What Does Your Toddler Eat? and How Do You Get Them to Eat It?

Updated on December 16, 2011
S.B. asks from Chicago, IL
10 answers

I'm getting a little worried that my son isn't eating enough. I know that kids have their quirks when it comes to food, but how long do I let this go on without intervention? My son is 2 years old (25 months), and it seems the only things he will eat are dairy (yogurt and cheese and milk), rice, and crackers. And he will eat macaroni, chicken tenders, and hot dogs, but I don't want those to be everyday foods for him. Of course he always has room for a treat, but those are very limited. I try to make sure he eats before he drinks, so I know it's not because his tummy is full of liquids. I just get so frustrated because he might take 2 bites of his food, then just play with it. He used to eat so well! I need some tips on how to get him to eat more variety or just eat at all! Also, I can't just leave food where he can reach it when he's ready, because we have a dog and she is terrible when it comes to food that is reachable in any capacity. Thanks ladies! (and gentlemen, if you're reading :)

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So What Happened?

He does also eat fruits, but not as often as in the past. Until recently, all he ever wanted was mandarin oranges, now he won't even lick one! He'll ask for an apple, but then he'll only eat a tiny bit, same thing for a banana. And vegetables, well, I'm really not sure the last time he's actually eaten one of those. His doctor says this is normal, but can I really just let him eat only one category of food? I do give him a mini version of our plate every night for dinner, but most of the time it goes straight in the trash. I know he won't starve, but I still worry he's not getting enough.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi S.,
My "toddler" is almost 9 now, but I remember at that age he was very BUSY--too busy to eat. Offer the food, allow him to leave the table for a bit, come back and have a few more bites. At that age they seems to exist on air! LOL
As for the variety--I will tell you this. My kiddo now eats ANY food--everything and anything (except plain cream cheese). WE always offered him what we were having. No special meals, not whipping up a hot dog instead, etc. So "new" foods weren't that big of a deal to him--they just.....were. Give him what you have. He'll eat it. Trust that!
(And we, until very recently, had a opportunistic canine, so just keep it on the table.....or the dog goes downstairs at meal times!)
Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from St. Joseph on

our son has always eaten what we eat. we have never once made a special meal for him. If he doesnt eat his meal then he doesnt eat until the next meal. you have to be firm each and every time. it will not take long for your son to realize that you are not going to let him be the boss anymore. some people, not saying you, create their childrens eating problems because they think they have to make them "kid foods" and then get upset when those are the only things their child will eat. even our 1 year old twins eat what we eat, we dont make special stuff for them. the only thing we do is either cut it up very small or we may have used the blender etc to make it a consistency that they can easily/safely eat. Just keep putting the same food on his plate that everyone else is eating and if he "refuses" to eat then put him down from the table and his food either gets eaten by the rest of the family or it goes in the trash, and make sure he see's this. trust me, it wont take long for him to learn that meal time is for eating and that he has to eat what he is given. now, that is not to say you have to force him to eat certain foods he genuinely doesnt like. for instance, my almost 3 year old does not like green beans, never has. but he still gets a very small ammount on his plate when we have them and he has to at least try a bite. sometimes he spits it right back out and sometimes he will eat a bite or two. that is how we have got him to like a lot of things, he has to at least try it. good luck

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

If babies kept eating at the same pace as they do during their first year of life, they'd be blimps. That's something helpful to remember...now, he's on a maintenance diet, not a "growing during the first year" diet. :)

My daughter is 19 months, but I'll give you an example of her diet. Breakfast is a GF pancake (made with cinnamon and coconut in it, but NO syrup or butter.), cheesy scrambled eggs, or GF Rice Krispies or Honey Nut Chex with milk, and 8 oz. of water.

Mid-morning snack is usually and apple or banana with GF pretzels.

Lunch...tuna salad (just tuna and Hellman's) with tortilla chips, prunes, a cheese stick or a yogurt, papaya, GF chicken nuggets (2), turkey dogs, Spam, apples and bananas, pears, roast beef sandwich on tapioca bread, chicken rice with broccoli, sardines, etc...not all at once, of course! I pick a few.

Afternoon snack...banana Mum Mum, homemade goodie, pretzels, puffcorn, random things.

Dinner is ALWAYS what we eat. Anything from tacos, nachos, stir-frys, casseroles, soup and sandwiches, meat with veggies, etc.

NOW, here's the thing. She's still nursing, but besides that, ONLY drinks water. No juice, no dairy milk or substitutes, etc. I have found between my two children that drinking water really promotes my little one's healthy appetite. My oldest drank a lot of milk and was a VERY poor eater, so check how much milk he's drinking. Any more than 16 oz is too much, really...and you'd be surprised how quickly they can down 2 cups of milk. Also, many toddler cups are 10 oz!!

I would recommend you just serve up a wide variety of things and let him eat what he will and leave what he won't. He won't starve, like you said...and hopefully he'll become a little more adventurous.

But your doc is right...well within the range of normal. My first one was like this, and my second one is my super eater. :)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My son is almost 22 months and went from a great eater to picky and not eating much. He is still being picky (I try to give him something I know he will eat, but in this picky stage some stuff he used to gobble down he won't touch).

But I had to go to the ped and mentioned this to him that he really wasn't eating much anymore. He recommended cutting back on the amount of liquids I give him a day and he should start eating more food. And it worked! He went from about 16 - 20 oz of milk a day down to 12 oz and now he will eat more. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get him to eat veggies!

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answers from Chicago on

How much milk is he drinking during the day (not just after meals)? Even if his tummy's not full of liquid, he may be getting "full" from the fat/nutrients in the milk. My daughter has always been a great eater, but our ped did recommend that we reduce her milk intake to ensure that she kept up on her solids.

And sometimes, they're just not hungry. There are days when my 2 yr old asks for 3 helpings for dinner, and days when she will only eat 3 bites. On the days she eats 3 bites, I let her know that she's not going to get a snack later so make sure she's really "done." Sometimes she comes back to the table to eat some more, other times, she really is done (although hungrier than normal the next morning!).

As for variety, just keep offering. They'll eat it when they're ready. Up until a week ago, my daughter refused to mac and cheese (heck, most pastas in general) and pizza. The other day, she ate three HUGE helpings of mac and cheese. She's fairly resistant to new foods, but we always have her take just one bite. After "tasting" it several times, she's usually ready to try it on her own (plus she sees mommy and daddy enjoying it so she wants to try it too!).

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answers from Houston on

By all that you listed, I wouldn't be concerned one bit. Doctors will tell you, the kids will eat when they are hungry. I wouldn't be so worried about quantity.

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answers from Washington DC on

They start to have opinions and it can be harder.

One thing we do is eat as a family. It encourages DD to try if she sees everyone else eat broccoli.

We also give sauces optional on many things. Not that I want to dull her palate, but I've noticed that she prefers things plain and what does it really matter to me if her noodles have just butter?

I also give her something she will eat, something she might eat and something that's a wild card. She doesn't get fruit til she's eaten some chicken. We rarely do dessert, but when we do a "good dinner" is required first. No dinner? No treat. She can eat something healthy if she's hungry. I try not to battle and be like "Okay, that's your choice."

Kids need to try food 10 times (so I've heard) to really like/dislike them. I would continue to give him a version of your dinner, no treats, limited liquids if he's filling up on milk or juice. He'll figure it out. Maybe ask him to ask to be excused and say, "You may be excused if you eat a bite of chicken". I think that not battling him for meals is a good thing. I also don't think that re-serving dinner over and over (I might offer it as a snack later if she didn't eat well and is hungry) to force the kid to eat THAT PLATE of food is productive, either.

Hang in there. Next week it'll be another phase that will drive you crazy. ;)

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answers from Houston on

My 3yo is a horrible eater, I can barely get her to eat a thing, she turns her nose up at everything.
Her repertoire at the moment is weetabix, milk, nutella sandwiches, fish sticks, fries, and any kind of fruit. I am so glad she eats fruit, because she is so contrary.

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answers from Utica on

You said that he always has room for a treat, so use bribery. It works like a charm around here. My daughter is 2 next week and luclily she is an awesome eater but I doubt we would be where we are if we hadnt of used bribes here and there to get her to try new foods. At just 2 years old she eats ALMOST everything and the things that she doesnt eat are obviously stuff that she doesnt like and Im not about to force her to eat it if she truly doesnt like it. So far the only things I havent been able to get her to eat are rice, untoasted bread, and mashed potatoes and I am guessing its a texture thing. She used to eat cheese like it was going out of style and now she refuses to eat it in her own but she eats so much yogurt that again I could care less about the cheese. But even still if we want to introduce something new to her and she puts up a fight we just bribe her and we also explain to her that she just has to try it - just put in your mouth and try it and if you dont like it you can spit it out - 9 times out of 10 it goes down the hatch
Good Luck

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Champaign on

All of the foods you listed are fine foods for him to eat. You did not mention fruits or vegetables, though. Is that a problem? You could try raw veggies with dip, apples with peanut butter. My kids LOVE those little oranges (cuties!). Really, I had more success with finger food at that age. If they could feed themselves, we were good. My 5 year old has no trouble using utensils now (I suppose if that weren't the case I'd be concerned), but my 2 year old uses a spoon if he really has to. Other than that he uses his fingers. I should probably start working on that, since he'll be 3 in March!

Try to focus less on how many bites he takes and just keep track of types a foods so that you can try and offer something he hasn't had. If he hasn't had fruit for a couple of days then just give him fruit. If he eats a few bites of fruit then you can add something else to his plate and see if he eats that.

I used to just sit down with my kids a basically give them the same thing I was having. I would put their plate in front of them with 2 bites of each food. As they finished a food I would put a couple more bites on their plate. Whenever they started playing with it or tried to get down I just assumed they were done and helped them down so they could play.

Try not to worry too much. I'm sure he's fine and he'll eat when he's hungry.

1 mom found this helpful
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