22 answers

19 Month Old Won't Eat

I feel like my daughter is going to have malnutrition problems because she eats so little. She has always been a VERY picky eater, and when I've asked the doctor about it, I was told to provide a healthy meal, and when she gets hungry she'll eat. Easy for him to say! Or easy to say if she was a chubby girl, but she's not.
In a nutshell- today she ate a few bites of a veggie sausage for breakfast (when also offered eggs and veggies and fruit ) a few bites of cottage cheese for lunch (offered veggies, cottage cheese, yogurt) and nothing for dinner when offered squash, sweet potatoes, fish, cheese. She was so cranky I put her to bed early. Plus her day care providers told us she eats next to nothing at day care (2 days a week) except crackers or pretzels. She has gotten a little better about eating fruit, but won't touch anything green ever. I am worried that she is living on crackers and macaroni and cheese because it's the only thing she will eat.
I am at my wit's end. I try to make mealtime fun and not make a big deal of it, but it is getting hard not to be stressed out. Has anyone else had this problem? Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you SO much to everyone for your wonderful responses and ideas. I am so glad just to know I am not alone in this battle. For those of you who advised not to get into a power struggle- you're absolutely right. I am going to try a lot of your ideas and check out some of the books you recommended.
Thanks again!!!!

Featured Answers

dont worry about it lots of kids wont eat the foods that we would like them to eat but when they get realy hungery and thats the only thing for her to eat shell eat it. or you can try mixing into her food that she will eat.I hope that helps you

You are not alone. I went through the same thing. Then I found a great cookbook that is written by a mom who went through it too: The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine. The recipes are quick, easy, nutritous, and even picky eaters will eat them. The only downside is that the first 1/3 of the book is about why she wrote the book, and her philosophy on eating (I felt that she could have covered all of that in a couple of pages).
Good luck, whatever you do!

More Answers

Check out my business info.. they have some good items for children... It may be worth checking out.. good luck!

We, too, have a very picky eater due to some earlier health problems. As a result, we also have a very serious weight problem -- just up from failure to thrive. At 17 months, I can tell you it takes my sone about 20 new times of seeing a food before he will even touch it. The more fun it is to play with, the better the chance he'll eat it. My mom got him to eat frozen peas while she cooked dinner. She put them in a bowl and gave him a spoon to stir with while she stirred dinner. He actually ate the peas after seeing them at the table two more times. Now he rolls them around for a while and then eats them. It's a game of patience. We do often reward for seemingly little accomplished. We also do the added fat idea, cream and butter, etc. Also, he likes Carnation instant breakfast, one serving to 10 oz. whole milk. It gives 10 more grams fat to the ounce as formula does. I realized she doesn't need the formula, but it's great for quick weight gain. Something else we give a little on, is he's allowed to take a food out of his mouth if he doesn't like it. We didn't do that with our first son, but with this one, he's more likely to at least try it the next time he sees it. Good luck. I know it's frustrating.

My 4 year old had failure to thrive when she was born and my husbands sisters (2 of them) have trouble putting weight on, and my daughter does also. To top all that off she is THE pickiest eater in the world.
We actually used to get questioned if we were feeding her enough at mealtimes (which we were just thrilled to have implied that we fed all our other children but she was an exception!) Anyway, we figured out that we could put high calorie "add ons" into her food. Sour cream mixed into mashed potatoes, peanut butter in celery with raisins on top (ants on a log), whole milk in cereal, (porridge and rolled oats work well too,)Pastas are fabulous, breads (esp. banana) Also try search engining foods to give preemies to help with weight gain. HTH :)

my 19month old son is also very picky when it comes to meal time. he is on a primarly meat free diet ( he always picked real meat out of his mouth for some reason) so have you tried the boca meats for your daughter? its the one thing my some will eat consistantly...

Both of mine had a picky phase and one still does. For both of them it was a texture issue. We acutally used the baby food grinder until our youngest was over three. She was more than happy to eat any veggie if it was pureed - wasn't going to happen if it was whole and she still won't eat a cruncy veggie (other than the one bite mentioned below). After she fell off the growth chart because we were following the "experts" advice of letting her feed herself, we went back (at about 20 months) to spoon feeding her part of the meal and still do on occasion (she's now 4). My advice would be to make sure you're serving "superfoods." For example, make the mac-n-cheese only w/whole wheat noodles. Make oatmeal-peanut butter-whole wheat cookies. If mac-n-cheese is a favorite - try variations of lasagne and each time you make it, sneak in a little more spinach until you're up to the amount called for in the recipe. We also insisted on trying one bite of everything served before leaving the table - and started at about 18 months. Again, the "experts" say this is a bad idea - but I don't think they've actually parented real kids. Many times the one bite didn't stay in but at least the taste was there. Now at 4, she's not as good about eating veggies and trying new foods as her big brother is but she does okay. Also, figure out what you can live with. She still can't stand the texture of ground meat. And, you know what, ground meat of any sort really isn't that healthy and commercial meat production has all kinds of issues, so it's okay if she's mostly vegetarian (dad's coming around on this one). Having her help with our garden (another expert tip) hasn't helped one bit on being picky about veggies. What has helped is that each kid gets to choose one fruit or veggie if they're with me at the grocery store (one I don't normally buy). My husband is not thrilled with the beets, endive, rutabaga, etc that's coming home but both kids get very excited about preparing and eating it. And, no, I don't know that much about these veggies - thank goodness for a good cookbook and the internet!

Hi L.: I have an 18 month old and she loves when we give her a meal with a "dippy". Here are some suggestions for combinations:

Whole Wheat Blueberry & Banana pancakes- "Dippy" =syrup
Grilled Cheese on Whole Wheat Bread- "Dippy" =ketchup
Cooked Organic Baby Carrots- "Dippy" =Ranch Dressing
Veggie Burgers -"Dippy" =ketchup

I just give a little pudle of dippy and it is amazing how a whole plate of food will disappear. And I think the control you give her, by being able to dip, and how fun it will be just may do the trick....or so I hope.

Morgan also loves dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, blueberries) and cheddar bunnies (found in snack aisle under organic)

My 15 month old is also a pretty picky eater. She refuses to be fed, so everything has to be finger food. You'd be surprised which things she can turn into finger food...like yogurt. She will NOT eat a veggie and pretty much lives on fruit and crackers. Here are a couple things that have got us by:
- mac and cheese (I know this isn't the best but at least it is a complete meal!!)
- "Cottage Doubles" - single serve cottage cheese with a mix in fruit jam, still has less sugar than YoBaby yogurt, and she can make it into a finger food.
- Calbee brand "Snack Pea Crisps" - sort of like a cheeto, but the first ingredient is snap peas and they are relatively high protein. They are with the croutons in the salad area.
- Sunbutter - it is like peanut butter but made from sunflower seeds so there is no allergy issue. I have only found it in health food grocery stores, and I just mix it up with a little jam or mashed banana.

I take comfort in the fact that ALL the books say most toddlers are very picky and most just get by fine. I hope this helps!

Find the items that she WILL eat then mix in (baby food)veggies. If she eats mac & cheese, mix in baby food carrots...the same color...she shouldn't notice. But at the same time, still offer the entire meal. That way she knows you aren't backing down on the meal but you know she is at least getting so veggies when she only eats the mac & cheese.
Put peanut butter on the crackers for protein and fat. Mix the squash and sweet potatoes together so she only "gets the sweet". Mix fruit in oatmeal for breakfast. Mix veggies in with cottage cheese, fruit in yogurt. Good luck!

I'm 37 and my boy is 2 1/2. He's kind of been going through the same thing. My saving grace has been protein shakes. I use whey protein (as soy can have an effect on hormones) and I also found a veggie powder to add to it. I use a green juice made by Bolthouse, but there are others. I can hide acedopholus, fish oils, etc. in the shake. I add fruit and plain, organic whole milk yogurt. If it weren't for the shakes, I think I'd feel like a horrible mother. Maybe it will work for you, too.

dont worry about it lots of kids wont eat the foods that we would like them to eat but when they get realy hungery and thats the only thing for her to eat shell eat it. or you can try mixing into her food that she will eat.I hope that helps you

If your dr isn't overly concerned I wouldn't be. Kids that are picky somehow end up with the nutrients they need. Continue to offer her only healthy and new things. Do not cater to her favorites at all. She will not let herself starve. It is a power struggle and if she ends up getting you to fix her only what she likes then it will go on forever! Add carrots to the mac n cheese, do not let her eat crackers! That will fill her up with empty calories. You can give her smoothies with lot's of yogurt and fruits. Also try that juice that has veggies in it too to add to her smoothies. Continue every single day to offer healthy choices, let her know that is it, no dessert, no treats, nothing else until she finishes her dinner or at least tries a bite of everything on her plate. Encourage your day providers not to just let her have pretzels and crackers, send along healthy alternatives. Try the toddler section of where they have baby food, there are all sorts of snacks that are healthy. Keep trying, give her pediasure with her milk to add to her vitamin intake. I promise I would say 1 out of 3 children are picky at some point in their lives. It drives us parents crazy but I doubt she is malnurished in any way. Hang in there and don't back down. After the age of two everything is a power play, potty training, meals and bedtimes....just stand firm, be patient and I bet she changes her tune eventually.

I say be careful not to get into a power play with her. I used to work for the Early Intervention Program in my state and most toddlers who started off this way only got worse if their parents catered to their eating whims. One lady I worked with let it get so bad that she would leave bowls of candy around the house hoping her little girl would eat them to get some calories in. This girl was playing her mom like a fiddle.
Check and see if she is dropping in percentiles when it comes to her growth chart (done at well child visits with your doctor). If she is not, then you don't have anything to worry about. I agree with the mom who talked about giving your child a variety and eliminating treats when she doesn't eat something that is good for her.
The best advice I can give (and I have dealt with this issue professionally and personally) is to look at why she is feeling the need to control something. Is there anything in her environment that is increasing her feeling of lack of control? Why does she feel the need to control you and your husband? Are there other choices you can let her make around the house that might give her more of a sense of controlling her environment? Does she get to choose what toys to play with, what books to read, and when she gets time with both you and your husband? If you both could set a scheduled playtime when you are all three together and let her know that during this time you all three will play the things she chooses, she will begin to relax as she feels she gets time with you both and it is on her terms.
I have seen this time and time again. Something as simple as setting family time aside (where she achieves a measure of control) can work wonders.

Hi L.,

I haven't gone through this yet. My son is ten months old. But, I just got the book "Deceptively Delicious" by Jessica Seinfeld for Christmas. It is all about feeding picky kids! She hides purees of veggies in different foods (like pudding and brownies and chicken nuggets and mac & cheese).

You could give it a try!


Hi L.,

Have you ever heard of Body Balance? It is a liquid, organic, whole food, supplement that is very popular here in Boulder, Colorado. It's just a thought but you might be able to get your daughter to have a quick sip of say... "princess juice" or "super hero juice" every day as it actually tastes pretty good... sort of like a zingy juice. It is PACKED with all kinds of nutrients! In just one ounce there are over 120 nutrients including vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids, enzymes and phytonutrients. Since it is a whole food it is different from a vitamin pill. It is super nutrient dense and VERY easily absorbed into the body. It provides nutrients the way mother nature intended, in their natural form. If you would like to check it out a little more go to www.lifeforce.net/20542440

I have numerous friends who love giving their kiddos Body Balance as it gives them peace of mind knowing that if dinner is macaroni and cheese a little too often they are still getting the nutrients they need. My friend Yaisa has to hide it from her three year old as he sneaks into fridge and drinks it all! My best friend Corey mixes it with juice for her 4 year old, 2 year old and husband! I'm taking it as a pre-natal (in addition to extra folic acid and fish oil).

Good luck!
:) L.

It sounds like you need to get creative and fun with the foods that you offer her. Are you vegetarian, as that is what the choices sound like? If so, be very cautious she's getting enough protein! Try introducing new foods up to 10 times, they say, before a child will try it. But, with my kids we try to make it fun. If it looks fun and you make the experience fun then they are much more likely to try it. She's a little young, but a lot of kids like it if you tell them, in a fun tone and way, not to eat what you want them to.

Children have VERY small stomaches at that age. As long as she is eating an amount of food the size of her fist every day than she is fine and will NOT become malnourished.

Hi L.! I have a 22-month-old son who is only 23 pounds and doesn't eat much either. We've been tracking his growth (or lack-there-of) and his doctor says as long as he continues to get taller there's probably nothing to worry about.

Every morning I add a drop-full of vitamins to my son's "juice" (mostly water) and on days when he eats next-to-nothing I give him a Pediasure to drink before bed. He also gets a sippy cup of whole milk before naptime and again before bed.

I think if your daughter appears healthy and has plenty of energy she's probably just a light eater and is just fine. Good luck though - I feel your frustration and worry!

I used to worry about my son, just as picky as what you're describing but it sounds like you are providing healthy stuff and that's really all you can do. What you have to be careful about is not letting your daughter know how stressed you are about it. (She's not going to die.) I sometimes wonder if it's more of a power issue, since kids have none. She'll pull out of it. If she knows how freaked out you are about it (in my opinion) that will be more damaging in the long run.

You are not alone. I went through the same thing. Then I found a great cookbook that is written by a mom who went through it too: The Sneaky Chef, by Missy Chase Lapine. The recipes are quick, easy, nutritous, and even picky eaters will eat them. The only downside is that the first 1/3 of the book is about why she wrote the book, and her philosophy on eating (I felt that she could have covered all of that in a couple of pages).
Good luck, whatever you do!

It is essential that you find a way to get some more nutrition into your daughter. She may not need a lot of calories, but macaroni and cheese, crackers and pretzels are practically empty calories, that do not provide the nutrition she needs. You might want to look at the Juice Plus Gummies or Chewables. They contain 17 fruits ,vegetables and grains in a gummie or chewable form.. They are a little bit sweet, but have very little sugar. They provide many of the nutrients that she needs in a bioavailable form. My 19 month old grandson loves them and asks for them every morning. After she has been on these for a while, I think you'll find that she wants to eat more fruits and vegetables on her own. This is what the research is showing! Check out my web site www.madjuicer.com for more information about Juice Plus and to read about the research. It is very exciting!

I have one of those picky eaters! What he does want to eat isn't great for him. No veggies, some fruit and crackers, fruit bars, waffles and chickien nuggets. I agree with the DIPPY advice. My son will be more likely to try something when it is dipped. He also is more likely to try it if he has his own fork. Try not to worry! I lived on top ramen, mac and cheese and regular cheese for years and turned out just fine and healthy.

I read something once about a tablespoon per year (age) being equivelant to a serving size for children. A child's stomach is about the size of their two little fists, that's pretty small. Continue to offer healthy foods at meal times and healthy snacks between meals (some will disagree and say that you shouldn't offer snacks, that way she'll be hungry at meal time). Sometimes kids aren't always hungry when we think they should be and by providing snacks between meals, you ensure that she is eating. Again keep them healthy and don't cave to giving her junk b/c you know she'll eat it. At meal times, try giving her a larger portion of somehting you know she'll eat and smaller portions of what you are trying to encourage her to start eating. I agree with another post, if her doctor isn't concerned, she's probably OK. Most important is not to make it a power struggle. Toddlers have very little control over their lives and whether or not they eat is one area where they can have control. I have two little ones myself; daughter 4 and son 2, I know the frustration of fixing food that you child will not eat. Good luck to you both and hopefully this will soon pass.


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