Toddlers Won’t Eat

image001Answering “no” to everything you say is normal behavior for toddlers. This is the stage in a child's life when she/he wants to test your limits as a parent and assert her/his own will. She/He may refuse to take a bath, have her/his diaper changed or eat whatever is offered to her/him. Parents are often frustrated by this behavior, but experts advise not to take this personally because this is just a passing stage.

Parents, however, may be worried about their children's nutrition when they become fussy at this age. Again, experts reassure us that with proper guidance, this will not have a long-lasting effect on their health, and they will soon be able to get back on a balanced diet.

Toddler Won’t Eat—Is It Normal?

Mealtimes can become chaotic in a family where parents are dealing with a toddler who screams and throws tantrums at the table. This is not unusual because being a fussy eater is part of a child's normal stage of development, which is expected to improve with time.

Experts explain that if parents allow their toddlers to take just as much as they want to eat, they will have just enough calories they need. It may sound easier than it seems because toddlers may refuse whatever food you prepare. But being a toddler is a stage when they become picky eaters.

Babies usually triple their birth weight in the first year of life. However, when they reach the toddler stage between one to three years old, they become more active and they eat less. They gain weight slower than before and therefore need to eat less. They are usually busy playing and cannot sit still to eat a meal, but would rather take snacks to suit their new lifestyle.

How to Get Your Toddler to Eat

1. Do’s for Toddler Won't Eat 

Do’s

Descriptions

Try to eat as a family

Encouraging your child to sit with you and your partner during mealtimes can promote healthy eating habits. Try to eat similar foods so that the toddler can watch and copy your eating behavior. However, avoid adding salt to their meals.

Be positive

Be a role model and show your toddler that you are enjoying your food, saying how yummy it is so that they will try it, too. Then don't forget to praise her/him, when she/he eats well. Toddlers usually ask for attention, whether positive or negative. Making comments only when they refuse food may reinforce their habits just to get your attention. When she/he has had enough and refuse to eat more, take away the food without making comments.

Make mealtimes enjoyable

It is easier for toddlers to enjoy food when they are eating with the family or other children, especially those of their own age. Offer them finger foods, which they can touch and eat by themselves. Allow them to play and make a small mess while trying to learn how to control feeding themselves. However, remove any distractions such as toys, TV or pets while eating to allow them to concentrate on the food.

Be consistent

Arrange for consistent mealtimes, having a daily routine consisting of three meals with snacks in between to fit your child's sleep pattern during the day. It is advisable to give her/him a snack before a nap and a meal after she/he has woken up. Limit eating time to just 30 minutes and avoid sitting at the table to persuade her/him to eat more. It is also helpful to ask other people who take care of your toddler to follow the same mealtime routine.

Keep your child interested

You can do this by offering different courses, one after the other with different tastes. This will keep her/him from being bored with the same taste. This will also help her/him learn to experience a variety of foods and take in more nutrients and calories. However, avoid persuading your child to eat one course while promising to give her/him a sweet as a second course. Feed your toddler in small portions and praise her/him when she/he finishes it.

Allow the toddler to be involved

Older toddlers can join you in shopping for food at the supermarket, setting the table and in food preparation. This will encourage them to have positive attitudes towards food. Allow her/him to handle new foods without forcing her/him to try it until she/he becomes interested.

2. Don'ts for Toddler Won't Eat 

Don’ts

Descriptions

Not force toddlers to eat

Avoid pleading, coaxing or bribing your toddler to finish her/his food. While it is all right to gently encourage her/him to eat more, it is not good to force her/him by spoon feeding or forcing spoonfuls into her/his mouth.

Not replace it

When your child refuses a meal, do not replace it with a different course. However, it is better to include one type of food that she/he will eat in the family meal.

Not offer sweets as rewards

Do not offer sweets as rewards for eating another course. This will encourage her/him to eat less of the main course and make her/him want to eat the sweets instead.

Avoid drinking much milk before mealtimes

Avoid letting your toddler drink a large amount of milk before mealtimes. This will reduce her/his appetite. Just offer her/him some water to drink if she/he is thirsty.

No juice except mealtimes

Give your toddler fruit juice only at mealtimes because taking too much of it can lead to tooth decay. Dilute fruit juice with ten parts of water to prevent tooth decay.

Avoid drinking much milk during the day

Avoid giving your toddler too much milk during the day so as not to spoil her appetite. A toddler needs only 350-500 ml of milk daily.

Avoid snacks before mealtimes

Avoid giving her/him snacks before mealtimes.

Avoid snacks during mealtimes

Avoid offering your toddler a snack right away if she/he did not eat much during her/his meal. It is better to stick to a meal pattern, so wait for the next meal before you offer food again.

Never give up

Do not assume that your toddler will never eat one type of food just because she/he refused it once. Some toddlers will try a new food after being offered several times.

Important Notes:

Always think positively, even when one mealtime does not turn out well. While your toddler is trying new flavors and different textures of food, you are also learning how to cope with mealtimes.

Here are more tips to share with you on toddler won't eat. Check out the video below:

You Shuold Know When Your Toddler Is Full

Your toddler may be full if she/he:

  • Keeps her/his mouth closed when you offer food
  • Says "no" to food
  • Turns her/his head away when food is offered
  • Pushes away the spoon, plate, or bowl
  • Holds food in her/his mouth and refuses to swallow
  • Spits out food repeatedly
  • Leans out of her/his highchair or tries to climb out
  • Cries, shouts or screams
  • Gags or retches

What If You Are Still Concerned?

To help you track your toddler's eating habits, list down all the foods and drinks she/he has taken within the week. Check if she/he has taken foods under the main food groups which consist of protein, dairy, starchy foods, fruits and vegetables. As long as she/he has eaten these foods, there is no need to worry.

However, if you are still concerned about how much your child eats, consult your doctor who will check on her/his height, weight and growth progress.