A Question for Moms with Young Toddlers

Updated on August 31, 2011
S.M. asks from Norwalk, CT
14 answers

I just made a wonderful dinner for my 19 month old twins and both refused to eat it. AGAIN. Pretty normal yes, but now it's starting to get really bad. It used to be that I could at least count on some staples, rotisserie chicken, peas or cheese and broccoli some ground turkey, rice? but now those are all being refused. I try offering things again and again on the advice of my pediatrician and books I've read. But as they get older ( no surprise ) the foods they will eat become less and less.

The worst of the two will only eat, cereal, yogurt, bananas, most fruit, grilled cheese and lunchmeat turkey, peanut butter and jelly the occasional pea. This all changes day to day and generally the only thing I can count on is that I can't count on her eating anything, aside from maybe goldfish cackers. I'm literally at my wits end. I'm tired of working hard to feed my girls good food and her throwing crying fits or worse throwing food and plates on the floor when she doesn't like it. Then what? Do I make her a whole other meal? Does she just not have dinner? What am I supposed to do? I don't know anymore. I know that I really don't want to be a short order cook for toddlers. I know these mom's who literally cook 3 different meals for each kid and fine for them but it's not for me. So what do you do when your toddler wails the moment she see's the dinner you've made and determines its undesirable to her now? I literally dread dinner time as it seems to be the only meal this happens now. I've tried so many things and she hates everything, spaghetti, homemade mac & cheese, box mac & cheese, ground turkey, beef, pizza, hotdogs, chicken sausages, potroast it goes on and on. I don't know what to do anymore. :(

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answers from New York on

If my kids don't want to eat what I cook they can have cottage cheese or if I am feeling particularly generous I may make them a pbj sandwich. I don't really like to cook so cooking more than one meal is not an option. I also don't really want to get into the battle of "making" my kids eat. It's so hard to tell what's going on with them. They may be having an off day and just not feel like eating chicken today. To be fair we all feel like that, only no one ever makes grown ups eat what they don't feel like eating, especially since you are the one making the choices about eating. We never ate brussel sprouts when I was growing up (which I LOVE btw) because my mom didn't like them. I don't like peas but my mom did so we ate them often, she never made me eat them though, which I really appreciate :) I try and think of it that way and then at least we don't get into the power struggles over food! Good luck and I hope she starts eating soon!

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answers from Honolulu on

My son has been a picky eater since he started on solids at 6 months old.
As HE got older.... he now eats more things.
ALL on his own.
He eats more too.

So the way a kid eats "now"... is in NO way going to predict how they are when older.

Eating changes.
I don't know of any adult, that eats the same way now, as when they were a Toddler.
It changes.

But, dysfunctional food habits in adults, are something that is sometimes originated in childhood.
We don't battle about foods or force or punish or reward for eating.
My kids eat per their biological cues. Hungry, eat. Full, stop.
My kids don't eat for emotional reasons. This is not a healthy way to eat.

Your kids will NOT starve.
Kids palates changes all the time.

We don't have junk in the house.
So my kids can eat anything they want or snack on or that I cook.
Kids also need to graze during the day.
They are active.

Kids portion sizes are also not adult sizes.
They eat in terms of tablespoons. Not plates.

Here is also a good link on kids and eating:

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answers from Kansas City on

I think you have the right idea to keep on trying to make them eat things. I took giving my 2 1/2 year old meat over and over and over for almost a year before he would eat more than ham. He, luckily, will at least try anything once. If we act like we really love it he generally will eat more. There are a few things he just hates, like tomatoes. we still put them on his plate or if they are mixed in with something and he has to at least try to take a bite, if he spits it out i dont make a big deal since i know he really hates them.

I would definetly NOT make them something different. If our toddler doesnt want to eat what we make for meals, then he just doesnt eat, which also means no snack before the next meal. and if he wont eat his dinner then he goes to bed hungry. Some may think it is mean, but it teaches them that they arent the boss and that they need to eat what they are given. Also, let me say that since we have started to do this he very rarely wont eat. he may not eat a lot but he has learned to eat.

You could try cutting down or out the snacks throughout the day. if they are snacking all day then they wont be hungry for meals. plus at this age they are learning to assert themselves and are starting to really push their boundaries and to see what they can or cannot do. so just be firm, make sure you are giving them a variety of foods, give them the same foods you are eating. For example, dinner last night here was chicken breasts marrinated in a cilantro lime sauce, 3 cheese tortilini with a pesto sauce and salad with garlic bread. he wont eat salad but we still have him a bite and he ate a mushroom. But he ate his chicken and the pasta and a few bites of the bread. the only time i make him a "kiddie" meal is when i am not eating lunch or dinner and then I may make him a quesadilla or grilled cheese etc, just something easy and quick. Good luck and keep on trying!

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answers from Chicago on

I remember cooking a nice dinner (I don't cook very well) for my twins that had just turned two. I was pregnant with #3, daddy works evenings, and I was exhausted but feeling proud. One boy took it and chucked the ENTIRE plate of food at the wall without even taking one bite. I was livid!!! What I've figured out is unfortunately it's a phase kids go through. I was told that while I can't make my children eat anything, it is my job to always put good choices in front of them. I always have at least one food I know they'll eat, and when they're really hungry I'll give them the new food first before adding other options. But, I never cook a separate meal. What I've made is what 's for dinner, period. I don't have the time or energy to make three different meals. If one doesn't like what's for dinner then he doesn't eat. When this happens I've noticed that he'll eat a bigger breakfast in the morning, so I make it extra nutritious. My twins are 2.5 now and still fuss over food, but I think we've hit a turning point. They both ate peas and green beans tonight!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have three kids, now aged 6, 4 and 2. My first ate everything, still does. When he was a young toddler, my friends were all asking how I did it.. I felt like Mom of the Year because my son would eat black beans, avocado, shrimp... then came my second boy - who still doesn't really like much. The first still eats everything... tonight my 4 year old ate toast (the rest of us ate BLT's (fresh garden tomatoes), green beans (from our garden), grapes, coleslaw (again - cabbage from my garden). ALL HE ATE WAS TOAST. His sister (2) didn't do much better - she ate a piece of bacon, her toast, and her grapes... no beans, no cabbage slaw...

Anyway - I'd just keep making one meal for your family. Try to include something they usually like (Iike toast today for my family) and then put the food in front of them and they should eat it.

If they don't they'll eat something the next meal.

Good luck,

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answers from Philadelphia on

I think your main job is to offer variety. Your child decides what to choose. Sometimes kids just aren't that hungry. Sometimes kids sense the struggle that you are dealing with (trying to get them to eat healthy) and they are up for sparring (just an opinion of mine).

Does she talk much? At her age, I was offering my son choices. "beef or chicken? rice or tortilla?" and he would choose. If she doesn't use words for the foods she eats, maybe show her a choice and let her point.

I let my son have other choices, like the color of his plate. In the grocery store, I would let him choose what he was interested in the produce aisle. (Even if your daughter doesn't eat what she chose, you have to admit you have made her curious). I think he likes being involved in his meal, and those are ways I get him involved.

I have had success with feeding my son whatever I eat, but keeping his (simple ) favorites on hand. Like right now, there is always apples, applesauce, tortillas and kidney beans around. To offer him those foods isn't like making a whole second meal.

Also, if he ate a crummy meal and got fussy later, I'd say something like. "I think you are hungry because you had a small lunch. How about a (insert healthy snack here)"

My suggestion to you is to stay calm when she throws a fit. Rest assured a small meal or no meal will not be a problem for her. (If she was really hungry, she would eat). Stay confident, because you are doing a good job by offering her variety, and let her eat what she wants (just put something extra in a bowl nearby from what you are eating). You are doing OK! You can't really make someone eat something.

Ps. Kids at that age really like dipping. Have you tried: hummus, peanut butter, dressing, bbq sauce, yogurt and told her to dip into it?

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answers from Missoula on

My son went through this. I just started putting the stuff he wouldn't eat back in the fridge. If he got hungry later, I offered it to him. Trust me, they will get hungry enough and eat it.

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answers from Dallas on

At that age, I expect them to be really picky and will feed them what they will eat.

When they are a little older, I make food, if they won't eat it, that's fine. But I don't make anything new. I'll toss their dinner, and they can eat whenever the next snack time/meal is (I offer them new food at the next meal time - I do not only offer the same food over and over). They don't get in trouble, and it's not a power struggle.

But at 19 months, I would probably be sure to specifically make food that they like. I'm sure others disagree, but that's how we do it. They are still too little to understand at that age. It's worked for us with our four kids...baby is 14 months old, so sometimes she eats and sometimes she doesn't. She's not in the super picky stage yet!

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answers from Cincinnati on

3 of my 4 have been extremely picky. With the first, we would force him to try it, then let him eat something else. With the second, we sometimes made him try it and them let him have something else or nothing. With my last one (he's almost three and the pickiest by far), I just keep his staples on hand. He eats yogurt, chicken nuggets, Eggo's, applesauce, and pizza. I know they're not the greatest things, but I make sure he drinks plenty of milk and he eats gummy vitamins most days. The older two mostly have grown out of it and although they're still a little picky, they are WORLDS better than they were! So, I'm hoping my youngest will eventually grow out of it too.

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answers from Raleigh on

We have started not feeding my son until he asks. I make dinner dad and I eat with son at the table. I don't give my son a plate until he asks. Then its his idea and he'll eat. Also he can have what I made or any leftovers we may have at the time. Usually 2-3 choices. All dinner type items. He picks or he's hungry. At 3 yo he has been sent to bed 4-5 times without dinner in his life. I'm the parent and he will eat what we have or not at all. I seriously doubt that any child in this country would be harmed by missing a meal. He will have a chance for breakfast in the morning.

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answers from Seattle on

This is so hard, and so frustrating! I would continue to offer variety but at dinner I would try to also offer one "guaranteed" food that you know they'll eat. So like potroast, sweet potato and then yogurt if that is the thing they'll always eat. Maybe that would give you some leverage to say okay well if you eat x amount of potroast you can have a little bit more yogurt. If they refuse to eat anything try to be non-emotional about it. I would just leave dinner on the table and allow them to go back to it as they'd like to, but don't give them anything else. I would think they would eat some of it eventually.
I know its hard to be tough about that cause we want our babies to EAT.

I have found something that helps is to have my son is to help me cook. He is 2 1/2 but has been helping me seriously since 15 months. It adds excitement to the meal for him and then he wants to try it, and even if he doesn't really like it he will try it cause he helped make it.
If they like breakfast stuff what about making muffins or pancakes with veggies or extra fruit in them? I make carrot or sweet potato etc. muffins to help up the nutrition intake. Or a healthy pancake mix (Hodgson Mills Whole Wheat Buttermilk mix) and then I grate carrot and zuchinni in it...little maple syrup and your good. I think fruit and bread products can hide a lot of other stuff they might otherwise not like.
Good luck!

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answers from New York on

My suggestion for picky eaters is to offer a variety of food at dinner. Make one main protein dish, and offer a bunch of sides - cheese cubes, bread with butter, a cooked veggie, a raw veggie, a fruit, rice or noodles and let them choose what they want. Don't plead, bribe or suggest. Also keep in mind that for such young children, serving sizes are pretty small. Good luck



answers from New York on

I just read all your answers because I am feeling the exact same way you are. I have all but given up on cooking dinners, and feel so guilty about it. My 17 month old sometimes eats a good meal and sometimes just refuses. My 3 1/2 yr old used to be the most fabulous eater (and I did feel smug) and starting just before his 3rd birthday he started rejecting more and more foods, until now when he has about 3 things he eats.

One thing I discovered is that my 2 kids are hungry at different times. They go to daycare, and eat lunch and snacks when all the kids do. My little one gets "dinner" at daycare around 5, so depending on when I finish my work day, he may or may not have had a sort-of meal. (The throws a lot on the floor, trying to feed himself). My older one has never been much of a dinner eater. My husband has worked past the younger one's bedtime every night for like 6 months. He comes home and eats somethign at 7:30 and lo and behold, the older one is actually hungry then and will eat something resembling a meal.

So when I get them home, I slice up apples, or other fruit, and put it out for the kids to munch on.

I know plenty of adults with good eating habits who say they were picky eaters as kids. I hope that happens to my kids. And yours too.


answers from Gainesville on

i am a horrible mom with too many babies , so i choose the easy route and one that is scowled at. My extremely picky 2 yr old is partially back on baby food and a bottle. i cut the nipple. I feed him morning baby oatmeal with flavored yogurt. I feed him evening applesauce with a can of baby peas or sweet potatoes mixed in. This totally goes against what i ever thought i would do, but he gets sooooo fussy when dont eat. He loves to eat pancakes with peanut butter and syrup and he loves noodles. He is very unpredictable about when he will eat these things, i usually try other food before doing the bottle thing. He is slowly doing better. He has hardly been sick in his life, so i guess something is going his way

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