Should a 19 Mo. Old "Eat What We Eat" for Dinner or Else "Go Hungry"?

Updated on April 11, 2009
M.M. asks from Lockport, IL
7 answers

Brace yourselves, this is a long one...
My daughter is pretty "picky". I am glad that she drinks her milk, eats all fruits, cheese, yogurt, cereal bars, crackers and various other breakfast foods. She will eat jarred vegetables, too, but not "real" cooked vegetables. She loves the Gerber Graduates ravioli and will eat flavored rice. The problem is that is about all she eats! Things she used to eat (mac and cheese, lunchmeat, soup, etc.) she will no longer eat. She won't eat the usual toddler "staples" like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, plain pasta, etc. Sometimes she will try things with ketchup, but this has even begun to fail. If she tries new things at all she usually gags and scrapes it off her tongue and then says "no". Sometimes it seems to be a little bit of a textural aversion (like skin on veggies), but not always. She has a peanut allergy, so no peanut butter. We've tried alternating a bite of something new with something she likes, but she won't try the first bite (she does seem to understand the "first/then" concept). I guess my real question is, should she have to eat at least one bite of what we eat at dinner before getting anything else? She's gone to bed "hungry" the last two nights, because I have read kids "will eat when they're hungry", but this doesn't seem to be working. She's pretty "independent/headstrong". Should I let it go and just keep offering her what we're having, and if not, give her healthy alternatives (like the fruit, etc.) Her height and weight are at the 50-75th percentile. Her ped. said as long as she is getting one good meal with some healthy snacks (which she does between breakfast and snacks), not to push it, but I'm curious what others do. I know some of the food choices I have mentioned aren't the "healthiest", but please no judgement on that account. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Chicago on

My 19M old used to eat everything in sight. Seriously, I was worried that we were OVER feeding him. Lol. Now, it's not as easy.

In our house (we have a 19M old and an almost 4 year old), we make dinner and that's what's served. We are more strict with our 4 y/o and expect him to have at least ONE bite of everything. For the longest time he told us he didn't like peas and then one night he ate them all without us even asking. Can you say power struggle?

Anyway, with our 19 month old, we serve what everyone else is eating. Sometimes, he won't eat the broccoli - oh well. The next night he will inhale three servings of peas. We do make sure that dinner includes the following: meat (yeah, sometimes it's chicken nuggets), a veggie, fruit or yogurt and some sort of whole grain (even if it's just bread with butter).

What I have been doing is sneaking food. We make turkey tacos a lot and I spread some smashed avacado on there. They don't even notice. Or the whole grain pasta will have some spinach in there - again, didn't notice. At the same time, I serve the veggies in their true form so they are exposed to it.

In short (too late, I know), don't worry about it. Don't make dinner a battle any more than it's going to be. (Our 19M has taken to throwing food - oh what fun).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My two year old daughter is super picky and I often times feel like she doesn't eat enough for dinner. This is what I do. Since she has been about 22 months, I've expected her to eat what we have for dinner or go hungry. I will make a full meal for dinner including a meat (chicken, fish, beef,), starch(potato, sweet or reg., rice, pasta), veggie (including a variety, cooked or uncooked, with dressing or "dip") and one other thing(bread, applesauce,) she is expected to try what is on her plate, I usually give her some type of "dip", ranch, ketcup, bbq sauce, and if she refuses to eat she doesn't get a sweet dessert (popsicles, frozen yogurt) If she eats some of it she can have fruit or yogurt for dessert if she wants and I think she might still be hungry. I don't let her snack through out the day, but give her a mid morning snack and an after nap (little snack). She is super tiny (in weight), but I also don't believe in cooking specificaly for my kids, we eat as a family and I cook for my family. I also know what she likes and what she throw a fit not to eat.
It's hard and frustrating, but I also need her to know, for example when we go to someone elses house to eat, they won't be making anything extra for her and she will need to eat graciously what the host provides.
good luck,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I recommend the Ellyn Satter book, "Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense." Actually, the new edition is reeeally long, so you might want to check it out of the library for the basics

Satter's website is also very useful, with information for specific ages:

I never remembered the specifics from the book, but her basic guidelines have been our guidelines: Parents are responsible for the what, where and when of feeding. Children are responsible for the how much and whether of feeding.

It seems to me like you are already doing fine! Just continue to offer healthy choices. We don't do the "one bite" thing, and my five year old's food interests have just exploded lately. I was almost about to give up! But suddenly he eats peas and green beans and other things we've offered a hundred times.

Trouble spots for us: snacks too close to meals, and too much milk before dinner.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Hi M.- I am an SLP too :)

I will be short and direct, but please do not hesitate to email me aside from this. I also encourage everyone to not read this and comment as I am just commenting for M. and am not looking to battle - heehee

1) I don't believe in food battles
2) I believe many, many kids are not picky eaters.
3) She is accustomed to jarred, processed food so it is a learning curve to change the familiarity
4) 18 mos or so is "ideal" for breaking and establishing habits
5) Since this is a great age, incorporate a favorite item and other items every meal. You can wean out the ones she likes, but prefers and encourage more of your choices. Simple sample - Center of the plate: jarred green beans that she likes - offer a tspoon with them; working around that - smashed regular cooked with no seasonings (or very minimal) and around that - whole cooked that she can pick up, play with, dip, etc.

Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I have always offered my daughter who is now 14 months what we are eating and so far it has gone well. She really likes homemade soups, pastas, chicken and such and I cook with onion and garlic quite a bit. I offer her the veggies we are eating and she likes cucumber, peas, carrots, olives, green beans and so on, but I prepare them as I do for the rest of the family. She does enjoy typical toddler foods as well such as yogurt and cheese and cheerios,and any kinds of fruit but I try to offer other foods first. I would say to offer what it is that you have prepared for the rest of your family, she needs to taste the food many times before really liking it so keep trying! :) Keep in mind eggs are a good source of protein. A website that I found helpful is:
Hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


I think you are in one of the typical "toddler" stages all of us have gone through - hang in there!

I agree 100% with your pediatrician. Don't worry about how much you think she should eat, as long as she is eating one good meal, plus healthy snacks.

That said, I know as a parent it's hard to watch your kids struggle, especially when they are so young. I agree with a prior post, offer up what you're having for dinner, make a plate and that's it...don't offer up alternatives later if you think she didn't eat enough. Ensure that the plate includes something healthy you know she will eat fruit, cheese or mashed up veggies (start moving away from the jarred if you can or mix them in).

I think this is a very personal issue and a very big struggle for a lot of parents. I can't tell you how many "picky eaters" have been over to our house or out to eat with us on playdates.

To try to prevent issues with our own children I encouraged the help of our pediatrician. "Dr Luanne" says "one bite of every food". This is a rule at our table. You don't have to eat all of your veggies and you don't have to say "yuck" either. Just eat one bite. I have read several expert opinions on eating issues and most say it takes something like 5-10 tries of of food for a kid to like it. So we give our kids a small portion of everything being served for dinner, and tell them to try one bite. If they love something, they get more, AFTER having one bite of everything on their plates.

For a child as young as yours, I might start something like helps for you to eat a bite and say "yum this is good" or your husband to sell it a bit and say "wow, look at all this good food Mommy made!". I think one bite of new foods is reasonable. Then she can get more of what she wants...just try to keep "her choice" to the healthy variety and what's already on the plate so it doesn't turn into a food auction or you making separate meals.

Also, about the "non healthy choices" you mentioned...I think for the most part, we all do it. We all go to McDonalds, we all make mac n cheese, etc. even tho it may not be the healthiest option. It's convenience pure and simple. Be happy she doesn't like only the junk! I bet it will change when she's 3 or 4! LOL.

BTW - my kids love ranch dressing and applesauce. It helps them when trying new foods to have one of their "dips" with it. I don't mind as long as they are eating their veggies!

Good luck!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Kids have to see food something like 25 times until they actually want to try it. Also when taking inventory of your child's nutrition you have to look at the whole week not just one day. She is probably sick of eating all those toddler foods and is rejecting them. I do think that when making dinner it is important to give variety that every body likes something yet able to try new things. For example, I serve dinner as family style. I make sure there is something on the table that each child likes just in case they do not like the main meal. So let's say I make shrimp scampi. I make sure I have that along with plain pasta, carrots with ranch dressings and fruit. Also I'll put out bread. This gives the kids a chance to see new foods and they eventually try the meal and end up liking it. I do not force them to try it, it just always seems to back fire on me so I don't get into that power struggle anymore. If they don't like anything at all on the table (which rarely happens) but I have them eat something healthy that they can get themselves and I don't have 'make'. Yogurt is usually their choice if this happens.

1 mom found this helpful
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