When mealtime is a struggle

  • Picky eating can be a normal phase that includes a fear of trying new foods and rejecting one-time favorites.
  • It may take up to ten tries for your child to accept a new food.
  • Limiting the length of mealtimes and being a good role model can help encourage a picky eater to consume healthy foods.


Picky eating can strike at any time. Thankfully, this is typically just a phase that should pass relatively quickly. However, you might be wondering if your child is getting the nutrition he needs.

Toddler mealtime struggles

How you respond to food refusal can make a difference. The more you struggle, the more he may try to defy you. It’s not uncommon for Toddlers to resist eating certain foods or only want to eat a couple of foods for a period of time. Offer him a variety of nutritious, developmentally appropriate options, and eventually, he should get back on track with a balanced diet.

During the Toddler years, it’s more important to focus more on his eating pattern over several days instead of meal-by-meal. If you feel there’s a lasting problem that might affect your child’s healthy growth and development, talk to your pediatrician.

Try these suggestions to help your picky eater:

  • As a parent, it’s your job to offer healthy foods. It’s up to your child to decide how much and what he will eat from the choices you provide. Avoid power struggles!
  • Repeatedly offering the same foods may not feel productive. But keep in mind, Toddlers may need to try a food up to ten times before they accept it.
  • Talking to your Toddler about foods you see in the grocery store or how you prepare food while cooking can help familiarize him with new foods.
  • Rejecting food may be your child seeking attention and/or trying to control the situation. Avoid this conflict by staying positive and encouraging during mealtime.
  • Make food fun. Making faces with vegetables on a plate or stacking vegetables in a tower can add kid appeal. Giggling while eating should be encouraged!
  • Think like a kid. Children have short attention spans. Limit mealtimes to 20 to 30 minutes to help focus attention on eating. If he’s not done eating in a reasonable amount of time, remove the food and have him move along with his day.
  • Toddlers may be more interested in foods they can feed themselves. Offer plenty of developmentally appropriate finger foods or, for older Toddlers, foods they can easily feed themselves with a fork and spoon.


Positive behaviors like enthusiastic modeling, praising your child for trying new foods, giving small token rewards like a sticker and reading food-themed books can all help encourage your child to accept a new food. 

How was the information in this article?
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