It’s natural to worry whether your young child is getting enough food if they refuse to eat sometimes.
However, it’s perfectly normal for toddlers to refuse to eat or even taste new foods. Do not worry about what your child eats in a day or if they do not eat everything at mealtimes. It’s more helpful to think about what they eat over a week.
If your child is active, gains weight and seems well, then they’re getting enough to eat. As long as your child eats some food from the four main food groups (fruits and vegetables; potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates; dairy or dairy alternatives; and beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins) you do not have to worry.
Gradually introduce other foods and keep going back to the foods your child did not like before. Children’s tastes change. One day they’ll hate something, but a month later they may love it. Keep offering a variety of foods – it may take lots of attempts before your child accepts some foods.
Tips for parents of young fussy eaters:
- Give your child the same food as the rest of the family, but remember not to add salt to their food.
- Try to eat with them as often as you can. The best way for your child to learn to eat and enjoy new foods is to copy you.
- Give small portions and praise your child for eating, even if they only eat a little. If your child rejects the food, do not force them to eat it. Just take the food away without saying anything.
- Try to stay calm, even if it’s very frustrating. Try offering the food again another time. Do not wait until your child is too hungry or tired to eat.
- Your child may be a slow eater, so be patient.
- Do not give your child too many snacks between meals. Two healthy snacks a day is plenty.
- Do not use food as a reward. Your child may start to think of sweets as nice and vegetables as nasty. Instead, you could reward them with a trip to the park or promise to play a game with them.
- Make mealtimes enjoyable and not just about eating. Sit down and chat about other things.
The transition from milk to solids is a big change for your child. Not only are they swapping the comfort of the breast or bottle for textured solids, but they are also entering a new world of high chairs, bibs, spoons and messes.Some will take more easily to the process, gobbling up new tastes, but there are no prizes for the child (or their mum) who eats the most at a certain age.
Many mums of older children who are now excellent eaters will tell you how tricky weaning was for them. Some toddlers will be more fussy than others. But also remember that your baby is learning to chew, swallow and deal with different tastes, which are big new skills to develop.