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How Do I Get My 2 Year Old to Try New Foods

My 2 year old eats plenty, but will not try ANY new foods. He eats lots of fruit, cereal, all snack items, but as far as protein he will only eat grilled cheese, hot dogs and chicken nuggets. He won't even try a bite of anything else (mac and cheese, rice, pasta, chicken, any meat, any other sandwich, peanut butter...nothing). I really try to not make a big deal out of it, but I don't know what to do. My pediatrician said that if I stop buying those things, then he will eat something else. I feel like at least he is getting a little protein with those things, so I don't want to stop buying them. Oh, he also will gag just watching us eat things that he doesn't like. I once tried to force him to eat mac and cheese and he ended up throwing up just looking at it. I'm at a loss. He still loves baby food out of the jar as well.

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My son did the SAME THING at that age! I made two major changes to change his eating habbits (which still are not great, but it's a lot easier to handle). First, I stopped buying the chicken nuggets because they are so bad for you (deep fried and all that fat/salt/cholesterol) I didn't want to set a trend. Second, I made sure to give him something for lunch that I knew he liked (this was ONLY to make ME feel better so I knew he was eating something other than breakfast), and third, and most IMPORTANT, I instituted a rule that what mom makes for dinner is what is served. 1) you will be given a helping of everything 2) you may choose to eat it or not to eat it (and mom/dad won't make a big deal if you don't) and 3) if you do not FINISH your dinner, there is NO OTHER FOOD TONIGHT...PERIOD. I enforce these rules every single night without fail. Sometimes my son chooses to eat nothing at all from the time I pick him up from daycare at 4pm until the next morning when he gets cereal while I'm getting ready for work...others eats everything, others he picks and plays with his food. BTW, he will be 4 in one month and I've been doing this since he turned 2. The rule is basically, "eat what you are given or go hungry". I used to have to take bags of chicken nuggets to his daycare for him to eat for lunch because he would not eat the food they serve (including Korean food....we are caucasian)When he turned 2, I told his teachers I would no longer supply the chicken nuggets they requested me to bring for his lunch and that if he was hungry enough, he would eat. At first he held out because he expected the nuggets he always got, but after a while his teachers told me that he started trying their food and sometimes even eats it. He is still a picky eater, as I'm sure most toddlers/pre-schoolers are, but I have a lot less stress in my life now that I have these ground rules in place. No child that age will starve themself...if they are hungry enough, they will eat. I once had a 2 day standoff over a hotdog and decided at that point that re-heating the refused food was not for me, but what I will do is keep the food he decides not to eat and if he asks for a snack later in the night,I will tell him he has 2 options...finish his dinner that he didn't eat earlier or do not eat anything. One thing you could do is try to make your food look like the babyfood from a jar...my mother used to mash up carots, peas, squash for my son instead of giving him the jar food when he stayed with her....he loved it and I knew there were no addatives.

I know this is getting long, but let me just leave you with one last thought. When I was a child, my brother and I were 2 years appart and both picky eaters...neither of us liked what our parents ate and if one of us likes something, the other was guaranteed to hate it. My mother dealt with it by cooking restaurant style....even into when I was in junior high and occasionally when I was in high school. She cooked 2 or sometimes 3 meals every single night because she wanted to make sure we would eat something and if we didn't like anything she cooked, she would make us a snack of our choosing later on. We loved it! But, as I became an adult and could not make myself eat food that I don't like (I'm 28 and still can't make myself eat a lot of things I don't care for) I wished that she had forced us to eat what was for dinner because I found myself not able to eat the food that was available. I would rather go hungry than eat something I dont' like, but I whole heartedly believe that I am that way because unlike most of my friend, if not all, I was not forced to eat what was there or at least try everything once before moving on to something I did like.

I do not want to tell you what is right for your situation because I am not you or your family, but just to share what is right for my family and why. It is so nice to not have to worry about cooking two seperate dinners because my son won't eat what the rest of us are having. We are very consistant with the rules, and he follows them. He used to ask for snacks adn things after dinner, but once he learned that we wont' give in, he stopped asking for the most part. Of course once in a while we have to remind him that he didnt' finish, but it's rare...and if he does finish dinner and wants somethign later on, we almost always let him have it so he knows that the rule is for when he does not finish dinner (or eat very well). Good luck! I know it's stressful having a picky eater (and being one LOL).

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I think your pediatrician is exactly right. The human body is an amazing thing . . . at least until we get old enough to ignore our body's cues and signals. When a toddler needs something (be it protein, grains, calcium, vitamin C, etc.), his body will crave it and he will eat it. When his little body tells him he needs protein, he will eat the protein that is offered. No normal, healthy toddler will EVER starve himself - it doesn't matter how stubborn or determined he might be.

Your son sounds like a food drama king! One of my two year old twin boys is a food drama king, too. I've always wanted to give my children as much exposure as possible to different kinds of food. (But I darn sure don't give my toddlers baby food!) With my picky twin, I literally have to present him with a new food at least ten to fifteen times before he will even TRY the darn stuff! I always make sure to provide one item I know he likes - though in a normal portion, not a huge one. Then I give him a small portion of the new food. He'll completely ignore it (or will toss it on the floor) at first but will watch all of us (including his twin brother, who will eat ANYTHING) with interest. Eventually, he'll take a taste. Usually he spits it right out and makes the "yucky" sounds, but I offer the item again at the next meal time. We'll go through that a few times before he decides it's actually pretty tasty. (He's discovered ham, steak, turkey, cauliflower, peas, and MANY other foods this way. He still believes broccoli was invented to poison him, though!)

Patience, repetition, and NO hot dogs or chicken nuggets in the house and NO forcing him (or even asking him) to try a new food is the way to go. Otherwise, if he's able to out-stubborn you when he's just a toddler, I'm really worried that you're going to end up with a super picky and unhealthy pre teen who will only eat cereal, pizza and chicken nuggets.

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Just a little note: if your child throws up, or acts like he really doesn't like a food, it might be a food allergy. Maybe your child is allergic to dairy or something...just something to be aware of.
One thing that helps my son try new foods, is I give him 3-4 things on his plate, with only 1 new food and a little bit of his favorites (not enough for him to fill up). It usually takes me putting it on his plate 3-4 times before he is brave enough to eat it, but especially if it's on my plate too and I am eating it, he usually tries it after the 3rd or 4th time.
Good luck and try not to worry too much....

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My son was a picky eater and the only way I got him to eat scrambled eggs was to feed him scrambled eggs was to feed him scrambled eggs breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week. Then I did I with potatoes (mashed, fried, etc). So I think your doctor is probably correct. Try something that you think is important to have in his diet and you serve regularly.

Do not force him to eat. That feeling will stay with him forever. If your son doesn't finish his plate, let him get down, but that is all the food until the next meal. (excepting a snack about 3:00)

Also, if you must feed him hot dogs, or chicken nuggets, go to the health store to find healthy ones.

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One thing that has worked for us lately is reading the green eggs and ham book regularly... Then when I want her to try something at the dinner table I start saying things like... Would you eat them in a box... Try them, try them... etc. all lines from the book

She almost always trys things and nearly every time says... I Do like them same I am. If she doesn't like it I tell here it is ok to spit it out in a napkin and thank her for really trying it.

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Hmmmm... OK, well I don't want to sound too hard, but who is the parent! Hee hee... You are!! You know what is best for your child. That is why you are the parent. Children are unknowing and expect you to teach them what is best for them. Your Pediatrician is right. Don't buy the junk and he will learn to eat correctly.
I've raised 7 children and know from experience that they all go through this 'control' phase. You as the parent need to win... always. They have to learn to respect it, because it is ultimately for their own good and they will learn to respect you in other areas eventually too.
It is quite simple really. No snacks, only water to drink, and milk with breakfast. This is only for a while, so they aren't filling up on snacks and milk and not getting to their food. Now present them with correct portions of healthy food. When they refuse, simply say... oh, so you aren't hungry now? OK, we will wrap it up and you can have it for dinner(or lunch or breakfast). Do not give the meal until the next mealtime. This is a control issue... so you need to be the winner and in control. There is no need for uglies... simply enforce that what is served is his meal. I made sure I was consistent for however many days it took to realize this end. Sometimes it was 3 or 4 days. After that, one simply has to remind them that they can save their meal til next time and that often will 'help' them eat it up in a timely manner. I never minded them leaving a few bites of whatever but if i thought it was a control issue and they were not going to eat dinner and then fill up on morning cereal then I dealt with that too.
Your child will eventually decide he is hungry enough to eat what is served. If he throws up, (I had one take it to this extent too) simply take away the food and reserve it 'til later. They will learn that it is tastier the first time it is served and they might as well eat now instead of later. But sometimes this takes the whole learning experience and tough parents. You will be glad that you waited it out. Life will be easier after that.
Encourage your children to help plant veggies in the flower beds and to pick out foods at the grocery stores (you directing the choices). If they get to contribute to the table in some way it will encourage them generally to eat better. Sometimes new babies, moves, etc. upset little ones and it shows up in these eating issues. One on one time often will help this.
The rule in our house is this: If mom fixes dinner, every one eats what is served... even if it is only a little or not their favorite.
They actually learn to eat a lot of different things this way and by the time they are young adults they eat what is served and also find they like to help mom cook so they have more say in their favorites being served.
Keeping healthy options in the house is the best way to have the biggest impact on their eating habits. They will soon enough have too many other available options as they get older. The more fruit and less junk I have available and the more I cook nutritious meals ... the more the kids accept this is best for them and as they are older you will see that they actually will often pick healthy meals at school instead of junk! Yay!
Step up to the plate and be that parent that has wisdom and help teach the child that is naturally ignorant and foolish. :) It is really a win/win situation... after the first week of fussies you will all be happier... LOL. Blessings, Hang in there... It will get easier. :)

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At two years old eating has become a power struggle. I agree with you pediatrician, stop buying the nuggets and hot dogs. Children need exposure to new foods at least 10 times before they are able to decide if they like the food or not. I would offer one new food at meal times, say noodles. Give him just enough for a couple of bites and encourage him to just try a bite. If, after one bite he doesn't like it then that's fine, but praise the heck out of him for being so brave and trying something new. Also, with spaghetti noodles let him play with them.

My daughter loves flinging the noodles around, and will eventually get some of them into her mouth and eat them. She's 15 months going on 2 most days. She is happiest with the finger foods that she can feed herself.

Hope this helps,

I can only imagine how frustrating this is for you. I have a 1 year old who is a picky eater, so its gotta be way more frustrating as the older they get. I don't have any personal experience to share as my daughter's not old enough. But, I do have a fun tip that might be of help. Apologies if this was mentioned before, as you've had some lenghty responses.

A friend of mine does Muffin Tin Monday. She writes about it on her blog, where I saw the idea. She puts little bits of many different foods in a muffin tin and gives one to each of her daughters (approx 4 yrs & 2 yrs) She puts in some favorites and some new things, hoping they might give it a shot with the new fun layout of food. I love the idea as it gives them control to try something new without the pressure of just one food sitting in front of them.

Just a thought!

I see you are worried about protien. My daughter loves beans, black, kidney, baked. She eats them plain or with ketchup or bbq sauce. She is picky about how her food is prepared. She eats veggies in homemade soups, but they have to be cut the way grandma does them, but canned veggies are too mushy. I have finally learned how to cut them and cook them so that she will eat them with me. She used to eat frozen peas and berries, but now she wants everything warm. I think the frozen was good for teething. She won't eat chicken nuggets, just the real stuff and if I get fast food I have to skin the breading off. They get enough, and usually too much, carbohydrates so don't worry about noodles, most kids are addicted. Keep trying and good luck.

My son is 23 months old and is also very picky. If I don't offer him the things that he wants (like your pediatrician suggests), then he just won't eat. I have tried making him eat what we have for dinner and he will just go hungry. My son will only eat crackers, cheese, cereal, peanut butter, bread, bananas, raisens, yogurt, milk, juice and water. He will also eat sweets when I let him. He won't eat meat or try anything new. I asked my pediatrician and they said all you can do is continue to offer the good stuff and you can't make them eat it. The nurse suggested making smoothies or juice with veggies in it. I give my son a kid's nutrition shake mixed with whole milk every morning (Herbalife). At lunch he gets V8 fusion because it is 100% fruit and veggies. Then with dinner I give him soy milk for the protein. When he goes to bed he gets multivitamins. I understand your frustration but thats all the suggestions I have. Good luck.

I can't answere your question but maybe I can take some of the stress off. My grandson, Zach, would eat NOTHING but fruit until the end of his Head Start year. (his dad ate nothing but meat). They ate lunch family style at school and he always asked for seconds but only the fruit. As the year went on and they let him choose on his own, he started trying what the other kids ate. He's eight now and just got his yellow belt in tae quan do and is perfectly healthy and eats lots of different foods. Your son is getting some protein. I agree with the Dr. to take away the snacks if they are too fatty. Another side to this is my God-daughter wouldn't drink milk and we all thought she needed it and she would fight and scream. This was in the days when we took them off formula quit early. As it turned out after several years, she was allergic to it and had a rare condition that milk caused seisures of the stomach. I have never since forced a child to eat anything they gagged on. I think this will fix it's self if you let it be, make new things available, maybe put a little bite of new things on his plate but ingore it if he leaves it. He may try it by accident and like it---or not.
Hope this helps a little,

All the suggestions are great ones.
I do have to agree with the pediatrician, if he is not given a choice because the food isn't in the house then when he is hungry he will eat. But there are a few things I would suggest.
I would really get rid of the chicken nuggets, and the hot dogs. I know we live in a different world these days, and are all busy so a hot dog to a child is easy and convenient. But they are not healthy at all, loaded with sodium nitrate, and did you know that they use erthibates (sp) which are worms, just look on the package? I remember an article when my kids were growing up that hot dogs were linked to child hood lukemia. My kids ate hot dogs on a rare occasion I can probably count on my fingers how many times they have had them, and they are full grown, in their late 20's and early 30's. The chicken nuggets are loaded with fat, sodium and other things that taste good but do terrible things to a child's body. Again, I am not in your position, I was blessed to be able to stay home and I was also taught to cook at an early age, (raised in a family of 11 and my mother was not only resourseful but a great cook.
The one thing I would stress is this, Dads play an important role. If dad is fussy and doesn't like something, the child won't like it either, so dad has to be the role model and brag about it being his favorite, even if it isn't. This has been studied and proven. When I got married 30 yrs plus ago, my husband ate, green beans, potatoes, and meat. I would serve a meal and he would say I don't like it. To which I said, did you try it and he would say, No. So we had a well, you try it three times after the third time if you don't like it I won't serve it. Funny thing is, he likes it all, was disappointed at how much he missed out on. We did the same thing with our sons, except one change, if it was put on the plate that is what you get for dinner, period. Don't eat, too bad was the rule, I wasn't a cafe, opened 24 seven. Gee, no worries they ate everything and never complained. Oh, forgot to mention my husband hates peas (that was a child hood thing), anyway, as my sons were growing when I dished up dinner, I always ran out of peas before they got to dad, and would say, Honey we are out can I make you something else??? That way he got out of them, and of course it took the boys until they were about 7 to figure out we only ran out of peas, not any other veggie. They were on to us, but by then it was fine, they had gotten into great eating habits. They actually will tell that story to their friends, we had a great dinner table and always tried to make it special.
Good luck.

Hi B.,
There are quite few things you can try. If you want to stick with the baby jars, you can make your own. The idea is to introduce him to different flavors and get him use to it. I had the same problem with my son until I did figure out that he doesn't like the texture and started offering him the same thing we eat but mashed in the kitchen robot. Another thing you can try is to put something different in his plate every time along with the food he likes. Eventually he will try it. My son still gags from some of the food but the rule is - he has to try it and if he doesn't like it, he can leave it in his plate. To enforce it I used bribes in the begin like if he tries all the food in his plate he can have frozen yogurt for desert. He ate all kind of vegetables if they are in a soup but never raw. It took me about an year to get him eat at least some of them. I will put them in a plate in front of him before I served dinner (when he is hungry) and there will be at least 5 different vegetables and he had to chose which ones to try tonight. I use to arrange them as trains, clocks, smiley faces, houses, dinosaurs and etc., be creative. Yes, every evening I would spend at least 15 min arranging my veggie art just to see it going in the bin an hour later. With the time he started asking me if I can make him something and he got more interesting in trying it. I did let him helped too. Getting him involved in the cooking process helped a lot too. Start little (with the food amount and the tasks), let him put the spices in the meal or the noodles or the rice, whatever. Make a big deal out of it! Let him think that he cooked the dinner and he will be more willing to try it. Also, the problem you are dealing with might be part of power struggle, usually starts around 2. Give him more control and choices, but don't rush back in the kitchen to make him something else just because he refused the things on the table. The choices should be on the table and that's it. Yes, it took me lots of effort but now I have a good eater. He is 4 and he knows everything about the good and healthy foods and the junk food. Sometimes he will ask me if he can have some junk food after dinner. Our problem now is that he won't take any kids meal in a restaurant because they look like junk food. He wants me to read him the "big" menu and we will discus what will be good for him and his body to get taller, stronger and healthier. I had to educate my-self about the vitamins and minerals in the different veggies and what they are good for and now he will say: "Mommy, can you give me some carrots, because I want to watch a movie and I need my eyes to be strong?". Hope that was helpful. Good luck!

I don't really have an answer, but want you to know that my 2.5 year old sounds very similar. Fortunately, I gave him food like tofu, veggie sushi rolls, polenta...sort of "exotic" foods for babies, quite young...he will eat all of that stuff, but anytime I try something new (we don't eat meat, but he does eat fish), he refuses...so I lie and tell him that it is tofu (which he knows comes in various forms). I think that it is a stage and your dr. is probably right - stop giving him the things that he relies on and he will eventually cave in...we all hope!


First of all your daughter is normal for this age. I have a two year old and they are exploring their taste buds. the hot dogs, chicken nuggets and grilled cheese are really salty. The fruit is really sweet. Also, it's all about them choosing what they eat and comfort food. My suggestion on eating healthier is to go to the store with your child and have them help in picking out their food to try. Get small amounts of veggies, fruit, and bread or crackers to try. I take my daughter to the farmers market to explore all the fresh food.

Also, we have books about farmers and animals like cows that make milk and crops being picked (children's books). They have big colorful pictures and I point to them to ask what fruit, veggie, or animal it is. Some have textures as well, such as, the peach is fuzzy and soft and the corn is soft and bumpy. She finds this very fun.

Have fun with it they're learning!

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