Why Your Toddler Refuses to Eat and What You Can Do   

When your toddler refuses to eat it might be a bit frustrating, but not surprising, because most of them are picky eaters. A toddler who does not eat much may send you into panic mode, but keep in mind that you are not alone. 

Even if your child was a good eater before, you may find that your little one is refusing foods that they used to love, even if you spent hours in the kitchen preparing the most delicious meal.

Let’s look at the most common reasons why your toddler is picky and what you can do about it.

Reasons Why Toddlers Refuse to Eat

Growth phase

Your baby will weigh almost three times their birth weight by the time they are a year old. But when they are two years old, they will be approximately less than four times their birth weight. In the first year of their life, a child grows quickly and puts on more weight, so you might have noticed that they ate almost everything you served them before, but refuse to do so now. After the first year, a child’s nutritional requirements slow down and they also have a lack of appetite. This usually lasts until puberty. 


Most toddlers who are strong-willed have a mind of their own and are testing your limits and their boundaries. Since they want to be in charge, they will do what they want including not eating foods that they don’t like no matter how much you coax them. You will notice this behavior in other aspects of their life too such as when they don’t want to be strapped in their stroller. 

Food types, textures, and colors

The type of food and textures that you offer play a role as well. Between 12 and 18 months, many toddlers are picky because of “neophobia” or the introduction to new foods. Remember that it will take time for your child to adjust to new foods. 

When introducing new foods to toddlers you will need to offer them at least 10 to 15 times before they accept them. Other than this, they might be picky about the color, or may not like the texture of certain foods. For instance, they might refuse to eat boiled eggs because they prefer scrambled eggs, or they may prefer orange foods over green ones.

Ways to Encourage Your Toddler to Eat

Avoid grazing 

When you allow your toddler to eat a bite or two of various snacks throughout the day, it may seem like a good idea to get them to eat. But it is best avoided because it will never let them get hungry. Grazing cuts their appetite and they will never learn how to eat a whole meal. 

Keep distractions at bay

Using the TV or toys at the table will encourage toddlers to finish their meals at the moment, but this is not the best idea! Children who are distracted while they eat will only get fussier later on. Distractions can also be in the form of other siblings and people talking or playing beside your child. 

Let your toddler be messy

 As parents, we want to keep our homes as clean as possible while minimize the amount of time we spend cleaning. But it is important for toddlers to form a relationship with food. So let them explore, eat with their fingers, and eat their food how they want it!

Eat as a family

Eating as a family will create a positive experience for your toddler. This will be a motivational factor and encourage your child to partake in mealtime. Talk to your toddler during this time and don’t pressure him or her too much. 

Serve smaller portions

Keep your toddler’s meals 2 to 3 hours apart and serve smaller portions. Also include food items that they like eating, while at the same time keep introducing new foods. 

When You Should Speak to a Doctor

Most toddlers are indeed picky, but sometimes you may need to take them to a doctor for an opinion. A pediatrician can rule out issues like constipation, autism, food sensitivities, swallowing problems, and other issues. 

Contact your doctor for the following reasons:

  • If your toddler eats less than twenty types of foods
  • If your toddler rejects food groups
  • Does not eat for several days
  • Is anxious about food 
  • Will not eat what the rest of the family is eating

Remember to not put too much pressure on your toddler about eating. It is also best to refrain from encouraging them to eat by bribing them with ice cream or cookies to finish their meal. With a little bit of time and patience, your toddler will soon be eating more than you expect!

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