How to get your “selective” eater to eat more!

Selective eating in toddlers and children is incredibly normal, please know first off that you’re not doing this stage alone.  Our toddler’s eating habits can vary from day to day and are often in tune with the massive development they are going through. For some, this phase passes quickly however for others it can linger and we totally get that this can be an incredibly stressful time for parents.

A toddlers energy requirement at 2 years of age is just less than half of that at 6 months of age. It can be hard for us parents to understand that our baby’s appetite can decrease significantly after their first birthday however their fastest growth period occurs in that first year and when this growth slows down so can their appetite.

So here are some strategies to help meal times:

Set realistic expectations:  It is important we don’t just focus on what our toddler has eaten at one meal even just one day, but we look at their intake over a whole week.  Often when we do this we can see the problem isn’t as bad as we thought.

Serve appropriate foods: Always have at least one food on their plate that they already love and you know they will eat If they are hungry.  Remember this food might be all they eat so make sure you offer one you are ok with if this is the case.  Also for some little ones it’s best we don’t introduce new foods at meal times that they are over tired.

Regular meal times: Most toddlers like to know what comes next, so when we set a regular feeding routine they will learn to know when to expect foods.  Snacks are incredibly important as they provide extra energy and nutrients, it’s important they are still hungry for meal times so this may mean “closing the kitchen” an hour before dinner time.

Appropriate portion sizes: For some children a full plate may feel overwhelming so serving age appropriate portions will make for a more positive meal time (for both parents and child) and hopefully less food waste too!

And if you are worried about your child’s health please see your primary health provider.  


Ministry of Health Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Infants and Toddlers aged 0-2 years