Why Doesn’t My Toddler Want to Eat?


Your on the go toddler (1-3 years) can be a source of your joy, but at the same time trying to feed him/her can leave you frustrated. It’s usually at this age that the toddlers start getting picky in their eating habits. Be assured you are not alone. Almost all parents face this during this period of “terrible twos”. And if kids do not like food they will not eat it. This isn’t rocket science here. Such is the case with adults too. So, how do you handle this period?

10 points that will help you sail through this difficult phase:

1. A key point to remember is that growth rate slows down during this age. So, their appetites can be temporarily waned.

2. Mealtimes can become stressful for both, the parent and the child with the constant cajoling or threats to eat the food. Avoid this power struggle and remember that the toddler has an inherent hunger and fullness signal. They are very good at judging this and will rarely starve themselves.

3. Do not use sweets, candies, biscuits or desserts as bribes. Refrain from any kind of negotiation. Just serve the meals and let them decide.

4. Put them up on a high chair during mealtimes so they sit at a place and eat. Encourage them to feed themselves (ignore the mess).

5. Understand that the toddler has a tiny stomach. Too much of milk or fruit juices may be filling them up. Avoid giving junk foods before meal or snack times.

6. Serve small portions to them and if they like it they will always ask for more. Three small meals with 2 snacks in between is enough for the toddler in a day. Establish regular feeding times and try to stick to them. That in no way means the toddler will eat up all that you give him/her at each meal. It is just a way to establish a routine.

7. Do not encourage grazing throughout the day because you think your child hasn’t had enough during the meal or snack time. This may result in food rejection at mealtimes because the child is not hungry.

8. Do not be put off by food rejection when introducing new foods. Research suggests that when introducing a new food the parent may have to offer the food at least 10 times before the toddler will choose to have it. Offering it just 2-3 times and then giving up thinking that the child does not like it is not the right approach.

9. Also, this is the age when the child will start to assert their independence. It is natural and respect that without over reacting to it. By not eating a particular food the child is not sending the message that he/she will never eat that food again. Keep serving and one day you may be surprised to see the child eating all of it.

10. Offer alternative foods from each group if your child shows a temporary dislike to certain foods. For example if your child dislikes milk, offer yoghurt or cheese instead. This way you make sure he/she is not missing out on the important nutrients from food.

Toddlers have a mind set on a variety of things and food is one of them. Do not interpret it as being stubborn. It is just a passing phase and the more positive you are during this phase the healthier association the child will form with food which will stay for life.