes eat, and something they have previously refused or have never tried.  

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That way, I can keep testing the waters with a couple of foods, and I know they will generally eat at least one thing we've put in front of them. 

Toddlers (and even older, I'm finding!) often need to try a food multiple times before they will eat it, or even develop a taste for it. If they’ve previously refused or claimed to dislike it, I serve it differently the next time I offer it.

Image: Supplied.

Our youngest toddler doesn’t like the lumpy texture of porridge, so I cook it up with some berries and then puree it until it’s smooth, which she loves. 

A cookie-cutter used to make star or heart-shaped sandwiches is also a big hit in our house. 

I try to avoid lumping food into ‘good’ or ‘bad’ categories. I serve everything on one plate, rather than using dessert as a reward or a bribe. Not all parents will be keen on that, but I dabbled first and found it was actually (surprisingly) something that worked for us.

Our girls are used to having a biscuit or a small treat like a cupcake presented on the same plate as their lunch. 

Our two-year-old will generally go for the sweet thing first, but I do find she works her way around the plate and still eats a bit of everything, before finishing the last of the sweet thing. 

Our six-year-old is at the stage where she eats the sandwiches first, but this is a call she’s started making on her own in the past year. Who knows though, we think we know their habits, then they go changing on us again! Offering variety on the same plate has definitely been the game-changer for us though.

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5. Encourage them to use their hands (and breathe through the mess).

Learning about food creates wonderful learning opportunities for toddlers. 

They want to squeeze their fists of bolognaise together, then rub it through their hair. Lovely... ha! It’s all a journey as their little brains connect the dots about the world around them. 

And mess is part of that journey.  

Try to eat outside on sunny days where you can. 

Image: Supplied.

Encourage them to use their hands, exploring textures and flavours. Invest in a long-sleeved bib (seriously!) to protect their clothes or let them eat in only a nappy on warm days. 

Enjoy this phase as they learn about food. It’s messy, beautiful and stressful – and it honestly passes, way too fast. 

Care A2+ are the only Australian nutrition and wellness company with a unique purpose to develop and deliver consumer driven, science led A2 milk products for Australians. Find more on Toddler Formula  here.

Keep in mind that every child is unique and will develop at a different rate so this information should be used as a general guide only. If you have specific questions or concerns, talk to a health professional.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Care A2+
Care A2+ is an Australian owned and run nutrition and wellness company producing a new range of products from Australian A2 milk. Our first, Care A2+ Toddler Formula is available at Chemist Warehouse and Woolworths. We're doing something new and exciting; we're consumer driven, and science led and we're taking a fresh look at providing what families want, the best for their children and the world into which they will grow. Our milk is used fresh, not dried. We avoid soy and palm oil and source from Australia when we can, that means that the Difference is in the Tin® not on it.