Toddler Not Eating - Albany,OR

Updated on December 10, 2008
A.Y. asks from Albany, OR
11 answers

When is it reasonable to expect a toddler to eat what she is served? I do not want her to get the idea that if she doesn't eat what she is served then something different will be served. Which is pretty much what is happening right now since both my husband and I are full time students. I decided that we should "pick our battles" and right now school is the bigger battle. We are about to be on winter break though and I wonder if it might be a good time to work on this probelm.

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone. We will certainly work on it while my husband and I are off for winter break!

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answers from Seattle on

If she isn't eating foods she would eat in the past, don't worry too much about it. Don't offer her something different. If she isn't eating, that's fine. When she gets hungry enough, she will go to the table and eat it. Now if it's one of the foods she truly dislikes, I wouldn't force a kid to eat it, but for everyday foods, they will eat when they get hungry. Kids go through phases. She might go a few weeks without eating much for dinner, but normally their eating patterns will change.

My husband and I did the full time student thing with a baby as well. Best wishes on getting through finals and having a great holiday season!

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answers from Medford on

I'm right there with you about not wanting your child to get the idea that if she waits she'll get something different. My 3 year old daughter does just that. We currently live with my mother and here's our nightly routine: I serve dinner, DD pushes away her plate without even trying her food saying she doesn't want it, Nana immediately gets up and gives her all the yogurt, applesauce, cheese, and fruit she wants despite protests from Dad and me to just let her eat what she's served. Nana overrides us all the time because she's determined that the child will starve if we let her go without dinner one night. Well, Mom worked late last night and we didn't offer any alternative to the pot roast we had for dinner. DD didn't eat dinner, but she didn't complain about being hungry either and I think if we could do it a few nights in a row, she'd finally eat what she's served. I know she eats what she's served for lunch at preschool, so she's not as picky as she'd like us to believe. She has my mom convinced that she will only eat junk (chicken nuggets, mac-n-cheese, pasta, pizza, bean burritos). Kids won't starve themselves and if they are really hungry, those vegetables won't look so bad. I'm not saying you shouldn't make the food appealling to your child. I cut up my daughter's food so she can handle it and I have may even make a different version of our meal that's more appropriate for her, but I'm not going to get into the habit of making two entirely different meals every night. After the holidays, we're moving into our own home, so I'm hoping I can finally get my daughter into the habit of eating what her Dad and I are eating too. Good luck with your little one!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters. I would suggest offering her a variety of nutritious options during a meal, being sure to include at least 1 item you know she likes. Then let her eat whatever she wants off the plate, and give her seconds of anything she wants. It's tough, she probably won't eat much of anything sometimes. But she won't let herself starve. In my experience, I would say the best approach with pretty much any toddler related issue is to pick a method/approach and stick with it, be consistent! That's what really gets the message across. And honestly, I can sympathize with you, I have 2 young boys and both are very picky eaters. It can be exhausting. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

The best advice I ever got on food was to always offer a "winner" at each meal. So you offer the dinner that you want her to eat and then with it you add an item that you know she likes. For my kids, ages 1.5 and 3.5, it's either cottage cheese or beans... then maybe your daughter will try something new and maybe not. You can't make her eat anything that she doesn't want to eat, and you're right you don't want dinner time to turn into a battle... and you don't want to set her up for having food issues. Keep offering healthy food eventually they will eat it...
Take care



answers from Seattle on

HI there-
It is not unreasonable to expect your child to eat what you are eating. In fact it is the right thing to do. Unless it is too spicy or is something you know for sure she doesn't like, then I would just keep offering it to her. If she is hungry, she will eat. Try and offer one thing you know she will eat too, like applesauce or cottage cheese or yogurt or beans, along with the meal. Many times my daughter just won't eat what we have. I don't force her but I don't make anything different. I do however wait a bit of time (like 30 mins to 1hr) and offer her a healthy snack instead of a treat snack. Last night an hour after dinner she had a banana because she didn't eat much dinner at all.
They just go thru eating and not eating phases. Unless your daughter is under weight, there is no need to worry too much.
Good luck.



answers from Seattle on

Our oldest daughter never ate much at meals -- maybe 1/4 to 1/2 cup of food total. The doctor said not to worry (even though her weight was in the bottom 5%) as long as she drank enough milk, and really not to worry where the calories came from as long as we offered her a variety of foods. We also tried to serve calorie dense foods to her -- put cream in her breakfast cereal, let her dip fruit in chocolate sauce, melted an extra half slice of cheese into her serving of Mac & Cheese, let her get milkshakes with her Happy Meal, etc.

We always offered her some protein she liked at meals and saw that we also offered fruits and veggies or other healthy items that were part of our meals. Lots of times I would brown whatever meat we were having, then remove her portion from the pan before adding whatever sauce or seasonings WE wanted. If she wouldn't eat what was served, she could have NOTHING except liquids until the next meal (be prepared to be tested on this one).

You might try inviting another toddler over for mealtime and see if peer pressure helps her try new foods.



answers from Portland on

Heya there I feel your pain! We are both full-time students and my guy is also working. We have three toddlers to deal with, but my doctor helped nip this in the bud with my first. Whatever you do now is how it will always be. The doctor told me to never, ever give an alternative unless they are allergic. If they don't eat then they will get another chance later. Our three kids know this now and they eat whatever we put in front of them happily. My sister took the other route and she has three toddlers as well. She is a short-order cook and meals take all day because she has try one thing after another to get them to eat. I promise you she will not starve - kids don't do that sort of thing until they are way older. At this age they will eat if they are hungry. We started on this path when my son was a year so it is never too early. Actually earlier is better - your little one is about to hit the terrible twos and it will become a nightmare. Also I learned it is only a battle if I let it be one. Thus if my kids start to say no I instantly tell them to say yes mom and eat. They say yes mom and eat. No battle. (Ok I got this one from the doctor too). Anyhow I hope all goes well - consistency is the key and she will learn very fast that she had better eat or that's it till next time. Best of luck and Merry Christmas!




answers from Portland on

I agree with Kristy's suggestions about serving several choices. I'll reinforce the idea that she won't starve. All of us eat when we're hungry enough. When you provide a different meal for her when she doesn't eat the one you've served you are training her to only eat what she wants. It's not a battle it's a matter of training. Now that you've been doing that she will fuss and cry if you don't give her what she wants. Now you will have a "battle" of sorts. Tho I'd rather not think of it as a battle but that you're retraining. She will want you to change back and work at getting you to do so.

I have had some difficulties with my daughter when she was growing up and now my granddaughter because I take what I think is the easy way out but it rarely turns out to have been the easy way when I want to change it.

My concept of "picking your battles" means that what you do now is acceptable and you do not plan to make changes in the future. You are still students, you have a couple of weeks off. Do you want to spend the time on this battle? One that you have little chance of winning in this period of time.

I suggest you make small changes over a longer period of time. Don't "draw a line in the sand." Make meals a pleasant time together while you provide 2-3 choices that are already on her plate. Use Kristy's suggestions. If she does't eat any of them, tell her, "so sorry, this is all we have to eat tonight." If you have a snack later, give her a snack too. Again give her a couple of choices but don't work at finding just the food she wants. And make sure it's only a snack. She won't like being hungry and if eating isn't a battle she will eat.

When my granddaughter visits she is the only one for whom I'm cooking; I usually ask her what she wants for dinner. I give her choices. When she doesn't want any of those I shrug my shoulders and say that's all there is. She then chooses one of them. Our conversation is matter of fact. She still gets to make a choice but the choice is based on what I've chosen to provide. Sometimes she says she's not hungry and I then have dinner later at which time I cook what I choose. This has worked for several years. Shes 8 now.

Because your daughter is younger your routine will be simpler. The idea is to give her a choice without reluctantly "giving in" to her. You are still in charge.

Her mother doesn't give choices. She fixes dinner and then expects her kids, 8 and 5, to eat what's on the table. When she first started doing this they whined and begged and sometimes cried. Now they either eat it or not. My granddaughter cleans her plate and has seconds. Recently my grandson rarely eats more than a few bites. His mother can charm him into eating a few more bites but she's not concerned. He's at an appropriate height and weight and is healthy. Their pediatrician said that kids will eat when they're hungry and/or need the nutrition if one doesn't make a fuss about it. Her information made meal time much more pleasant at my dauhter's house.



answers from Bellingham on

I was really young when I had my older daughter. I can pin-point my mistake exactly to when she was 24months. I went through some financial problems and ended up moving about 3 times in 2 months. Because of that, it was easier to make nuggest/mac-n-cheese/pizza etc for meals. Long story short.. To this day.. at 9yrs old I struggle every night at dinner to get her to eat.. and new food.. that is a HUGE fight. she will sit at the table for hours till she eats a a tiny portion.
My 2nd baby is 17 months and I am making sure she eats what she is given. with her I found that if I give her 4 bites of food, she is not overwhelmed and will eat it. she loves to ask for "more" since it is one of the few words she can say ;-). She will end up eating the whole portion that I want her to eat, just a little at a time.
In my oppinion this is a "battle to pick". It will shape the habbits and health of her future.
Good luck



answers from Seattle on

We went to a lecture about this not too long ago and the suggestion was to never offer another option other than what is already on the table. For example, if you're serving pasta, chicken, and broccoli and your little one doesn't want the broccoli, then offer the chicken or pasta. Nutrition doesn't happen in one meal so if a meal here or there isn't quite complete, it's still okay. Also, if she refuses to eat anything on the table, then it's perfectly fine to offer it when she does indicate she's hungry. According to the lecturer (I wish I could remember who and where!) as long as they still drink their milk or eat their yogurt, they're going to be fine.



answers from Eugene on

My policy has always been (more or less) that the food that is served is what there is, and that if my daughter doesn't want to eat it she doesn't have to. It seems a little harsh, but in my experience, she will actually try new foods or eat things she sometimes "doesn't like" if she's hungry, which she usually won't if she's not hungry, and if she's hungry, she'll eat almost anything. Likewise, if she's not hungry, she won't eat even the things that she usually likes. It's actually a very easy policy to stick with even for people with a lot going on. There might be a little bit of resistance at first, but once you convince yourself that she won't let herself starve and that it's okay if she doesn't eat a lot at every meal, it's a lot easier.

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