Many toddlers experience a stage of fussy feeding, even when they have been great eaters. This can be stressful on parents, especially when they don’t seem to eat much and then start to refuse certain foods, usually all the healthy ones! Some children are naturally very sensitive to food tastes, texture, or smell. Children of this age are very good at mimicking grown up behaviour and gaining attention, some children may become fussy eaters if their parents place pressure on them to eat, or are fussy about their own food.
- Make meal times routine, regular and predictable. Start to develop an eating routine of three meals a day plus healthy snacks in between, with the television off.
- Keep offering new foods now and again. The more your child becomes familiar with this food the more likely they will learn to accept it.
- Try alternatives if certain foods are avoided or try different ways of preparing the food.
- Encourage your toddler to sit down for meals and snacks. Their risk of choking is increased if they eat or drink while running or moving around.
- Do not force your toddler to eat everything on their plate. If your toddler no longer wants to continue eating, it is helpful to explain to your child that their meal is over when they leave the table.
- Do not use food as a reward as this food can become more desirable and be over-consumed in the future.
- Avoid providing non-nutritious foods to make up for missed meals.
- Be a good role model, if you eat healthily your toddler will follow in your footsteps. If you do indulge in some unhealthy food, try to do it while they are sleeping and store it out of sight and reach.
- Avoid cooking extras or special food for your child outside meal times if they are refusing to eat at meals.
- Be realistic about the small amounts of food that your toddler may naturally eat.
- By eating with your toddler, and including your child at family meals, you can model your enjoyment of eating healthy meals. You may also wish to reinforce your child’s eating behaviours by giving him or her compliments whenever he or she shows good table manners.