6 Reasons Why Toddlers Refuse to Eat Food Well – How to Tackle This
Created by Puja Sharma Vasisht Updated on Mar 14, 2021
Everyone knows that toddlers can be fussy, picky eaters. Is your toddler not eating food? Or maybe they only want to eat one particular thing? Perhaps they reject all the yummy food you make in favour of junk food! All this is much more common than you think. In fact, there are many, many problems regarding toddlers' food—lack of interest, not chewing, not swallowing, picky eating etc.
Reasons Why Toddlers Refuse to Eat Well
This blog, by our Parentune nutritionist, rounds up 6 common food problems and offers reasonable, doable solutions to tackle toddler's problem of not eating well.
#1 Being Choosy
We all have our food preferences, likes and dislikes. But if the child just prefers to have only few foods over all other foods, then it is a problem. It is important that the child should be exposed to maximum foods and flavours, so that they develop a taste for them and have better nutrition from them.
What Need to Do?
Start gradually by putting a very small portion of the new food to child’s plate along with the preferred foods. Make the child at least taste this new food. It is always better to make child have meals with the family. This encourages them to try a wider variety, foods which the family is eating.
#2. Not Chewing –
This is another common problem in toddlers. Since the liquids, semi-solids don’t require much effort while consuming them, children sometimes don’t want to take solids as they require the effort of chewing.
What to do?
If the child prefers soft, mushy food, give only that for the time being. You can gradually introduce solid foods in diet, by giving one or two bites of it. Give soft foods like porridge of dalia, suji, sago, rice flakes etc. You may also give vegetable upma of suji, ragi etc. Try and make your child have meals with family. This would encourage them to start with solids. Starting with solid foods is a natural development in child’s eating habits. A child would start showing inclination for solids, i.e. she would ask for solid foods like biscuits, crackers, fruits etc on her own. Children also follow each other. Seeing other children eat solid food would also encourage them to eat.
#3. Eating More of Junk Food
Sometimes children prefer eating junk food over routine home food.
What to do?
Restrict the intake of junk food to minimum, to once a week/ fortnight. Don't keep any junk food in the house, so that the child is not tempted. Be firm in saying no, when child asks for junk food. Be a role model yourself, by not eating junk food yourself. Fix meal times for the child, which is with family meal timings. Don't let him eat in between. Give him healthy options when hungry. You can make snacks healthier by using whole grain flour, vegetables and fruits. Try and make regular food interesting like chapatti veggies as Kathi roll or vegetables, cheese/shredded chicken spread over roti with ketchup. Give variety to your child in foods. You may give pizzas, burgers, pasta with lots of vegetables made at home only and on fixed days only. Try steaming, roasting and grilling methods instead of frying snacks. It would take some time and patience, to make the child understand.
#4. Eating with Gadgets
Children often eat with gadgets like mobile, laptops or even while watching T.V. If we try to break this habit, children refuse to have any meal at all.
What to Do?
If the child eats with these gadgets the chances are the child would miss the hunger and satiation cues. That is eventually the child would stop following the body’s natural demand for food and when the stomach is full. This can lead to obesity and child not enjoying the actual pleasure of eating. Studies have shown that these gadgets emit harmful radiations and can cause rapid brain development which can cause attention deficit and other harmful effects.
What to do? Set meal times as non-negotiable. Ensure everyone has food together at the table which will include you and your spouse. If you eat food with TV, it is going to be very difficult to stop the child. Also, when having meals, remove all gadgets from the table—no phones, tablets, etc. Even if the phone rings, ignore it till the meal ends. Also, have conversations and use meal times as bonding time to let the child understand the pleasures of eating with family rather than the gadget. Encourage your child to play with toys and spend more time in outdoor activities. It would be even better if parents get involved in games and activities with their children to make it more interesting.
#5 Not Finishing the Meal
Parents often wonder how to make their child finish the food served on his plate.
What to do?
If the child is not finishing the plate, the reasons could be not liking the taste of the food, or he had something prior to the meal time, or the child has already eaten the amounts sufficient for him/her or is bored with the same food and wants more variety. It could be as simple as child not wanting to eat anything at that moment or the plate being overfilled with the food. Don’t force/bribe the child to finish the plate. Instead focus on what is reason and work on it.
#6. Too long to eat the food
Sometimes, the child may seem to keep the food in the mouth, forever. They neither chew nor gulp it down, but just keep it there.
What to do?
If the child continues to do that despite your attempts to make her finish, then stop feeding the child. Don’t offer the child any food till next meal time. This would help in two ways. First, the child could be genuinely not hungry at that point of time and was just keeping the food in the mouth. Second, the child was hungry and was being fussy about not eating the food. So if you stop feeding the child, the child will be hungry and would appreciate food when it is offered to him. This would slowly reinforce to the child to finish the food when it is offered.
| Jan 27, 2016
@Pinky, Hi, children generally get fussy around this age with their eating habits. You may continue giving the amount the child eats without much fuss and try increasing the amounts gradually. You may read the following blog for more ideas. https://www.parentune.com/parent-blog/how-to-make-your-toddler-eat-right/545
| Jun 20, 2016
a good article with good info. I try most of the ideas shared but my two and a half year daughter just doesn't give in to any tricks or ideas. she just refuses to eat any solid food. she just prefers milk all the time. its very occasional that she eats a bread slice or a chappati. but 9 out of 10 days is only milk. she even doesn't like any fruits or juices or soups. so a tough time to handle her nutritional intake. can someone guide what should be done in such a case.
| Dec 02, 2016
my daughter is 2yrs 3months old n she is a fussy eater. she will keep the food in her mouth for long ,neither she will gulp and nor chew. she even don't take milk. only fruits she likes. whatever information u gave is good and have tried all this but no change I notice. once again I will try this all. Thanks for ur valuable article
| Mar 24, 2017
hello my daughter is 3yrs. She doesn't eat anything. she always keep food in her mouth n doesn't chew too for long period, she nearly takes an hour to complete her each meal. before she use to play Sid mobile n eat bt now tht also she doesn't. No fruits willingly or dry fruit she has .Milk also forcefully i have to gv her. it's very difficult to handle it .plz suggest something. thx
| Mar 27, 2017
Has your child been engulfed by a fear that food can harm her and, therefore, refuse to eat? Well, your child may be suffering from food phobia. https://www.parentcircle.com/article/food-phobia-parents-worst-nightmare/
| May 25, 2017
My baby girl is 2 and half years old. Sheis too long to eat near about 2 hours of each meal. l had try to do this(no. 6 what to do). But it was not effected to her. I told to her doctor,he prescribed the medicine but the result was again zero. Now what to do,please give me a suggestion.
| Sep 03, 2019
hi parentune, I'm moukthika's mother from three days she's not eating food properly, she don't want to keep even little spicy or very little salty food also. also she's saying some pain like thing in her mouth. she had ragi rice today. better today. I'm unable to know what's happening to her. two days before she auffereed with fever. now she's okay. please tel l me is that because she s having mpulth alsar or any. please can any one help me out if this
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