toddler fussy eater

Top tips if your toddler is a fussy eater

Is your toddler a broccoli dodger? Have mealtimes become a battleground? If so – you’re not alone. According to Great Ormond Street up to a third of two year olds can be described as fussy eaters. So – it’s not just your toddler. It’s a common phase toddlers go through.

That doesn’t make it any less stressful or worrying though. Which is why we’ve put together some top tips from our own experience as well as experts to help.

Why is my toddler suddenly a fussy eater?

It could be for a couple of reasons. Firstly their rate of growth slows down when they are around one and that means their appetite might decrease. Toddlers are also very busy little people, learning all sorts of new skills. They might have less interest in sitting down to eat a meal. Also, you’ll no doubt have noticed that your little one is becoming more independent and determined to ‘do it by my own’. Refusing food is a powerful way of asserting themselves.

little girl refusing food

Having a fussy eater can be super stressful

If your toddler goes through a fussy eating stage it’s all too easy for mealtimes to become very fraught and a battle of wills. You can begin to worry about how much your child is (or isn’t) eating. And, even though it isn’t your fault, the mum/dad guilt often kicks in too.

Feeding your child is one of the most fundamental things we do to make sure they grow and develop. Remember all the worries in the early days about how much milk your child was getting and how well they were putting on weight? Those worries can come back BIG time if your toddler suddenly starts refusing food.

What did you do wrong? Will they be OK when they screw their nose up at every single piece of fruit or veg you give them? Does this mean they’ll be a fussy eater forever?

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You’re not alone and it will be OK

It always feels like you’re the only one but remember that a third of toddlers go through a fussy eating stage so you’re definitely not alone. And – even though it really doesn’t feel like it now – the majority of toddlers will grow out of this stage. In the meantime – even though it feels like they’re surviving on a crust of bread and a morsel of chicken – research shows toddlers almost always manage to eat the right amount of nutrients for healthy growth and development.

So what can you do? Firstly – relax!

One of the biggest things you can do is to stop worrying so much. We know, we know – that’s easier said than done. Hopefully by the time you’ve got to the end of this article you’ll have found enough reasons to start feeling less anxious about your toddler’s fussy eating. And that will make a massive difference. We promise!

toddler eating broccoli

Look at how much food your toddler eats in a week NOT a day

Look at the bigger picture. Some days toddlers hardly eat anything; the next they’ll probably make up for it by eating a bit more. If you look at how much they eat over a week instead of each day you might be surprised. And will feel less anxious.

Stick to a routine

Offer meals and snacks at the same time each day. Toddlers love nothing more than routine. And it helps them regulate their appetite too.

Eat together and stop hovering!

Sit down for meals together. And keep them as stress free as possible. That means no hovering over your toddler and continually asking (or pleading) them to take another bite. Lots of happy chat around the table will make both you and your little one more relaxed. And if your focus is off watching your toddler’s every bite it takes the pressure off.

Toddler refusing to eat a tomato

Offer the new with the old

Give your child tried and tested favourite foods along with something new. If they don’t try the new food or spit it out – don’t worry. Just wait a while and offer it again. Research has found that toddlers need to try a food at least 12 (but up to 30) times before they like it.

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Don’t give too many choices

Don’t ask your toddler what they want to eat. Present them with small portions of three or four foods and you can always add more. But do let them feed themselves so they feel like they have a bit more control over their meal.

Toddler a fussy eater? Try food-chaining

If your toddler loves chicken nuggets, try offering them similar but slightly different versions of this food. So you might offer then different shaped chicken nuggets. And then chunks of chicken that you’ve coated in breadcrumbs and then breaded fish nuggets. You might then move onto strips of roast chicken or baked fish without the coating.

This is a very gradual approach but can work really well.

Mix it up sometimes

Although toddlers love their routine you can try mixing things up sometimes too. Especially if mealtimes have become a bit of a battleground around the table. Try sitting on a picnic rug on the floor or having a teddy bear’s tea party in the Wendy house. The new setting can sometimes mean your toddler is having so much fun that they nibble away happily at their meal.

Remember this too shall pass

When you’re in the thick of the storm it’s hard to believe things will ever get better. The truth is they almost always will. Like so many things in parenting if you can stay consistent in your approach each stage eventually passes by.

Disclaimer: We have researched and included robust sources to provide information in this article. However, we are not health or medical professionals and you should always seek medical advice if you are worried about your child’s health. Do speak to your health visitor or GP if you are worried about your toddler’s diet or health.

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Happity Author

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