Picky Toddler Not Eating, Fear of Foods?

Updated on January 04, 2010
E.F. asks from Troy, MI
8 answers

My 3 year old son has always had eating issues, in a nutshell, refusing bottles and all milk since 9 months and just overall a small eater and very picky from the get go. He has always been off the charts, he only weighs 25 pounds. He has always been picky, but there were certain foods he would always eat, like most fruits, some vegs and then noodles, rice, toast, beef, chicken, fish sticks, things like that....but suddenly he does not want anything except noodles and rice basically and toast, not even fruit, no veggies, overall, he wont eat much, I once again feel myself getting worried and stressed with him. He wont even try things, its like he has a fear to try. I tried the hiding thing, doesn't work, tried the colorful food plate, small quanities, he helps with shopping, helps with cooking, tried all of that. What is the best way to overcome it or try and get him to eat without being too pushy or getting stessed. I tell him take one bite if you don't like it you don't have to eat it....he just wont....could he have a serious problem or am I over reacting, is this typical toddler behavior? I wish there was a magic pill to increase his wanting to eat and try new foods. He sees my one year old eat everything and still....nothing....any suggestions? Thanks!

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answers from Kalamazoo on

Here's my experience with a picky eater. My nearly 3 year old daughter has had a few phases of picky eating. Normally she's eaten most everything, but whenever there is a change in her life she rebells in her eating habits.

I have never catered to her when it comes to choices of foods, unless it is something she could not chew and blending wasn't an option. She is required to eat small portions of everything we have for dinner, even if we have to help her. She can throw a fit over meals for a days or even weeks (as when her sister was born), but we continue to be consistent about requiring her to eat everything and she eventually does it all on her own. It isn't always easy, but its worth training her tastes at this early age, it will benefit her in the long run. Our country has such a problem with eating disorders of all varieties, that teaching our children to eat well balanced meals, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes is the best way to combat that.

I know this is tough, but he needs to learn to eat healthy food, period. Disguising foods isn't teaching him to eat it, just fooling him - or teaching him not to trust you about what you've said you've given him to eat. Your child won't starve, he'll do just fine. This is just like teaching him to obey you.

Best wishes, you can do it!

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answers from Detroit on

Are you highly stressing over him at meal times? This will affect him either way as he picks up that 'energy'.

Keep offering foods, a trip to a specialist may be needed as it is very possible that he may have tummy aches after eating certain meals. It is not uncommon to have food allergies at that age or to be unable to digest them.

It is also very likely, he is super fussy~ textures are not fun for them at this age as they are very unfamiliar for the most part.
But if he's not eating meats (and most meat is not the best for you anyway...); then I would look into a vegetarian diet to provide what he is lacking. There's plenty of protein and other nutrients to be had in that type of diet and it is very good for the body.

My son is picky, but I ask that he tries what we make for dinner as lunch/ breakfast is never that fussy. For lunch, I make him what he asks for. I also do not REQUIRE him to finish everything his plate (hey - I don't either.) as this has been found to induce over-eating - especially if the plate is heaping with food. It is okay in this house to leave some food on your plate vs. 'Cleaning your plate'.

There are wonderful recipes out there that can help healthy foods be fun for kids to want to try and I do not believe it teaches a child to not make the right choices - they are toddlers right now, they will not remember. As they improve on eating, then you make the dishes less fun as they get older.

There are also ways to have the 'fun food' like mac & cheese and improve upon it so it is healthier. I found that article in Parents Magazine and it did help us. I didn't change the foods as quickly as stated in the article, but it gave us the right idea.

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answers from Detroit on

ALL toddlers are picky eaters at some point. Just keep offering things that are good for him so you know at least what he IS eating is nutritious. He won't starve. Don't make a big deal about it or it will turn into a power struggle that he might use for years to come. This will pass. No worries!

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answers from Detroit on

My son is going through this as well, the doctors advice: Keep offering the foods, but don't pressure.

Get a kids multivitamin, and tell him either take the vitamin, or eat the fruits and veggies.

This has worked well for us so far, we have less crying/screaming/begging at mealtimes, and I know he's getting some nutrients in him other than plain sliced cheese, toast, and one chicken tender.


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answers from Detroit on

short answer.. normal toddler... toddlers are naturally picky eaters...

My daughter was 26 pounds at 3 so she is also small.

she is fussy about food and has food texture issues.. she wont eat baked beans, cottage cheese, rice.. basicly things with lumps.

My advice would be to ignore his eating.. it is a normal stage but if you give his eating a lot of attention you are setting him up for the eating issues to continue.. either bulimia, anorexia, obesity...

I finally convinced my husband to ignore my duaghters food antics adn our mealtimes are much better.. either she eats or she doesnt but it doesnt get her any attention either way.

My second child will try anything and likes almost everything.. he eats 3 meals and 3 snacks every day..

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answers from Lansing on

My 4 yr. old son is also very picky and has been since he turned 1. Before that he ate pretty much everything. He has to have everything separated... no food touching or mixed. Most of the time, hiding stuff doesn't work with him either. I also tell him, "take one bite, if you don't like it then you don't have to eat it." I try to encourage him that he doesn't know if he likes or doesn't like something unless he tries it. Most of the time he is willing after some time to take at least 1 small bite. My 2 yr. old daughter eats most everything... that doesn't make much difference to him either. I've noticed that he does better when he has a sense of control over this situation though. Recently I saw advertised on tv a spin board for kids with problems eating. It came with a divided plate. Basically, they spin the board & whatever it lands on, they do.... "1 bite of the truck section"
So, something like this... making a game of it... where he has more control.... might work.
For my son, bribery usually works.... I don't like to use it in a way where he is always rewarded for eating.... like giving dessert every time he eats all his food but sometimes when he's really struggling, that's the best option. Also, I'll say he can stay up a little longer if he eats, or we can read 2 stories before bed instead of 1 or sometimes I take something away.... we won't be reading stories before bed unless he eats, or he will be bathing & going right to bed if he doesn't eat. Remember to give very small portions. Sometimes I negotiate by giving him a number of bites left to eat & then he can be done. If he tries something new & really doesn't like it, I give him something different. I try not to introduce new things more than 1 per meal maybe once a week. He's very comfortable with the same thing day in/day out. It's hard for him to stretch himself so I try to do it slowly so I don't overwhelm him & get a flat out "NO!".
Good luck! I hope some of this stuff helps! Last but not least, buy fruit/veggie vitamin supplements & juice so you don't stress too much about him getting those valuable nutrients.
Oh! One more thing... my son LOVES shakes! As long as he doesn't see what went into it & it doesn't look too gross & tastes at least mildly sweet, he will drink it up no questions asked. This is a great way to incorporate veggies & fruits & even some sources of protein. Be careful of soy protein though as it's especially not good for boys in large quantities.

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answers from Detroit on

I totally feel your pain. My 20 month old is doing this right now. He has also always been a picky eater and he has issues with new textures, won't try anything new, etc. We were doing pretty well for a while - at least he would eat the foods he liked, if not a large variety of foods. Then, about 2 months ago, he got back into a phase of not wanting to eat. It is also stressing me out. He is also refusing to eat at the table, which is a whole other issue. I just keep offering him foods and trying to go with the flow and not create more of a power struggle than necessary, but, it's hard not to worry and sort of start to fixate on it when you're the mom and you just want them to get enough calories and be healthy! My husband wants me to offer him his food and, if he won't eat it, take it away and be done with it. I have a hard time doing that... I keep hoping that it's just a phase and it will pass...in the mean time, I do a lot of tongue biting at meals.

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answers from Detroit on

Hi E.---Hope your holidays were all you'd hope they'd be. I'm getting caught up on things outside of holiday preparations so I apologize for the delay.

I work with Dr. Bill Sears and his sons Dr. Bob and Dr. Jim (ABC's The Doctors). I refer my clients to his website as it's quite possible someone has asked this question of him before...or you can send him the question yourself. Go to www.askDrSears.com. First thing is not to stress too much. The kids recognize this and will take advantage of it, even if they don't know that they're doing it. Keep offering him a variety of foods that you want him to eat, just know that he won't starve himself.

The other thing I recommend to everyone is a whole food based supplement made of 15 different fruits, veggies and 2 grains. It comes in a soft chewable (gummie) form and is well accepted. The beautiful thing about this specific product is that it has been rigorously studied by many prestigous universities around the workd to show that it helps the body to work better. Dr. Sears states that it also helps with 'metabolic programming', making the body aware of the need for lots of fruits and veggies so that even the pickiest of eaters, over time, start to crave and eat fruits and veggies. At the very least, it offers a bridge between what we should eat and what we are actually able or willing to eat.

If you are interested in any additional information, plese feel free to contact me. It is my honor to help others learn how to optimize their diets in order to prevent disease. I look forward to it. In health, D.

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