18 Month Old Becoming Very Picky Eater

Updated on July 16, 2009
E.C. asks from Fallon, NV
18 answers

My 18 month old daughter is becoming a very picky eater. She used to eat most anything I gave her and now dinner time is a chore to try and find something she will eat. I'm not sure if it's best to let her go without dinner if she won't eat what we're eating or keep trying to find something different each time. It is getting very frustrating and any help and advice would be greatly appreciated.

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N.W.

answers from Los Angeles on

NAET.com for allergy eliminations.

Sometimes kids will stop eating certain foods because they become ill.

NAET.com will do a series of allergy test and will eliminate allergies.

Be well.

N.

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C.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

It could be a ton of things, not that she's becoming picky. My son struggled with eating around that age because he was teething, not hungry, trying to work up a poop and was learning to assert his independence. Try cooking with her. Make smoothies and other foods that take little work. Let her stir, peel, etc..-www.weelicious.com

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S.H.

answers from Honolulu on

Its normal.... a child's taste buds are still developing.

NO, don't make dinner or meal time into a "battle" and NEVER use food as a punishment... you don't want a child to get food hang-ups about it later.
Don't "deny" a meal if they don't eat. That is counterproductive.

LOTS more food phases will come up. Its normal.
So, you either make is a battle now, or you don't. Because it will happen again. It even happens among TEENagers. So... what then?

At this mere age of 18 months old... they are not going to understand like an adult, that their meal is being taken away to punish them... and then if you use these methods, they will NOT enjoy mealtime and will actually start to DREAD it. That is not what you want. Mealtime should be enjoyable and a time where the family bonds or talks story etc. Its not about how many bites of food a child took.

Keep in mind, that at this age, a "serving size" is only a Tablespoon.
If a child sees/knows that feeding them is a chore, they won't enjoy it, or will think that they always make Mommy unhappy, or they won't eat... because it is not a positive event.

For me, although we surely try and have our kids eat what WE eat... it won't always happen. That's life. I remember my Mom making liver when we were kids, and she'd EXPECT us to eat all of it. It made me throw up. I resented her for that and felt that she made liver on purpose just to make us miserable, then scolded us for not eating it. Geez. Each human being has taste differences... and for a young child...their palate is ALWAYS changing. It is a NORMAL developmental occurrence. But sure, try and introduce variety... but don't force it.

My daughter used to LOVE cherry tomatoes. Then she hated it. Then she liked it again. Then she hated it. Then she liked it again, Then she hated it. NOW... in the past few weeks, she LOVES it again. And each of these tomato likes/dislikes occurred at different age junctures. But, I never forced her to eat it "like before." I knew she was just changing and developing. She was no longer a baby... but changing.

Just like women and fashion... it always changes and we always change our styles or what we wear or not. Right? We don't always have a reason for it... its just us. So, the same with food and kids or babies. It just happens. "FORCING" it won't change that... and if eating is a battle, they will just learn to hate eating with family.

Food and toileting is the only things a young child can "control" in their lives. Its a BASIC need and instinct. I teach my kids to "learn" about what foods they like and don't like... and I let them express that to me... so they learn how to express themselves. I don't scold them if they don't like something that I like. Sure I cook what I cook... but every meal has something for everyone. AND, if one child is simply not hungry, that's fine. But I don't 'deny' them a meal. They can eat later when they are hungry. I don't believe in eating just because a clock says so... but yes, we do have mealtimes, and we sit at the table together and have fun... not making food/eating the focus. AND to me, having a child learn when their tummy is "full" or not, is important... otherwise, they will 'learn' to eat just because... not out of hunger.

Just find a groove and a middle ground... but knowing that next month may be different again. Lots of adults, have unhappy memories about childhood that have to do with what they experienced at mealtimes and how they were scolded at dinner times.

You will gets LOTS of different opinions on this. This is just my philosophy about it.

All the best,
Susan

2 moms found this helpful
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D.M.

answers from Los Angeles on

Susan gave great advice!

My son will be 3 in a few days, and food has been an adventure! For ONLY one week did he LOVE salad, and now he thinks it's yucky. No biggie and we move on. I don't push it or make it an issue, and I never punish in connection with food.

In our house, mealtime is not optional, but if you are not hungry then you don't have to eat. If you don't like what's being eaten then you can have something from the snack plate in the fridge (got that from another Mama on here)that has a healthy variety of stuff like veggies, fruit or cheese. But, if you don't eat dinner than no special treats or dessert. That's it. Keep it simple and keep it honest.

My Dad has unique stories of sleeping at the dinner table becasue he wouldn't finish his dinner and a good friend's Mom used to make him only eat certain foods and as a child he went nuts when he found sweets and candy!

Everyone has a story, but I want to make sure I teach my son to eat wisely and not on impulse. When he was that age, he was like a little garbage disposal and out of nowhere he would only eat certain foods. I found that even if he's protesting about something I try to stick with basics I know he will eat, even if it's for the whole family. One minute he loves something and the next it's old news. I know my son will always eat hot dogs (turkey), corn, pasta homemade chicken nuggets and casseroles with rice. This is sometimes a headache, but also fun because I have found a variety of ways to make these things fun for everyone.

Just keep it simple and don't stress about it. We make mealtime about family time, and I always make sure if my son is hungry before bed we have a glass of milk and crackers or cheese. Otherwise, I know he'll be up early and hungry!

Good Luck and just remember enjoy every minute.

2 moms found this helpful
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T.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

Oh, I feel your pain! My daughter was born 13 weeks early at just over two pounds. I've been trying to grow her for seven+ years now. =-) The last thing you want to do, however, is make food an issue. Just keep putting out choices and pay attention to what she likes (and it may not be what you like).

At 7, my daughter is still a beanpole, but she is pretty healthy, will still eat one plate of fruit at every meal and doesn't eat much between meals. These days I'll take a healthy beanpole any day over the overweight kids eating chips and soda that we see all around us. I truly believe that if left alone, kids and their bodies WANT nutritious food. I credit our attitude about keeping food casual for her good habits.

Good luck! It's hard not to push our own food preferences and frustrations on our kids.

1 mom found this helpful
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N.R.

answers from Los Angeles on

I have an 18-month old who is going through a similar thing. I hear it is developmentally appropriate and nothing to worry about. Over the course of a week a toddler will get everything he/she needs if you are offering nutritionally sound choices. One piece of advice I've received that's really helped is to make sure you're not becoming a short-order cook! I used to run into the kitchen to offer him different things to make sure he eats. I was so afraid he would starve! Now if he doesn't eat what's served, then the meal is finished. He's doing just fine. I try to give him what we eat and just keep offering the same, healthy things and keep hoping he decides he wants to eat them again.

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S.L.

answers from Los Angeles on

My 2 oldest were the same way right about 18 months and I'm expecting my one year old to do the same. I think it is common for them to do that around 18 mo. I read somewhere that sometimes you have to give them something 10 times before they might try it. I wouldn't give her too many choices because it's hard on you. Present 1 or 2 things and if she doesn't eat it, then save it for her...when she is hungry try again...even if it's later in the evening at least she's eating. One thing I've tried and still do with my older kids (who are now 2 & 4) is something I call "one bite, one bite". They chose something they want (like watermelon or yogurt-which they still think is a treat) and the food they are having as their meal. They take one bite of their food, then get one bite of "the treat" food and so on. This makes them eat what I want them to, and they get to eat what they want to. Hang in there...eating times can be a real challenge, but just keep trying different things until you find what works for you and your daughter.

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C.L.

answers from Honolulu on

I agree with the comments below. One great advice my Mom gave me is that babies will not purposely starve themselves. They eat when they are hungry and they won't eat when they are not. If you look at what they eat over the course of a week, they are probably getting all of their nutrition. It can be very frustrating, but the overall picture is a healthy baby. Offer healthful options, and eventually, they will eat. My 5 year old son is a picky eater, and at one point his diet consisted of macaroni and cheese, milk and grilled cheese. He now eats lots of veggies, fruit, meat. Sometimes eating times are still frustrating, but he is healthy and growing and is at a good height and weight for his age. His finicky eating tends to change depending on whether or not he is in a growth spurt.

When I was growing up, I was a picky eater too. As an adult, I am less picky, and will try new things, but prefer veggies and fruits to sweets, and water to any other beverage. Sometimes it is good to be picky. My Mom did something right by not forcing me to finish my plate, and by making meal times fun.

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M.S.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi E.:

What you are going through is normal according to my college nutrition professor. During the first year of life the rate of change in a baby's body requires much more energy (food) than it does at any other time in life. As parents, we get used to seeing and then expecting a certain intake and expect that will continue. The thing is that the body doesn't grow as fast after that initial period and therefore doesn't need as much fuel, and their little bodies know how much they need better than anyone. It is your job to provide nutritionally dense options for your baby, so that no matter which item she chooses, you know she will be getting something good for her. And yes, she knows how much - or how little she needs.

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M.C.

answers from Honolulu on

Yup, it happens. You can go one of two ways:
1. feed her things that she will eat and insure that she is getting a balanced diet and variety of foods, sneak nutrition into foods she likes, etc.

2. Feed her what everyone else is eating and if she does not eat it, next meal is breakfast.

She will eventually eat. really.

good luck!

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V.P.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hey There,

My kids were the same way, ate everything till they were about 5 or 6 and then they became very picky only wanting pizza, hot dogs and such....just made sure they got their vitamins. Now they are 18 and 17 and having friends from different races has them trying all kinds of foods, some they like, some they don't but they are into all kinds of food now. So don't worry so much, have fun with it. Loads of luck

V.
[email protected]____.com

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M.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

Hi! Toddlers are notoriously picky. It's partly a control thing. Don't try to micromanage what she eats or you'll just end up with a food-related power struggle that can last for years. No fun! That said, you also shouldn't cater to her every nonnutritious whim. (Ex: just because her fave is mac-n-cheese doesn't mean she gets to eat it breakfast, lunch, dinner every day and you never try to feed her anything else. She won't accept new foods if she's always given what she demands and nothing else.) If she likes a small number of healthy items, just keep feeding her those items and regularly expose her to others until she's ready to try them. I have a son who is absolutely neurotic about food. He's 10 -- sorry, sometimes this doesn't get any easier. Sometimes it does. I've written on this topic at Examiner.com. Check out these links, and good luck:
http://tiny.cc/pickyeater
http://tiny.cc/grazer
http://tiny.cc/foodtalk
http://tiny.cc/snackswaiting

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C.T.

answers from San Diego on

Hi E.,

Kids go through stages like this and I wouldn't worry. I have a 4yr old daughter and we've been through a few periods like this. We would supplement with meal shakes to make sure she was getting her nutrition and also made sure she was taking her vitamins. Meal shakes are great because you can add fruit,ice, etc to them so kids think they're getting a treat. We use Shaklee products because of their high safety standards. We know that we're getting exactly what it says on the lable without even the remote possibility of toxins being present. Their products work and they're safe for the environment too. You can check out Shaklee at www.greennutrition.info and register to win $200 of free products at www.freegreenproducts.info. Let me know if you have any questions and remember this will pass.

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B.H.

answers from Los Angeles on

E., there is some great advice out there. What I can say is trust your instincts. 18 month olds don't eat very much.

Give her ONLY healthy food options (because of course she will choose the unhealthy ones if provided that option as well)

Leave food out for her to "graze" when she is hungry. A plate of veggies on a table her height is PERFECT!

DO NOT FEED HER FRUIT JUICES OR MILK - give her water that is what her brain needs AND it will not "fill her up with empty calories"

DO NOT FORCE HER TO EAT - remember, children are very tiny eaters, but they will eat every 2-3 hours.

make meals fun - i know my girls always love when I cut my zucchini in some fun shape - hearts are easy - they still love it at 13 and 10!

E., you are the parent. Make good choices for her. Please do not open a box and trust that the multi billion dollar company that packaged it had your best nutritional interests at heart.

Start your family on a solid nutritional program that will set them up for success for their entire life. Feel free to ask me about mine.

B.
Family Wellness Coach

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S.F.

answers from Los Angeles on

It is so hard to watch your little one not eat yet for the greater good in the long run and your sanity it is better to serve her what you are eating and let her experience the consequences of not eating what is in front of her.
That being said, I have 5 kids and I always try to make a meal that everyone likes. My kids have to try it but not always finish it. They can have a piece of fruit or veggie later on if they are still hungry.
Your daughter is at an age where she will test you without necessarily having the verbal battle. She will understand the concept of no more food - this is it. It might seem harsh but it will only get harder in the long run if you don't address it now. They are very smart little creatures!
Don't make food a battle though. Just be matter of fact, try to not show your frustration. I know it is hard. I have one that is picky as well. Just keep serving lots of heathly choices, maybe even foods you might not like and see what it is that she eats. They also go through stages where they only eat peanut butter or won't eat pizza yet they loved it before. It is weird but I think that they always seem to get what they need.

I hope this helps. It could be as simple as a battle of the wills and you have to win. It is that simple. If you don't win now, it will be harder to win when she is older. It is the little things that we do that help us to conquer the bigger issues that we will all face!

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C.A.

answers from Los Angeles on

I wouldn't make her a a special meal. she isn't going to starve. Kids are picky eaters. offer a variety of healthy foods, and she'll find something she likes. I have 3 kids, and my youngest is by far the pickiest. yesterday she did not eat btwn 10 am and 8 pm. she wouldn't eat lunch or dinner-I refuse to let her have a snack if she wont eat a meal. and then she had an apple before bed.

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T.

answers from Las Vegas on

E.,

I give my kids a combo of things I know they will eat with things I'm not sure about (or that I know they are unlikely to eat). That way I know they will eat something but still get "exposed" to other foods. And that way I'm not pressuring them to eat. Dealing with picky eaters is a nightmare so hang in there and keep trying new foods!

T.

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