Should I or Could I Do Anything? Child Not Eating Well

Updated on June 29, 2009
S.S. asks from Troy, MI
15 answers

My 22 month old daughter has really been testing the independence boundaries. There are a million stories to go along with that first sentance but I will leave it to one situation in this post.

She is very particular about what she will eat.
This is what usually works for her: Mac n Cheese, most kinds of noodles, chicken nuggets (sometimes), bacon, strawberries, blueberries, manderine oranges, and any cookie, cracker, or candy.

Honestly, that is it.
Should I make her eat other stuff? I know that will be an ugly situation. Should I just wait it out?
She is craby a lot of the time and I honestly think it is because she is not eating a balanced diet. And is perhaps hungry a lot of the time.

She does drink milk 3X a day and sips of juice throughout the day (less than one cup in a day).

What would you do?

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answers from Detroit on

If you love being a mom then you're gonna love applying discipline. Who buys the groceries? Who prepares the food? Who serves the food?
Now that we've got that written in stone, you can quit buying the cookies and candy and Mac/cheese,nuggets. There's nothing wrong with berries or oranges. But she'll miss out on protein.
I would discuss it not only with a pediatrician, but a nutritionist. But don't play into her game. She eats what's in front of her. Keep serving it to her until she eats a substantial amount.

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answers from Grand Rapids on

My Ped's always told me that our home was not Denny's. That the kids did not get to order whatever they wanted - that they should be eating the same thing that we are - I do not make 2 different meals for dinner. We have pretty much stuck by that - exceptions being if we make something that is really spicy that we know they won't be able to eat. If they get hungry enough, they will eat. I now have 2 pretty decent eaters that will eat just about anything that is put in front of them.

He also has told us that most kids about that age would eat 1 really good meal a day, 1 so-so, and 1 not hardly at all. Both of my kids have gone through this with dinner usually being the meal that they did not eat a lot at and big breakfasts. With the heat the last few days, both of mine have eaten a lot less than they usually do - for that matter, so have I! :-)

If it were me, I would serve her what you are having and if she doesn't eat, she doesn't eat - but save the food. When she fusses and is acting hungry, bring out her plate of food and offer it to her again. If she refuses it, put it away but don't give her any snacks and such before the next meal. We've had to do that a couple of times with our daughter. She really throws a fit when she can't have the 'good' snack that she wants and has to have her left over lunch instead, but I usually don't have to do it again for quite a while. She knows that she gets what she is given and I won't make anything else for her. Daycare has been doing a little saying, apparently, because she's come home and has been repeating it to her brother - it fits this situation perfectly... "You'll get what you get and you won't throw a fit'. :-)

Good luck!

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answers from Grand Rapids on

My grand-daughter is 3 1/2.....from the beginning my daughter decided sweets, hot dogs or juice would not be allowed for her...her ped also supported her in this ...

They have always had yougurt, cheese sticks,fruits and such for snacks....granted she has gone through times when she only wanted mac and cheese too...I think they all go through this....low sodium vegs, and the skinless smokes sausage was her favorite with almost anything she ate....Water or milk to drink....

We have found with her the crabby patty comes out when she is hungry or tired.....definately needs a nap about 5 hours after getting up or she's not fun to be around...and in turn then she will really test more in the food area!!!!

I had 3 children and if they didn't eat what I prepared I did what was already suggested ....cover the plate and when they decided they were hungry that's what they were offered...nothing else....

I figure if they are hungry they will eat..and if they could eat a snack they can have their meal...first...It worked for me..

Hope all works out for you.... of 3 grown children, grandma of 2, and caregiver of many throughout the years.

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answers from Detroit on

I just found an awesome website! I'm sure it's been around a while, but I'm apparently living under a rock, haha.

Also, try offering your daughter more choices of healthy foods - fruits, veggies, baby yogurt, whole grains, wheat germ, flaxseed oil & meal, etc. There are ways to disguise textures and tastes. I try to offer my boys a variety of foods, in small amounts, so that they feel that they have "choices" (very important for a toddler!:) but they are mostly healthy choices, so I know they're getting some good stuff. They might not always eat it on first try - my 18 month old didn't like the texture of lunch meat for the first 3-4 times I offered it to him, but I kept at it, and now he will gobble it up.

I've also found with my boys, if we cut back on the milk @ meals, they eat more first and then can finish up with a cup of milk. Otherwise, I truly believe my oldest would replace meals with milk!

Good luck & enjoy those babies :)

Mama to three boys - 3, 18 months, and due Sept.2



answers from Detroit on

Hi S.,

There are a couple of things I didn't see mentioned in the responses.

A family friend warned of the toddler hunger strike and our family doc confirmed this. The growth rate in the first two years of life is huge. Then, not so much. So, each child has come to a point where it seemed that they just stopped eating when they just slowed down growing. That could be one thing.

Another suggestion is (gasp!) sneaking food that you want them to eat into food they do eat. You could guess how much squash/carrots/etc to add to spaghetti sauce or you could get one of the cookbooks that tell you how much of what tastes good with different food.

I'd agree with removing any junk food from the house. I try to be super attentive to ingredient panels to be sure that the food I feed my two kids is not junk. Also, it will be difficult to remain calm and maintain a happy face when prodding kids into eating new food. Someone suggested or I read about the one-bite rule: they have to try one bite of new food. They usually eat it up.

Hope this helps! Chin up, Mom! You are doing great!

Mom of two: Andrew (almost 8) and Renee (5) who need to be reminded of the things they like when they see them on their plate.



answers from Detroit on

I'd give her a vitamin and also try to get some veggies in. Will she eat carrot sticks? You can blend broccoli and other veggies into juice by using blueberries to mask the color and taste.



answers from Detroit on

Sounds like you have gotten some good advice already. THe only thing I would add is that you should still put healthy foods on her plate at every meal. She may see broccoli 10 times and never touch it and finally on time #11 she tries some. I tried to always feed my older son one thing I knew he would eat and one or 2 other things.



answers from Detroit on

Hi S.---There's nothing worse than trying to get a young child to eat healthy food when they are learning to exert some sort of control over their environment. But, don't worry too much, she won't starve herself. As others have said, keep offering and eventually she will try they new foods.

I am taking wellness classes from a Naturopath who has her PhD in nutrition. I have tons of info and strategies I can share with you, if you would like. I also refer questions about kids to the 3 Dr. Sears, whom I have the pleasure working with in my wellness education business. Dr. Jim is one of the Dr.s on the ABC show, The Doctors, and his father, Dr. Bill, has written over 30 books on child care with Dr. Jim's mom, Martha. Go to and he has several ideas on how to feed a picky child.

I would also cut back on the amount of liquids she drinks, including milk. She is probably drinking enough milk and juice to take the edge off of being hungry enough to eat more healthy foods. Yes, milk is not one of the healthiest foods that one should eat. Go to to learn more.

Lastly, I would recommend a whole food supplement to fill in the gaps. I know of one that is made of 17 different fruits and veggies. It is my family's nutrition insurance. Dr. Sears recommends it as well. It's called Juice Plus+. Dr. Sears shares that kids who eat these fruit and vegetable gummies actually start to crave the real thing after awhile. It's called metabolic programming. The body knows it's getting good stuff through JP+, and it wants more fruits and veggies.

I'm actually quite excited about what I am learning about nutrition. As I said, I would be happy to share my resources with you, share the education, and then you can decide what is best for your family. I do not charge for the education. It is my honor to help others learn how to optimize their health.

I look forward to your call. In health (and good luck!), D. ###-###-####



answers from Detroit on

Hang in there! One thing is for sure, kids will test us to our limits! If you are really concerned about her getting her nutrients, I can recommend a great children's vitamin with probiotics that she would love. In the mean time, know that this too shall pass. (My mom always said that!)

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answers from Detroit on

She obviously can only eat what you give her. Mac and cheese, chicken nuggets, crackers, etc are highly processed and hold little nutrional value. Fruit is good. I would try giving her some veggies..and chicken...(with ketchup or ranch if you need too) and then see what happens. Kids WILL eat when they are hungry. Have healthy snacks available...i.e. fruit, veggies, cheese (limited amount). You would try pedia sure if you think she isn't eating enough.

If all else fails try from finely cut up veggies in her mac and cheese.



answers from Detroit on

Toddlers are famous for being picky eaters. Keep offering things that are good for her and leave out as much sugar as possible. If the cookies and candy aren't in the house, "sorry they are all gone", she cant' eat them. I used to make spinach balls and call them cookies, give a cup of frozen peas for a walk around snack, make milkshakes with bananas or anything else good hidden in them, add V-8 to spaghetti sauce, banana with peanut butter and raisins (ants on a log) I can remember thinking my kids would starve to death because they were so darn picky. She will eat if she is hungry. Toddlers don't get tired of eating the same thing over and over. If you only offer things that are good for her, and you make it fun and not a control issue, she will be fine. No worries!



answers from Grand Rapids on

S.; well usually kids dont eat much , you are doing your best for her to eat well, thats fine, youd be surprised how bored us parents get with the meals of our children , one thing you can do is eat with her, serve her what you are eating, but she is still young yet, so her having a different diet is not to bad, kida dont like alot of what we eat, they usualy survive well on what they like for years, but hang in there, be consistant even with foods it not a bad thing, but when she is eating most all table foods, sit down and eat together, meals together help alot in their eating things, and yes you can get little fits thrown, but in some cases you can say eat what is on our plate then you can have other thigns, and put very little on her plate , six kernals of corn or veggee, one teaspoon of mashed potatoes, keeep their portions small so they get more a variety, its up to you what battles you want to have, if its very important for you that she eat other things then its worth the battle, however ,my son once refused to eat for two days, he eventually ate after he threw up, i tried and tried, but they control what goes in and what comes out, and when to do both, just hang in there, and keep up the good work, usually under two they can survive on just milk some babies aer breastfed and nothing else until two, so she is 22 months i would start adopting eating together, and her trying things you are eating and if thats all you are serving they will eat when hungry, but cant let it go too long, just enjoy them and pick your battles, have a good day D. s



answers from Detroit on

my boys are picky eaters (7,9) and as long as they are on the right track for growth the dr does not worry but as a mom i do try to make a big deal out of food when you eat say things like that is so yummy to see if she may want some give her vitemins and leve things out for her to eat like veg crakers so she can eat offten to see if she is less craby i know how hard it is to try to get kids to eat but they will eat when hungry just offer her different things all the time and one day she might eat something different good luck
mom of 2 boys (7 9) and a bay girl 6 monthes



answers from Detroit on

The first thing I would do is get all the cookies, candy, and crackers out of the house. If they aren't there, she won't be eating them. She will eventually be hungry enough to start trying other, more healthy foods. You could try scrambled eggs with a little bacon crumbled in it, since she likes the bacon, she may eat the eggs, things like that.



answers from Detroit on

Offer other things with her favorites and don't worry... She will expand her food horizons when she is ready. Perhaps mix small pieces of hotdog or broccolli in her mac and cheese...

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