Continue in App Continue in App

continue to mobile site

Toddler Eating

Vanessa T.
VANESSA T.
Pediatric Dietitian
Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch. Fill 1 Created with Sketch.

Have a picky eater or snack lover on your hands? No need to fret. Whether your toddler eats everything under the sun or finds meal times to be no fun, we can help! Led by Registered Dietitian and Certified Pediatric Specialist, Vanessa Thornton.

Show more
Vanessa T. photo Group 2 Created with Sketch.
Have your own question?

Ask Vanessa, our Pediatric Dietitian !

Message Vanessa
VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Picky eating!
BECKY, PARENT OF 7 YEAR OLD, 4 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD, 2 YEAR OLD

My two year old used to eat everything but over the past couple of months he has turned incredibly picky. He likes fruit... won’t touch vegetables or anything green for that matter. Mostly just likes eggs, meatballs, turkey, chicken, fries, Mac and cheese. Simple stuff. I feel like I kept trying to give him new foods but he just doesn’t touch them or throws them on the floor. I hate wasting food but should I keep trying? Thanks!

Vanessa
VANESSA

Great question. Toddlers can be challenging, but you're doing everything exactly right. Keep trying! At this age, we often see kids go on "food jags"- they'll love a food for a few weeks, then suddenly want nothing to do with it! They also might go through phases of only wanting a few key foods. This is totally normal and the key word here is phases-- these picky eating habits are usually temporary. To avoid encouraging long-term picky eating habits, you just have to keep offering a wide variety of food. I recommend using dinner as a time to work on this. Offer two "comfort" foods like meatballs and fries, then one "challenge" food, like broccoli. Keep offering the same "challenge" food every night for up to one week and see if he will slowly start to accept it. If he doesn't eat it right away but will allow it to stay on the plate, consider that a win and keep working from there.

If he likes condiments, you can also use this to your advantage. Offer his favorite condiment with three new foods and make a game out of it. Ask him to dip each food in the condiment and let him decide which food he likes best with that dip. Use this time to talk about different tastes, smells, textures, etc. and have some fun at the table.

The most important thing is to RELAX. I know this is easier said than done, but kids will pick up on your stress at mealtimes and this doesn't help their appetites. Just know that you are going to keep trying and that some day your child will add new foods to his repertoire. It won't happen overnight, and that's okay! You're putting the time in now for long-term goals, even if the short-term looks like a lot of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese.

BECKY

Thanks for the advice and tips! It is funny because he likes ketchup but he will just lick off the ketchup and not eat the actual food! Pretty gross!

Vanessa
VANESSA

Kids sure are funny, aren’t they? Let me know how it goes. Good luck!

VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Breakfast
JESSICA, PARENT OF 6 YEAR OLD, 5 YEAR OLD

We are in a breakfast rut - it is always oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or frozen waffles. Any recommendations for other healthy and easy breakfast foods? Even better if I can make them ahead and freeze. Thank you!

Vanessa
VANESSA

Hi Jessica, variety at breakfast is always tough for some reason! The key is to find a few good proteins your kids like and vary the additional ingredients to keep it interesting. Here are some ideas:

EGGS:
1. Breakfast burritos: scramble eggs, beans, peppers and.or cheese. Wrap in small tortillas and wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze individually and heat as needed.
2. Toad in the Hole: (I don't know where this name came from!) Use a cookie cutter to cut a hole in the center of a piece of whole wheat bread. Place the bread in a lightly oiled skillet. Crack an egg in the hole and cook for a few minutes until yolk is cooked through. Bonus: use different shaped cookie cutters for fun shapes like snowmen, hearts, etc.
3. Egg Muffin Tins: whisk 12 eggs in a large bowl. Mix in chopped veggies, ham and/or cheese. Distribute mixture evenly in the 12 cups of a muffin tin (no liner required- spray lightly or use non-stick pan). Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately or freeze in storage bags and reheat as desired.

NUT BUTTERS:
1. Banana Coins: Melt peanut or other nut butter and stir into plain or vanilla yogurt. Stir to combine. Cut bananas into slices and cover each slice with mixture. Freeze on wax paper for a fun, frozen breakfast.
2. Overnight oats: put 1/2 cup oats in a jar. Add 1 tbsp nut butter and some frozen fruit. Pour in milk to cover all ingredients and stir to combine (mixture will not combine completely, that's okay!). Add a little extra milk if needed to cover ingredients. Let sit in the fridge overnight and serve cold in the morning.
3. Fruit dippers: Melt nut butter (microwave for 20 seconds) and stir into greek yogurt until smooth. Cut up apples, bananas, grapes, etc. and allow your child to dip the fruit in the yogurt dip. This is a great way to introduce new fruits and works well for condiment-lovers!

VANESSA ADDED A NEW COMMENT!
Constant snacking
RUTH, PARENT OF 3 YEAR OLD

My toddler only wants to eat snacks throughout the day and rarely eats a full meal. Is this normal?

Vanessa
VANESSA

This is very common! Toddlers have smaller stomachs than adults, so small, frequent meals work well for their bodies. The key is to make sure to keep all meals and snacks planned throughout the day. This age group responds well to routine, so plan to provide them with healthy options every 2-3 hours. Frequent eating only becomes a concern when it turns into grazing. Some toddlers will want to graze on snack foods throughout the day- who wouldn't want to eat Goldfish crackers all day instead of broccoli at dinnertime? If this is the case, it is time to set up more structure for your child. Offer fruits, vegetables and high protein foods instead of snack foods and do not allow grazing between meals. This will help them tune into their hunger cues and feel more satisfied throughout the day.