Food and Nutrition

How to make your toddler eat right!

Puja Sharma Vasisht
1 to 3 years

Created by Puja Sharma Vasisht
Updated on Aug 17, 2015

How to make your toddler eat right

Children tend to be fussy eaters these days. Sometimes, children with seemingly good appetites also, start throwing tantrums while eating, bringing to life a mother's worst nightmare. And this is especially true in toddler age group; that is 1-3 years. This is the time when your little baby has just learnt to say no, does not wish to stop his explorations to sit and eat his meal, and food becomes the first casualty. But experts believe, that is also the very crucial stage, wherein parents can set food habits and patterns for their children that will last a lifetime. So, we discuss here not only what foods to give, but how and also try and decode the wiring of a toddler's brain vis-a-vi food.

But why do toddlers suddenly stop eating?
Your little chubby angel, who till a couple of months back was gulping down whatever you gave to him in a spoon, has suddenly gone on a crash diet it seems. Where he was possibly eating two bananas till yesterday, today he balks at the sight of even one. Why?
To assure it, it has nothing to do with your parenting or culinary skills. The secret lies in the growth pattern of a baby. An infant may triple his birth weight in first year and so requires a lot of food. But by the second year, the growth is much slower. This means the body needs lesser food than it was consuming in the previous months, respectively. On an average, the total healthy weight gain for entire second year is only about 2-2.5 kgs and height gain is about 10 cm. With their little bodies needing lesser food, their appetite also plummets. Result? Your cherubic angel is eating lesser food, which is perfectly normal and natural. So, rest assured that your baby, though is eating lesser volumes of food comparatively, is still eating sufficient for himself.

But here's a catch: With muscle development being high at this stage, the food pattern needs to undergo a change. From focussing on larger quantities of food, at this stage, children require more nutrient-dense foods. So make sure, you serve them
a variety of foods: more the variety means, more variety of nutrients. Use different types of daals for his khichdi, expose him to as many vegetables and colourful fruits. If it was apple for breakfast, give him a mango for evening snack
• Give smaller meals but with larger number of food groups covered in it: Instead of an overflowing bowl of dalia, try a smaller quantity of dalia supported with curd or daal on the side, and maybe a mashed vegetable as a salad.
• Try balancing all food groups: Shift the focus from getting him to eat weight-increasing foods to getting him to eat healthy foods. Full fat milk can be replaced with cheese and paneer. Ensure foods rich in calcium, iron, and other nutrients reach his diet also.

How to support this change in their behaviour rather than create stress
There is sense of individuality developing in these toddlers, hence they start demanding independence everywhere, be it their clothes, toys or food. They want their preferences to be heard . They want to eat food of their choice and amount and that too on their own. This may create a loss of mess in the house, but remember, the earlier you teach them to be independent, the better it is for the child. They can be served finger foods such as:
Thinly sliced or chopped pieces of fresh fruits: such pear, apple, mango, banana, peach--depending on the age of the child, they can either be stewed slightly or gives raw.
Sticks of vegetables: such as carrots (again steam if the child is very young), slices of cucumber and/or tomatoes
Convenient snacks: Wholegrain biscuits (preferably homemade)/freshly baked cake slice or muffin/breakfast cereals like corn flakes/wheat flakes
• Soft foods cut into slices: Cheese /cottage cheese cut into thin slices or shredded (or mashed and rolled into small balls.), hard-boiled egg .
• Bite sized foods: chapattis broken into bites/bread also cut into handy pieces/small idlis or idlies cut up
• Laddos/burfis: made of vegetables such as lauki and carrot.

Why do they start rejecting some foods which they enjoyed earlier?
Children of this age have more taste buds, than we have, as adults. So a vegetable like cauliflower or garlic added to vegetable has an amplified flavor for the little one. It may be a big turn off for them, making them reject strongly-flavored foods. This is especially true for bitter foods, spices and chillies. So, to help them overcome this:
• Keep seasonings mild in their food: experiment with different herbs and spices to figure out what they enjoy (use fresh herbs or whole spices so that they can be extracted at the time of serving, hence controlling their flavour)
• Avoid strongly flavoured foods: like turnip, cauliflower, garlic, ginger etc., if the child doesn't enjoy it: give the child a break and try again after a few months.
• Mask the flavor of certain foods by adding/combining with milk, potato, cheese or cereal: expriment with flavours, textures, and food styling.

How to make them eat the right foods?
There is imitation and sex identification also developing in this age group. This leads to girls imitating mothers and boys imitating fathers. So, examples set by parents in food behavior are important.
• Eat yourself what you want your child to eat: If the child has never seen you munching on an apple, chances of him picking one up are less. Parents eating healthy foods, have it easier, to make their child eat healthy.
• Know their preference for food textures: Teething has also started by this time. This leads to preference of textures and solid is preferred over pureed food. Toddlers enjoy graininess of rice, chunkiness of fruits, hardness of the biscuits etc. So this is the right time, to introduce these. Caution needs to be exercised when the toddler is eating to avoid any hazard of choking.
• Make food accessible: Keep some healthy food items such as dry fruits and nuts, whole uncut fruits etc at an accessible level for the child. Stow in clear containers and bowls where the child can see what is in it. The bright orange colour of an orange might just tempt him to experiment with it.
• Give a favourite with a new food: If you are apprehensive whether he will eat a new subzi you've cooked, serve it in a plate with a long-time favourite. Eg: Roti-subzi with a slice or mango or dalia with a cheese slice on the side. Even if new food is rejected, continue offering them, after some time gap. It may take several tries before a child is receptive to eating something new.


What is a good eating pattern for toddlers?
While it is important to remember that each child is unique, here are some suggestions that you can try and work with your fussy toddler.
• Break meals: Rather than 3 large meals, give three smaller-portioned main meals and h 2-3 snacks.
• Have sufficient gap between meals: On an average, 3 hours between mail meals and 1.5 to 2 hours between snacks.
• Encourage self eating: Serve food in a form that they can manage themselves. Make sure sitting is comfortable when they are eating.
• Eat as a family: Eat together as a family and ensure the child eats the same food as you do.
• Give enough exercise: Don't just focus on meals. Ensure the child gets enough outdoor play too to build up an appetite.
With these tips in your hand, making your toddler eat might just become simpler. Remember what the child eats and how much he eats should also be his perception and decision rather than solely parents. After all, can we eat all the time or very frequently in the day or eat the same food again and again. Think about it!

 

 

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| May 30, 2018

My daughter who will turn 2 soon has literally stopped eating the 3 main meals and only snacks she like is raisins,almond and cheese. But whenever she is offered sweets,fruity, chocolate,she eats them happily. Is this normal phase for a child?

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| Mar 25, 2018

hello mam. my baby is now 1. 10 yr old. Now changing the eating habit effects my baby's helth .His health is decreasing than before . Is it normal ? m really tensed.

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| Mar 24, 2018

thank u so much . it will help me a lot.

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| Mar 24, 2018

thank u so much . it will help me a lot.

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| Mar 12, 2018

Tq it will help me a lot

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| Mar 12, 2018

Tq it will help me a lot

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| Mar 12, 2018

Tq it will help me a lot

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| Feb 14, 2018

Thanks a lot for positive reply!!

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| Feb 02, 2018

Thanku ma'am for ur reply n suggestions.

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| Feb 02, 2018

Thanku ma'am for ur reply n suggestions.

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| Feb 02, 2018

Thanku ma'am for ur reply n suggestions.

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| Jan 15, 2018

thanks for the reply. one thing more need to know about standard weight for my baby

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| Jan 15, 2018

thanks for the reply. one thing more need to know about standard weight for my baby

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| Jan 15, 2018

thanks for the reply

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| Jan 15, 2018

thanks for the reply

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| Jan 15, 2018

thanks for the reply

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| Jan 12, 2018

thank you mam for the reply, I will try to do the same.

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| Jan 12, 2018

thank you mam for the reply, I will try to do the same.

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| Jan 12, 2018

thank you mam for the reply, I will try to do the same.

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| Jan 12, 2018

thanks for the reply, I will try to do the same.

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| Oct 11, 2017

thanks it's rially helpful

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| Sep 26, 2017

Thank you it really works

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| Sep 26, 2017

Thank you it really works

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| Jun 29, 2017

thAnxx for the advice

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| Jun 28, 2017

Thank you for such a wonderful information. My daughter 3 years old eats everything and she is not fussy, but she drinks a water after every bite of her food. So is it OK to drink water while having food, till the time she don't have that water bottle handy, she will not sit for food.

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| Jun 28, 2017

My son is 2 years and 8 months. He used to eat healthy food but now a days he wants only milk rather than eating a simple khichdi. ......I am worried about it.

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| Jun 28, 2017

thanks for ur tips..

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| Jan 28, 2017

l a dd l

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| Oct 05, 2016

thanks

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| Oct 05, 2016

Thnks puja

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| Jul 20, 2016

Hi.. my son is 2years old.. he loves to play and is ignoring to eat.. he is not interested in taking vegetables.. how cn i make him eat vegetables and fruits... need help

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| Jun 16, 2016

My five year old son plays a lot ,do cycling but do not eat .His diet is too less for kids of his age group.

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| Jun 16, 2016

My five year old son plays a lot ,do cycling but do not eat .His diet is too less for kids of his age group.

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| Jun 16, 2016

My five year old son plays a lot ,do cycling but do not eat .His diet is too less for kids of his age group.

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| Jun 16, 2016

My daughter is 8 months old, she don't like to eat anything.. Food is like a enemy to her.. I tried everything

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| May 10, 2016

Hw to workout for height of a child?? I m so worried as my son is 4+.

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| Apr 27, 2016

Very useful info. Thanks. :-)

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| Apr 07, 2016

Thanks puja for such an informative article... its very helpful... weening food to my 8month old son is such a big task, will try your suggestions...

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| Mar 04, 2016

Ty very much informative

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| Mar 04, 2016

Thanx a million Pooja. it's very informative and helpful to give toddlers a nutritive food

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| Oct 07, 2015

@ Poonam,Hi what you are asking is a meal plan. It is a paid service and kindly contact helpdesk@parentune. com for this.

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| Oct 01, 2015

Hi Pooja, Thanks for pouring in so much information, grateful to you :) Would you please help us by putting up rough schedule of a day when it comes to food. I read you mentioned about main meals and snacks and also the gap between then. It would still be more helpful if you put up timing of the day and the avg quantity Many Thanks, Poonam

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| Sep 30, 2015

@Chitra, Please put your query on expert corner for detailed suggestions.

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| Sep 30, 2015

@Sarika, You may put your query on expert corner.

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| Sep 30, 2015

Hi my son is 1. 6 year old but his weight is only 7 kg. but he is so much active .only thing is I'm worried about his Wight .wht 2 do

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| Sep 29, 2015

Hi my daughter is 2 yrs 3 mnths old. Only 9 kg. I tried everything. Should i give her multivitamin and calcium supplement . Her pediatrician is not giving. According to him she is vry active. Help me.

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| Sep 22, 2015

No bobbin b3446656678899909([)){)]])))))5()5(4Skejmkkdkrrm5kk

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| Sep 16, 2015

@munira,Hi you may give more of eggs, cheese, paneer, dals,poultry. Use whole cream milk & its products. Give more of fruits like banana, mango, dates, cheeku and veggies like potato, sweet potato, corn etc.

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| Sep 12, 2015

Hi myself munira my son is 1yr 7month his weight is 9kg he is very active bt his weight is less then his age need ur advice plz

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| Sep 10, 2015

@Ruchita, Hi her weight is on the lower side. For her chewing you may refer to tips given to Mona. If the paediatrician has given multivitamins, he must have felt the need for. You should give those for the prescribed period of time. In the meantime, try making her chew foods so that she eats well and he nutritional status improves.

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| Sep 04, 2015

Very very very useful blog

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| Sep 04, 2015

This is very in formative.... My 2. 9 years daughter is a fussy eater,she weighs around 11 kgs. Problem with her is she takes 3-5 bites and chew it but after that she keeps the bite in her mouth for a long time. I wanted to know whether her weight is OK. Her paediatrician gave her multi vitamins to get her weight increased which I don't want to give. She is very very active.

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| Sep 04, 2015

I am going through this phase right now and reading your article was a blessing Puja:)

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| Aug 31, 2015

Mona. Hi Make him eat with the family for meals where he can see how all others are chewing while eating. You may start eating with him. Take small bites yourself and showing him your chewing. Give him little mashed foods, without chunks like dal, curries, mashed vegetables. Make him chew these first. Once he starts chewing mashed/pureed foods, introduce grainy texture of dalia, sago etc. Then you may start with small chunks and finally normal diet. You may even make him eat with his friends and siblings of similar age. It would further encourage him to chew.

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| Aug 30, 2015

Thanks, it's very helpful.. My son is 2 1/2 years old.. He doesn't chew his food. He takes a first bite and then swallows.. Please advise.

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| Aug 28, 2015

Thanks for very useful information

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| Aug 25, 2015

Very helpful information for parents thanku

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| Aug 25, 2015

Yes..... we should concentrate more on quality of food than the quantity..... healthy eating .....

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| Aug 24, 2015

Sheeba, Hi can you please tell about weight, height & age of the child and then we can tell whether it is within the average range or not.

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| Aug 24, 2015

Tannistha Singh Chaudhury, if your child is constantly losing weight, please take medical advice for the same, to rule out any underlying infection. If the cause is not medical then you can ask your query in nutrition corner, for weight gain suggestions.

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| Aug 24, 2015

Sona,your child is little on the underweight side. For details on how to make the child increase her weight, please send your query on nutrition corner

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| Aug 21, 2015

Nice one

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| Aug 21, 2015

Very informative

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| Aug 21, 2015

nice blog

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| Aug 21, 2015

nice blog

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| Aug 21, 2015

Really good one...

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| Aug 21, 2015

Very useful

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| Aug 20, 2015

Wonderful :)

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| Aug 20, 2015

Nice information

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| Aug 20, 2015

Very helpful

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| Aug 20, 2015

Very helpful.

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| Aug 19, 2015

Helpful

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| Aug 19, 2015

Good information. Very useful

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| Aug 19, 2015

Very informative n useful

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| Aug 19, 2015

Good information

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| Aug 19, 2015

Very nice now m relaxed about my toddler

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| Aug 19, 2015

Very helpful. Thank you for this wonderful information.

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| Aug 19, 2015

Need to know smthing about infants... about their food weight n height

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| Aug 19, 2015

She is active but refuses to eat

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| Aug 19, 2015

Very informative but my child 2. 7has lost around 2. 5 kg within 6month is it normal?

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| Aug 18, 2015

Really good lesson for parents

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| Aug 18, 2015

Resourceful

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| Aug 18, 2015

Very informative n helpful

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| Aug 18, 2015

Very helpful n effective

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| Aug 18, 2015

ThAnku so much very informative

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| Aug 18, 2015

My daughter is 1 yr and 4 months now. But she is just 7. 6kgs now... can you advise me on how to make her weight ideal

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| Aug 18, 2015

Very informative

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| Aug 18, 2015

Very informative

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