How can I get my toddler to eat healthy foods when he refuses?

 

I have been struggling with getting my almost 3-year-old son to eat fruits and vegetable, or any food really. When he first started eating solids, he ate everything we put in front of him.  Now he eats very little and only pasta with marinara sauce, hot dogs, and peanut butter sandwiches (which usually results in him licking off the peanut butter and discarding the bread). I can't even get him to eat vitamins.  I have tried disciplining, bribing, making eating fun, etc., but nothing works.  I worry about his nutrition. How can I get him to try new foods?

Submitted by dannyandamber

It’s perfectly “normal” and age-appropriate for toddlers to find interest in everything but eating.  It’s our job to provide healthy food options and to set some sort of routine. Offer new foods repeatedly.  Start by offering one new food for a few days, and then rotate to another food. Patience needs to be a virtue here -- you may need to offer a new food as many as 20 times before your toddler accepts and actually enjoys it.

Keep mealtimes pleasant and positive, gently encourage without pressuring (or bribing) your child to eat. Limit distractions and eat together as often as possible. Involve him in grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation; this may empower him to take more interest in food and eating.

Chances are, as your toddler grows and matures, he will likely want to try new things and enjoy family meal time.  And keep in mind that your child is likely to eat more when he goes through a growth spurt. As long as his pediatrician determines that he’s growing adequately and consistently, he’s probably eating enough to meet his needs.

Answered by Parents Team
Community Answers (4)

I'm a child behavior specialist with lots of experience working with kids with feeding difficulties. A key thing for parents to remember is, even if your child refuses a food or shows shows no interest, it does not mean you should stop giving that food to your child. If you only give your child foods he/she likes you are essentially reinforcing "picky eating." Also try to focus on positive eating behaviors, like taking bites, and ignore the unwanted refusal behaviors. More @monarchslo on twitter
Submitted by Lcreifinger

I'm a child behavior specialist with lots of experience working with kids with feeding difficulties. A key thing for parents to remember is, even if your child refuses a food or shows shows no interest, it does not mean you should stop giving that food to your child. If you only give your child foods he/she likes you are essentially reinforcing "picky eating." Also try to focus on positive eating behaviors, like taking bites, and ignore the unwanted refusal behaviors. More at www.monarchslo.com
Submitted by Lcreifinger

I'm a child behavior specialist with lots of experience working with kids with feeding difficulties. A key thing for parents to remember is, even if your child refuses a food or shows shows no interest, it does not mean you should stop giving that food to your child. If you only give your child foods he/she likes you are essentially reinforcing "picky eating." Also try to focus on positive eating behaviors, like taking bites, and ignore the unwanted refusal behaviors. More at www.monarchslo.com
Submitted by Lcreifinger