My Two Year Old Will Not Try Anything New to Eat!

Updated on February 02, 2009
S.C. asks from Arlington, TX
13 answers

I am at my wit's end w/ my two year old son. He only eats a handful of things and will NOT try anything new. I am tired of offering him new things just to have him reject them and then feel like a restaurant by making something I know he will eat. His diet consists of grilled cheese sandwiches, meatballs, spaghetti, fish sticks, bananas, grapes, and chicken nuggets. Truly...that is about it! I have offered him veggies and fruits 10-12+ times...still a no go. Has anyone had this issue and succeeded in changing eating habits? How did you do it? I have thought about serving him what I make for dinner...if he doesn't eat then he doesn't eat dinner. Opinions? Has this worked for anyone? I need major help!

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answers from Dallas on

I serve my 2 year old what we eat. She has to at least try a bite before getting her fruit for dessert or her beloved bread! Sometimes she eats several helpings; sometimes she only eats a bite. My rule is as long as she tries something on her plate, that pleases me. Usually if she only has a bite of something she usually is not that hungry b/c when I finally offer her the bread she really doesn't eat that much of it. Good luck with whatever you do! I think sometimes she is just not that hungry - toddlers have better control of their eating habits than adults!

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answers from Dallas on

I have a lot of experience with this, so bear with me, this will be long!! As a new mother, I trained my son to eat nothing but french fries, chicken mcnuggets, doughnuts, and some fruit. And mac-n-cheese. He would eat nothing else. I stupidly let this go one for almost 3 years. It was nuts...he threw fits over anything different, he would refuse to eat and whine... and I was SO OPPOSED to letting him go hungry, I would break down and feed him what he wanted to eat. None of which (except the fruit) had any nutritious value whatsoever. His meats were: fish sticks, chicken nuggets. His starches were grilled cheese and mac-n-cheese and doughnuts. No nutritional value (or incredibly little and MUCH to worry about with saturated fats, etc.) The fact that he was a good fruit eater was little consolation when he was pitching a fit about something. No veggies, nothing green, blah-blah-blah.

Anyway, we finally decided we had to do something because baby #2 was starting to emulate him. #2 could be in mid-chew of something he liked, see #1 refuse it, and spit it out and refuse it also. By this time #1 was close to 3 and we had allowed these horrible habits to form. We decided to start food boot camp.

Food boot camp began with me cooking nutritious meals and serving them to my family. Step one of boot camp was to outlaw fast food until we got this completely under control. No more drive ins. I packed lunches (that my son refused to eat in the beginning.) Step 2 was no more sweets. No desserts at all in any way, shape, or form. Step 3 was no more processed foods. No breaded, fried mcnuggets-- he only got cubed chicken breast. No more mac-n-cheese--he was offered wheat noodles with basil and olive oil. Step 4 was to offer #1 (&#2 by default)the food we were eating. Then if he chose to have a fit and not eat, he went hungry. I did not save food he refused to eat until the next meal, but I did save it so if he told me he was hungry before the next meal I could cheerfully say, "Alright, get in your chair and I'll get you something to eat!" and I'd serve him the same thing he'd refused before.

Because I had trained him so well to be a picky eater (I really take full credit;looking back I really shake my head about how foolish I was with him)it took much longer to untrain him. As a matter of fact, ladies, it took a FULL YEAR before I could put anything in front of him and he would eat it.

How my husband supported me: We started with a game plan we were both in agreeance with. He was the enforcer.My son was not allowed to say ugly things about what was on the table. When he would say, "Ewww!" or "Gross!" my husband would insist he say, "Thank you mother for cooking this wonderful meal for us." or "Thank you mother for spending your time to prepare something for us to eat." If he continued to make faces, he was asked to leave the table and could come back if he apologized for being rude. This nipped the fits in the bud because after two days of not eating, he wanted to be at the table. And being at the table was fun, because we made sure we told stories and laughed a lot.

I cooked the meals and I had my son help me cook. He cracked his first egg into a pan when he was three, sitting beside me on the counter. And you know what? He ate that egg! So getting him involved in the cooking helped.

Our last hurdle was vegetables. He just wouldn't. So we had vegetable week and we served only vegetables at many many meals that week. I cooked them with a little brown sugar and that got him started. Then I cooked them with less and less sugar until he was eating them without. I also instituted a green leaf rule. He had one leaf (small at first) of salad on his plate. (This was after we had started having food success in other areas and had been working on it for about six months.) He was required to eat his green leaf first. After he ate it, he could have anything he wanted.

So the result? He will now eat anything I serve. He is an adventurous eater. He loves salad and broccoli and green baans. He is now 8 and he ate a tiny octopus at a buffet last year because he was curious. (Didn't like it, said it was too chewy.)

It was a long year. The day he ate a sour cream & green chili chicken stuffed pita for dinner, I cried. I knew I had finally changed those horrible habits that I started. So it was worth the incredibly worth it. (And #2 and now #3 are good eaters now as well!)

So this long, long diatribe is to really say this: Your child will not starve himself to death. He will eat when he gets hungry enough. How long that takes depends on how strong his will is. My son's will was incredibly strong (because he was so sure we'd give in; we'd given in so many other times)that he actually lost a little weight at first. But he recovered, and he ate.

Good luck. You are fighting a very important battle and the eating habits you instill in your child now will effect him the rest of his life.


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answers from Dallas on

We are working on this too with our almost 2 year old. One thing that helps is if she is hungry in between meals I no longer offer the goldfish etc... instead offering fruits or veggies. If she is truly hungry she eats it, otherwise she is really hungry by meal time and is more open to what we are eating.

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answers from Dallas on

My 2 suggestions are to offer him one thing you know he will eat with the that not everything immediately turns him off. Like, if you offer grapes with his grilled chicken, then he at least has to sit long enough to eat the grapes, then maybe he will try the chicken. Another major life saver around here with my kids that age are tooth picks! Who would have thought that cut up cheese is much more appealing when you can stab it with a tooth pick and eat it! Better yet if they have something to dip it in..which I guess makes for suggestion 3. We use dips or parm cheese sprinkled on things to entice my 2 year old. He is still not a great eater, but I have 2 older children, so I know that they really do outgrow it for the most part. Everything from ranch, to ketchup, to guacamole, even fruit dip helps us often. (That and we try to tell him to eat a big dinosaur bite which for some reason he thinks is hysterical!!) Just keep trying, but dont give in all the time. It will get better, but the more we battle, the worse it will get. Good luck, like they say..he wont starve himself!! ~A.~



answers from Dallas on

i feel your pain! My two year old literally ate only bananas and yogurt for a week! lol. You have gotten a lot of good responses. i certainly agree with having him eat what you are eating. I know a lady who has school age kids and she is still making a different meal for each child, plus one for the adults. What we do is i serve her what she wants for breakfast and lunch (as long as it's in one of the acceptable choices, things that i know she likes but aren't dessert) Then for dinner there is usually one thing i know she will eat served (usually texas toast). Sometimes she eats dinner, usually she doesn't. if she is hungry later she can go back and finish her dinner (i never clean it up when i do the dinner dishes). Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

I heard a story yesterday about a mom who was concerned because her 3 year-old son hadn't started talking yet. All he ever did was whine, and she was concerned that something was wrong (with him). So she called the doctor and got the phone number of a private speech therapist who she thought might be able to help. She was on the phone with the speech therapist for about an hour, trying to explain what was going on and gather ideas for helping her son. During that time, her son (like every other kid whose parent gets on the telephone) began to "need" her "desperately." Wanting to continue her phone call and NOT wanting to allow her son to interrupt, this mom kept ignoring her son. Paying no attention to him ... not even making eye contact. Finally, the little boy got so frustrated he SAID, "want water!" The mother thanked the therapist and hung up the phone. She said she guessed she had finally allowed him to get thirsty enough that speech became useful to him!! After that, she gave him NOTHING he didn't ask for, and his speech improved dramatically.

On the subject of eating .... It's my personal belief that kids aren't going to starve themselves, and I have a 16 year-old daughter who barely weighs 60 pounds ... so I know about the "she's just not gaining any weight" fears. She eats enough. (I wish I could stop at "enough!") So my advice is that you fix the meals you want to fix for your family, including at least one thing you know your son will eat (for a while, until he gets better at eating whatever is offered). Give him a normal portion of what he likes and a very small portion of everything else. When he eats all of everything, allow him to have more of what he loves (if he asks for it). Don't argue with him, don't be emotional or angry. Just tell him, "This is what we're having. This is what I made. If you don't want to eat it, that's okay, but I'm not making anything else." If you make him his own special meal, you are teaching him to expect special treatment from everyone in every situation. "THIS is what we're having. If you're hungry, GREAT! If you're not, that's fine, too. You can eat at the next mealtime." And be sure you don't offer snacks in between the rejected meal and the next meal, or he will learn to reject unwanted meals in order to hold out for a much-loved snack. If he wants a snack, I would offer the rejected food only. This will work!! Your "thought" is your instinct, and mom's instincts are usually right on target!! Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

That is perfectly normal. I do not believe in forcing anyone to eat something that repulses them. I was always a very picky eater, and I can tell you from personal experience, that if my parents had truly gone all the way with "this or NOTHING", it would have been nothing, and I would have starved-- i'm not joking-- that is how much certain foods repulse me.
My kids are also picky and only eat a handful of things. However, fruits of all kinds is one thing they love. We went to a nutritionist once (my hubby works in a hospital) and gave her a list of what my oldest ate. She said that it was fine-- that she was getting enough nutrition but to supplement with a vitamin as well.
I don't stress over it. My husband and I fix (or pick up) what we like and then fix what they like too. They have learned to make some things for themselves (like chicken nuggets, pizza pockets, sandwiches, waffles, cereal, etc.). I pack their lunches everyday, and while there isn't much variance in what goes in there, it is fairly nutritious.
BTW, fish sticks (if baked) are nutritious; chicken nuggets have lots of protein (again, baked is best); grilled cheese is an excellent source of calcium... and grapes are a good start with fruit.
Hang in there!



answers from Dallas on

I'm of mother of 3 girls,23,16,14 and they love everything. Everyone has always been surprised at what my girls eat. But enough of that. When they were little and I wanted them to try veggie I would put alittle sugar in it to make it taste sweet (just alittle sugar and butter). Now that there older they love all veg. Try that I think you will be surprised. You need to serve him what you make for dinner, like you said if he's hungry he will eat it. I hope that works for ya.

from: A Mom of 3



answers from Amarillo on

I would try dips and sauces on vegies. Maybe start with raw veggies and ranch or something. Then go to cooked with cheese whiz. Just a thought. They do usually grow out of this. My children learned that they had to have one bite of everything.

I had heard from a pediatrician one time if you give into them for only their favorite foods then that is all they are going to eat. If you stick to your guns and tell your child that they have to have what you cooked and they are hungry enough they will eat it. Just keep offering the other choices and don't give into the demands for the favored food.
Good luck!



answers from Dallas on

Thanks for asking this question. I'm going to pay close attention to the responses you get. In the meantime, know you're not alone. My 2-1/2 year old's vegetarian diet consists of chik'n nuggets, veggie corn dogs, Uncrustables (grilled cheese & PBJ) and breakfast cereals. His favorite snack is Tostitos with ketchup (yuck!) despite my attempts at offering carrots with ranch dressing, yogurt, and other healthier snacks. I've decided this is just a phase and he'll outgrow it. I do make sure he takes his multivitamin everyday.

Best of luck!



answers from Dallas on

Seriously, I am NOT a short order cook in my house. I have a 2.5 and a 4 year old and they have always had dinner with us! They eat what we are eating!!

If they do not like or finish what we are eating then that is their choice, they just don’t’ get desert! That usually does the trick. My toddlers love Salmon, Port Tenderloin, Chicken Creaser Salad, Tilapia and all veggies that I can think of… the items that you listed are a “Treat” for them.

I am not taking a jab at your parenting style… I just started this policy early and it worked for me. If we are at home, a friend’s house, a restaurant, or whatever… they are always happy with what is served.

I hope this helps, it has for me :-)



answers from Dallas on

We had this problem with our son. He was into string cheese and hot dogs! We did 2 things that worked.

First we only offered what we were eating. No more catering to his desires. Along with that, we offered the least favorite food portion first. Let's say we were eating grilled chicken, spinach and rice. I set the table with only spinach on each plate. My husband and I ate our spinach then got to move on to rice. I would take our empty plates and get the rice. My son saw what we had and was always willng to take at least 1 bite to earn 1 bite of rice. Then we'd move on to chicken. But basically, he earned the course he wanted by eating what he didn't want. It took about a week of consistancy at breakfast lunch and dinner and he was eating all of his food. We didn't beg or yell or barter. We just said matter of factly, if you want rice, you need to taste your spinach. If he's truly hungry he will eat. If not, wrap it up and put it in the fridge to offer when he gets hungry later. Let him know that is what was for dinner, no bed time snacks unless you ate all your dinner. My son is 6 now and that rule still gets him to clear his plate. Come to think of it, he still eats his vegetables first too. HA! That's pretty funny!

The other thing we did, he loved the colors orange and green, so we focused on foods that were naturally that color or could be tweeked. I pureed steamed broccoli and put it into alfredo sauce so that he had "green sauce" for his noodles. Over time I moved to a chopped broccoli in the alfredo and eventually moved the broccoli to it's own place on the plate, next to the pasta.

Hopefully one of those will help.

PS: 1 more thing that helped was letting him take part in making the meal. Give him a choice "turkey or ham", "green beans or carrots?" Then let him do what he can, wash them, set the table, fill his plate with the food, dash the salt. Any little thing will give him a little pride in his creation and make him a little more likely to try it.



answers from Dallas on

There is a a good cook book called "Deceptively Delicious." It incorporates pureed veggies into your normal recipes so that they will be getting the nutrition they need more frequently.

If it was my child though, I would also make what I make and they can eat it or not. When he's hungry enough he'll eat. And after he's skipped a meal make sure the next thing he eats is absolutely healthy. Not typical favorite stuff or it will be rewarding his choice not to eat what's given. Be prepared though, this proably won't be easy for you or him for awhile.

Also, serving one course at a time can be very helpful. Serve what you feel is the most important course first, then after he eats that or a certain amount of bites of it, you can move on to the next. Save the breads, favorite things for the end of the meal.

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