Learning Together

Get answers, share concerns and join in the conversation.

Get expert insight into early childhood education today.

Picky Eater? Seven Tips for Your Toddler

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | March 4, 2013 | Nutrition

How to introduce food to a picky eaterWhen your baby becomes a toddler, the days of a relaxed meal in the high chair are done. Now, all she wants (and needs) is a quick bite, and then she’s off to more important things. To cover her nutritional needs, offer a variety of healthy foods anyway – but don’t force it. Here are my tips for boosting her nutrition – and avoiding a power struggle over food:

  • Broaden her food horizons. Try one new food at a time, and encourage at least a teensy, tiny bite. Offering new foods when she’s hungry increases the chances she’ll eat. Give veggies and new foods as an appetizer while you’re making the rest of the meal (and she’s most hungry).
  • No “grazing.” Toddlers who always have access to snacks tend to be less hungry – and more picky. Stick with three regularly scheduled meals, and one to two snack times.
  • Allow preferences – within reason. Your toddler is becoming more independent and learning what she prefers. Offer an option if it’s reasonable. If not, she can wait until the next regular snack or mealtime.
  • Smaller portions. Toddlers prefer minimal portions, and don’t need as many calories as babies do. Add more if the plate is cleared, but don’t overwhelm with huge amounts.
  • Shun the sugar. The more sugar (including juice) she has, the more she’ll crave it. Keep sweets to a once-a-week treat, and offer fruit (and water) otherwise
  • Be a good role model. Make mealtimes relaxed and fun. If everyone’s enjoying a variety of foods at the table, your toddler will eventually get the message that “this is how we eat together.”
  • Don’t panic. When left to their own devices, most toddlers WILL eat a variety of foods over several days or weeks. “Food fads” are usually temporary experiments.

And, of course, consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child’s nutrition or weight.

Here’s a quick video with more of my tips. And did you know that good nutrition can lead to better behavior? Read more here!


How do you handle your picky eater? Please share!