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Toddler

Feeding a Fussy Toddler

Feel like every mealtime is a battleground?

If you've got a fussy toddler you’ll know the pain of trying to find something they’ll eat, only for most of it to end up on the floor. 

The good news (sort of) is this is a normal toddler phase. As they start to become more independent it’s an easy way for them to show you who’s in charge. 

It’s hard not to worry if your child starts refusing meals or seems to eat very little. But think about it this way - if your child is chucking themselves around as normal, growing like a weed and covering most of the main 4 food groups (fruit and veg, carbs, dairy and protein) then you’re good. Try not to get too caught up in exactly what’s going in their mouth at every single mealtime and instead focus on what they eat over the course of a week. 

When should I worry? 

If your child seems unwell, is losing weight or just wants to sit around on the sofa all day have a chat with your health visitor or GP. 

Top tips for dealing with fussy eaters

  • It’s not easy being zen when you’re getting fish fingers launched at you but take a deep breath. Taking a positive attitude to mealtimes helps keep things fun. 
  • Feeding a variety of foods is ideal but if your toddler prefers a small selection of foods then stick to those. And introduce new ones slowly, one at a time. Just like weaning you might have to offer them a few times before they become part of their food routine. 
  • If you can, get everyone eating together, if your toddler sees you eating and enjoying food then they’re more likely to want to join in. 
  • Get them out and about. A walk. A razz around the playground. Anything that’ll burn up some energy and increase their appetite. 
  • If there’s a food you don’t like then talk to your toddler about it and give it another try. Show that you’re willing to experiment too. 
  • Focus your praise on when they finish food. Don’t comment or make a fuss when they don’t, just take the food away. 
  • We’ve all been there, your kid won’t eat and you know if you distract them with an iPad you can shovel something in. But it’s short term gain for serious long term pain. Take away as many distractions as possible so they can concentrate on the food in front of them. 
  • Let your toddler take control. They can help you shop and prepare simple food (like putting jam on bread with a plastic knife). Give them plenty of finger foods to explore texture and taste. Yes, we know it makes a mess but discovery is a big part of learning to enjoy food. 
  • Routine can be hard but kids do love it. Set meal and snack times help them understand when food is coming and when it’s time to enjoy scoffing instead of playing. 
  • Stick to small portions (toddlers tummies are tiny!) and you can offer ‘courses’ rather than one large bowl or plate of food. And we know it’s tempting but try not to resort to bribery (offering sweets to finish food) as they’ll just expect it every time. 
  • Watch out for signs they’re done, they might keep their mouth closed or turn their head away. If you’ve got to the crying and yelling stage you’re not getting any more food in there. Never force them to eat more or clean their plate. 
  • If you have a snack too close to a meal you won’t be hungry so helo your toddler by leaving enough space between. 

Drinks are important too, they still need around two thirds to half a pint of milk every day (breast milk or cows’ milk). Any more than this and your toddler might start refusing meals. It’s a good idea to stick to water apart from this (you can give juice but make it super diluted) in a cup or beaker. 

If you’ve tried all these tips and you still have concerns check in with your GP or health visitor. 

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