Is your toddler not eating? Although it can be frustrating, it’s a normal part of toddler development. A helpful approach is for you to decide what food to offer your child, and where and when to offer it. It’s up to your child to decide how much food to eat.
Toddler not eating – or not eating enough?
Many parents worry about whether their toddler is eating enough healthy food. It’s common for toddlers to eat only very small amounts, to be fussy about what they eat and to refuse to eat at all.
There are a few reasons for this:
Liking a food one day and refusing it the next is common toddler behaviour. It’s one of the ways that toddlers show how independent they are. It can help to think of it this way: you provide healthy food options for your child, and your child decides how much food she’ll eat – or not eat.
Appetite ups and downs: How to handle them
If your toddler won’t eat or won’t eat whole meals, you could try reducing the amount you’re giving her to eat. It’s normal for toddlers to need only small servings at mealtimes.
Also, avoid trying to force your child to finish everything on the plate, because this can make mealtimes stressful. Instead, praise your toddler for trying a spoonful or having a sip of water, if that’s all she wants.
At regular times between meals, you can offer your child healthy snacks like fruit or vegetable sticks. This should keep her going if she’s eating only small amounts at main meals.
As long as you offer healthy food, try not to worry if your child doesn’t eat very much sometimes. Your child won’t starve. Children are actually very good at judging how much food they need.
It can help to judge your toddler’s appetite over a week, rather than over a single day. It’s alright if she eats less today – she might be hungrier tomorrow. If your toddler is healthy and has enough energy to play, learn and explore, she’s probably eating enough.
In some cases, a child’s appetite might be affected by a health issue. If your child consistently refuses food or you’re concerned about your child’s growth or overall nutrition, check with your GP or paediatrician.
Trying new foods: Tips
You might think your toddler is fussy and will eat only one or two particular foods.
However, sometimes toddlers will try new foods if you just keep trying. If you assume your toddler will like new foods, you might find a whole new world of discovery opens up for both of you!
Creating a positive eating environment
Serving new foods
Following your child’s lead
Once you’ve found something your toddler actually eats, it can be tempting to keep on serving it up. However, your toddler needs to eat a wide variety of foods to get all the nutrients necessary for growth and development. So, it’s important to keep offering her lots of different foods.
Offer a variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups at each family meal. Go for variety yourself – show your toddler that you’re willing to try new foods and that you enjoy them too. Healthy family food and an eating environment that encourages a positive attitude to healthy food make a great start for your toddler.