7 tips to get your fussy toddler to eat

If you are a parent of a young child, you probably know all too well about dealing with a fussy eater. Sometimes it’s not just about getting your toddler to eat the right foods, even getting them to eat at all can be hard. It can be a bit of shock for parents who once had a baby who loved to eat, but toddlers are a completely different story and are known for being fussy eaters. Toddlerhood is a big developmental age, they start to assert their independence and one of the first things they learn is that they can say “no”!

Here are my 7 top tips to get your child to eat:

  1. Offer nutritious snacks throughout the day. Sometimes having set meals times can be really difficult. You don’t want to make every meal a drama or fight so, it can be a good idea to be aware of what works for your child and try to go with that. It is okay to offer snacks, particularly if you are worried about what they are eating. Eating on the run can also be a good way of getting food into a toddler as they are always on the go.
  2. Don’t forget the routine. Routine helps children understand what is coming next. Having structure at mealtimes, such as sitting at the table, or in their high chair and having meals around the same time every day helps children understand your expectations. When they sit in their high chair it is meal time and they will be given food they need to eat.
  3. Don’t give them too much choice. If you ask your child what they want to eat, it’s important that you don’t overwhelm them with too many choices. Deciding between two different options is enough, otherwise they can get confused. Keep it simple.
  4. Don’t let mealtimes drag on. Make sure you set an amount of time for meals and try to stick to it as much as possible. Young children get bored pretty quickly and if it is dinner time, they will also be tired. Give them a decent amount of time, say 30 to 45 minutes, but after that they will just lose interest.
  5. Don’t let them get ‘hangry’. We all can get cranky when we’re hungry (you’ve heard of the term ‘hangry’), so it is a good idea to offer snacks regularly between meals. If your toddler is starving when it comes to dinner time, you may find that the wheels will fall off and that won’t be fun for anyone!
  6. Let them see the veggies. We also know that toddlers are renowned for not liking vegetables. It can be tricky to get them to actually put a vegetable in their mouth but a good start is to always have some veggies on the plate. Don’t expect them to eat everything, but just seeing it, smelling it and if you are lucky, tasting, can get them used to the idea of vegetables. If they don’t ever see a carrot, then they won’t ever want to eat one. You can also hide the veggies by mixing them in with other foods, like fried rice, spaghetti bolognaise, etc. so you make sure they get some nutrition!
  7. Don’t be emotional. I understand how frustrating it is when you have just cooked a beautiful dinner and your child looks at it and says “yuk”. But creating a fuss around meals can cause your child to act out and not feel relaxed around eating. Be clear about your expectations but try not to be too tough. Your child’s body does know what it needs nutrition-wise, so letting them reject certain things and love other things for a while is okay.

Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.