22 answers

My 2 Year Old Is on a Hunger Strike

For the first year and a half of her life, my toddler was an amazingly good eater. I made her all her baby food, using organic produce, etc., and she ate it right up, everything from tuna salad to tabouleh. Then her eating habits gradually declined, and in the past two months, she eats almost nothing. She has stopped eating breakfast, formerly her favorite meal. SHe use to love oatmeal and granola and yogurt and berries. Now she'll eat a few blueberries and that's it. She skips lunch entirely, and I've given up on it. I used to try to get really creative with her lunches, but now I don't bother because she won't eat any of it. At dinner she eats absolutely nothing. This was the first meal to go. If we let her, she would survive on goldfish, water, and Kefir, a yogurt drink that she drinks instead of milk. I used to limit it so that she would have an appetite for food, but now it's often the only nutrition she gets. She does take those gummy vitamins, which she loves. I am afraid she is becoming like me. I was the world's worst eater - I weighed 40 pounds in 6th grade! Lola and I are both grazers. She doesn't like to eat meals but will nibble here and there if we let her. I read an idea of creating a nibble tray and letting her have a bit her, a bit there, as she wants to throughout the day. I am willing to try this although it is SO not practical. Has anyone tried this? It is SOOOO frustrating to have a child who won't eat. Most of the time she won't even try a single bite of what's on her plate. I never push her to eat at all, because I believe in letting her appetite guide her, but this is ridiculous!

What can I do next?

More Answers

I think a lot of kids do that at about this age. I know my sons eatig habits change all the time. One week he is a lil pig and the next I can not get him to eat. I did do the whole grazing thing for a while and it worked for us. I had no idea other people were doing it, I just did it so he would eat. I found that pushing food made it worse. She is at the point of getting her boundaries and independence setup and sometimes pushing makes things harder. So I would just make his food and put it in his playroom. I am kind of laid back. We dont eat together as a family often due to hubbys schedule so I let my son eat when and whereever. But I do not make special meals for him. He gets what we get, unless I make something he absolutely cant eat. I found that having the food out and avaialable he ate it. One other thing is that their bodies know when they are hungry. She just may not be wanting food right now. I had a doc tell me once that his son would only eat peanutbutter and spaghetti noodles (not together LOL) for nearly 6 months. He said it did not hurt them, as long as they are eating something.

Hope this helps.


Yep, this is typical for her age. I just went through this for several months with my third child, who turned 2 in July. You just keep offering...if she eats here and there, then you have accomplished something. When you say she won't eat anything, I'm assuming you mean that she won't eat what you present to her but she will nibble here and there, right? Keep offering what she will eat and continue to offer everything you eat too. Picky eating is a phase. If you're concerned she's losing weight, then you would want to consult with the pediatrician to make sure there isn't some underlying problem. My bet is she's going through a phase...it passes. Be patient but don't give up.

For breakfast, you could give her a bowl of dry cereal with a cup of milk on the side. Scrambled egg between a piece of toast with jelly? Sounds gross perhaps, but my boy likes it. Pancakes, waffles, french toast. Lunch can be as simple as a cheese stick cut up in small pieces...yogurt, applesauce, cut up piece of lunch meat. Some days my son wants a bowl of cereal for lunch. Whatever he'll eat, I'll serve. It's food...that's the important thing.

Hi N.,

I see that you try to eat well. That's to be commended these days as it's more time consuming to shop and read. :) If she's getting enough nutrition she is probably fine and it's a stage. You did mention the gummy vitamins and I was curious if it is a multivitamin/mineral complex or just vitamins. If it has minerals in it then they are isolated and it will create free radicals and that can cause all sorts of problems down the road.

Fiber is a key also. If the colon is not clean then the appetite decreases because the body doesn't recognize nutrition if it can't absorb it. I'm curious too if you vaccinate your kids and if she was recently innoculated. Sometimes vaccines do things that inhibit the appetite.

Just a few ideas! God bless!


dr told me not to worry ,they would eat when hungry,just make sure dr is aware of her change of eating habits

Hi N.,
I went through this with both my kids;
here are some thoughts to consider
maybe it's time to start something new.
When we would go to the grocery store, I would let them pick out some new stuff that was healthy of course.
I don't know if kefir is alright for kids. I started giving it to my daughter and she just keep going to the bathroom. Sometimes too if I don't drink it for a couple of days, it backs me up to the point where I don't want to eat either. And when I do drink it, I don't eat lunch.
Hope this helps, if it goes on, you may want to consider going to the Ped.

First of all-it is VERY normal for a 2 year old to not eat as much as they did when they were younger (their growth is slowing down substantially at this time) and to become much more picky about it--which is them showing their independence.
I would actually advise NOT to have a nibble tray--this will only encourage her not to eat at mealtimes. When my son was 18 months old-he got breakfast, a mid day snack, lunch, an afternoon snack and dinner--and ate them up! At 2--he stopped eating that much and started skipping meals. The first thing I did was cut out that morning snack and severely limit the afternoon one--he gets a small amount of pretzels or some fruit otherwise he won't eat dinner!
So my advice to you is first--find some healthy things she does like and keep that as your base foods--fruits/veggies and whole grains, eggs, and dairy are your friends--my son at 3 1/2 is just now starting to eat some meats.
Make her meals fun-we play a game where I eat a bite of food and then he eats a bite of food.
Eat together at the table whenever possible. Kids want to mimic adults--why should they eat if you are not?
Keep offering her foods she has refused in the past or are new, but also offer her things you know she will eat. I usually give my son something I know he likes for breakfast, his lunches are almost always pnut butter and jelly or mac and cheese, but he gets more of a variety at dinner, where sometimes he eats/tries them and sometimes he does not.
Finally, check out this book: Child of Mine: feeding with love and good Sense by Ellen Satter. It will really help you get a good perspective on feeding babies/toddlers and kids. What they really need, your relationship with them, etc. My friend insisted that I read it when I had my son (so much that she bought and sent it to me) and I have to agree with her--it's one of those books that every parent should read.

My son stopped eating at about 10 months. He just turned 2 and is slowly starting to eat again. As long as he gets at least teaspoon of food at each meal and still drinks milk, formula or pedia-sure throughout the day he will not starve. My son still drinks 2 pedia-sure's a day, used to be more. My DR said they were better for them than milk. Ans as long as he is still putting on weight and not losing it, he's fine.

All of my children and grandchildren have gone through "grazing" phases, it usually lasted a year or so, then back onto normal meals. I feel it's best to get whatever you can into them while they are growing, and work on things like sitting at the table for meals when they are a little older (four and five), but that is my personal opinion, I am sure you will receive others here too. The little ones are so busy exploring and learning about their world, they will sacrafice food to keep moving. By putting small amounts of food they can grab and run with, they eat a whole lot throughout the day. It doesn't always have to be snack food either. Our kids eat fruit, cubed up meat like chicken and ham, cheese cubes, trail mix, etc...

good luck

Make sure there isn't a medical problem. Don't even set a place at the table unless she asks for one.
She isn't wanting to be a size 0 fashion model is she?
Grazing is actually healthier than 3 big meals especially for diabetics. fix the meal early for you and her and present as a grazing tray and everone who wants can graze and then the grazet ray can be switched to a set down meal.

Hi, I feel your frustrating. My daughter is now 26mths, and some days she barely eats anything. She "chooses" what she wants, and thats usually snacks...not the most nutrious selections. Ive talked to our ped.dr, and shes above percentile for her age/weight, so I jsut let her guide what she wants to eat. Speak to your peds dr, and see where her weight vs age is ont he charts, and if its in the 75+%, dont worry. Its a phase.

I am a grazer. I have been my entire life (I am 39)I don't like to eat "meals" never have, don't think I ever will. My daughter (8) is the same, always has been.

I feed her a protein shake in the AM, at first I made it for her, now she makes her own. We put in IsaLean Shake mix (http://liveitdontdiet.isagenix.com/us/en/isaleanshake.dhtml) give her the IsaKids vitamins (http://liveitdontdiet.isagenix.com/us/en/isakids.dhtml)

When she gets the basics, she will eat what she needs. Only give her healthy choices. Then she will get what she needs, not what she thinks she wants. You are the mom. You get to decide.

I think the two of you would VERY much benefit from the IsaLean Shakes, yes both of you! If you do it together, then it becomes a "family thing" not something extra she has to do. And of course Eva can eat them too!

I have helped many families develop better eating habits JUST by having the RIGHT nutrition shake each morning. I will help you if you want.

NB on a side note, I am interested in hearing more about your writing. I work with a lot of families and perhaps there is some cross references we could do.

B. H. B.A.;B.Ed.
Family Coach

I know how frustrating it can be and how amazing it is that a child can live and actually grow on so little food. But, what they say is true...they will not starve. You never want to be forceful with any food b/c they will link emotion to food and even at such a young age, it can create problems for th future. What I would recommend is try having her help you make something. Make it a fun thing you can do together. Put all the ingredients out, let her pick what to use and what to do with it. Put out stuff you know she used to like and let her make it with your help. If she feels like she made it, she will feel poud and might actually want to eat it. Tell everyone what a great cook she is and how her food is the best food you've ever tasted. Ask her if she could teach you how to make something and let her show you. I wouldn't even mention eating the food when you first get started,just that you are going to play a fun cooking game together. When she sees the finished product and how much you are enjoying it, she may want to eat it. I realize this is not exactly practical for all meals but it's worth a shot. Another thing you can try is making your own yogurt drinks and adding things into it. You can add peanut butter for protein, bananas, etc. You could also use a juicer, blender, food processor, etc to make juice with added veggies. She would not even notice if you added spinach, carrots, etc to her juice. Anyway, I hope this helps. Good luck!

all doctors say kids do that but they will also tell you they will eat when theya re hungry

My Daughter did that also I later discovered it was because she was teething, and hence not feeling up to much of anything. There were also times I summed it up to growing spurts,and not having one. Breakfast has always been a favorite here and she stopped.It didn't last long though.Dont worry she'll eat if she's hungry.


My son sometimes eats throughout the day and doesn't eat any dinner and then there are other days that he will eat breakfast and nothing else at all. There are phases that our children go through. This is perfectly normal. She will eat when she gets hungry. As long as she is getting her nutrition somewhere, whether it be from her drinks that you make for her or whatever she is nibbling on throughout the day she will be fine. Just watch to make sure she is gaining weight that is how you will know that she is doing okay, and I don't mean a lot of weight. I went throught the same thing like I said with both my youngest boys. Good luck and don't worry this is usually just a phase that they go through. My kids have outgrown it now and they are very good eaters now.


I have been a nurse for twenty two years
I have also heard the pediatricians say they never saw a child starve in the presence of food
As long as she is reaching her milestones and not chronically ill you is receiving adequate nutrition
Mine child is 16 months and starting a similar phase
I just continually offer her nutritious foods and when shew is hungry she does great
Yes she occasionally skips a meal
I am not worried because she is healthy-bright eyes-smiling-being a toddler-never sick
It matters what they get nutritionally over the week
Remember- listen to your heart & gut
If you are worried take her for an evauation
I would like info on your blog and I would like to know if you would be a volunteer and test some anti-aging skin care?
J. Hagman Nurse Practitioner


No need to worry ,when she gets hungry enough she'll eat ! I would back off the goldfish and yogurt drink. The nibble tray doesn't sound to bad, but, I wouldn't put enough food on it to fill her up during the day ir she'll see no need to wait until meal time to eat the majority of her diet . It could be that she is just slowing down body wise . When she has another growth spurt her appetite will increase. I wouldn't worry about it to much unless she starts dropping weight. How active is she ? You might try to increase her activity which should cause an increase in her appetite. I would put things like dry cereal, apple slices, cheese and such on the nibble tray if you decide to try it. If you give her the foods she has as favs she will most likely always want just that.
If all else fails , take her to the peditrician or call and get her checked out. But, this is pretty much the norm for most kids, they all go thru these kinds of stages. It is good you don't push her to eat as that could lead to unhealthy things later. Best of Luck to you !

C. S.

I've always read that kids will eat when they are hungry, so maybe dont stress out about it. You turned out ok, right? :)

Welcome to the terrific twos. I had to remind my mom that my other 2 kids did the same thing at this age when my now 2 year old stayed at her house one day and she worried that he didn't eat much and all he did was nibble. Think of how tiny she was when she was born and the size (not weight on the scale, but size just looking her) she is now-- that's tons of growing she's done in the last 2 years. Now it slows down and she doesn't need as much on a daily basis as she used to. "They say" for toddlers that several nibbles throughout the day is actually more healthy for them than 3 big meals, and "they say" to look at what they have eaten over a week's time instead of over just one day. As long as you continue to offer healthy options for her, she'll be fine. My son has a little table and I often have snacks on it he can pick at throughout the day, like Cherrios. Instead of having him sit down to a "proper lunch", I'll ask if you wants a banana and then later offer him a spoonful of peanut butter -- not every child can handle that as far a choke factor, but he can-- the idea is to offer a healthy snack throughout the day. At dinnertime, we have a family of 5 so he sits with us, but he has stopped eating whatever we are eating like he used to. He often eats fruit or yogurt while I'm making dinner, so I'm fine with him just having a roll or muffin or something at the dinner table as long as he joins us at the table. I can usually get him to eat some protein like a bit of chicken, but he won't eat any veggies. He takes half a Flintstone vitamin daily, eats fruit and other healthy foods, and has recently starting preferring milk to watery juice, so I don't worry.

She may be getting her 2 year molars...this may be bothering her and her appetite.
At 2 years old they usually decrease their appetite...until 2 they are growing at a very rapid rate so they need to eat plenty. At the age of 2 they grow at a snails pace, so they usually don't eat as much. They also realize that they have a choice and start expressing their independence.
By 3 years old they will only eat plain things and then the next stage and the next. Eventually they all eat. Keep giving her supplements...that's what I do with my 3 year old picky eater. She used to eat everything as well.
It is fine to give her snack trays about every 2 to 3 hours.
Good Luck.

I think if your child is not eating at all something may be wrong... Isn't "maybe" all you need to make sure it is just "normal 2 year old" behavior?

There are so many things it could be - but what if it is something more? Every one blames teething and/or it being one of many common problems like this. I was told the opposite . It is close to never, just because of teething.

I would see your doctor and address this issue.
Start keeping a journal of everything your child eats.

Good luck
I hope it is just normal!

Hi, N.. Well, is your daughter losing weight? If so, get her to the pediatrician, quickly. When she's nibbling, she may be eating a lot more than you think she is. Also, does she go to daycare or anything? She may be eating at daycare or at her friends' houses, which will throw off her appetite at home. She may have been introduced to stuff that you do not serve at home, and so her tastes may have changed.

Bear in mind that children grow at different rates. Up until this point, her body has gone through a rapid series of growth spurts but may be slowing down now that she's hit 2 years old. When she starts growing again, her appetite will increase. Still, I would get her a physical, and explain to the pedi that her appetite has taken a sharp decline. Has her activitiy level also decreased? Make sure the doctor knows all the facts.

Now...are you, yourself, still a "grazer"? Lola may be picking up on your eating habits. At age 2, children are EXTREMELY aware of gender differences and are EXTREMELY concerned about appropriate behavior for their gender, so if she has gotten the message that ladies aren't supposed to eat very much, she may be trying to be the best lady she can be.

Has anyone teased her about her super-healthy food, or made fun of her while she's eating? If so, this may have affected her and made her feel strange about eating. See if you can coax it out of her the reasons why she doesn't want to eat much of anything.

If I were you, I would be concerned as well. I hope she's fine and everything works out for the best.


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