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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Brindley

Is Your Toddler Not Eating Well? Tried and True Strategies to Turn Things Around

Toddler not eating her food at a table

If you're struggling with toddler feeding battles, you're not alone. Everything you've tried doesn't seem to be working, and you're starting to worry about their health and development.

First, it's important to understand that picky eating is normal for toddlers. Their little bodies undergo so many changes, and they explore their independence. So, it's not surprising that they would be picky about what they put in their mouths.

This blog will look at some of the most common reasons why toddlers might not eat well and tips for toddlers to start eating more food. Keep reading to learn more!

Common Toddler Feeding Challenges

There are a few common reasons why toddlers might not be eating well. If you can identify the problem, it will be easier to find a solution.

● Picky eating: They're trying to figure out what they like and don't like. And since toddlers' taste buds are still developing, their preferences can change frequently. As a parent, you can try to offer a variety of healthy foods and regularly expose them to new flavors.

Poor appetite: Some toddlers have a small appetite; this can be due to a slower metabolism or being more active during the day and burning more calories.

If your toddler is eating some foods and you're not concerned about weight loss, then there's probably no need to worry. Just offer small, frequent meals and snacks throughout the day.

Difficulty chewing or swallowing: Some toddlers are sensitive to certain foods' texture, smell, or taste. Oral motor challenges, food allergies, and sensory issues can make it difficult for toddlers to chew or swallow food. Talk to the doctor if you're concerned about your child's feeding.

Behavioral problems: Toddlers can be stubborn and strong-willed. They may refuse to eat because they want to feel in control; for example, they may throw tantrums at the table. If this is the case, staying calm and consistent is essential. Please don't give in to their demands, and don't punish them for not eating.

How to Help a Resistant Toddler Eat

If your toddler is not eating, there are a few things you can do to encourage them to eat. First, try offering them foods that they enjoy eating. If they know that they like the taste of a particular food, they may be more likely to eat it.

Set a routine at mealtimes and stick to it as much as possible. A routine will help your toddler know when it is time to eat and help them focus on their meal.

Allowing your child to wander off and play and return to the table is not setting them up for successful family meals.

It is also essential to offer your toddler a variety of foods, including both new and familiar foods; this will help them develop a taste for different foods and encourage them to try new things.

Ensure that the environment is conducive to eating; there should be no distractions, such as television or toys. Set the table with a plate, utensils, and napkins, so your toddler knows it is time to eat.

How to Make Meal Times Positive For Toddlers and Get Them To Stay At the Table

If you're struggling to get your toddler to sit still during meals, try to make the experience more enjoyable for them.

One way is to ensure they are seated in a comfortable chair at the right height to eat at the table. You should also give them a good amount of space at the table to feel like they have their own area.

Setting a timer for meals can also be helpful. This way, your toddler knows they only have to stay in their chair for a specific time and may be more likely to cooperate.

Never use food as a reward or punishment; this will only create a negative association with food and make your toddler less likely to want to eat.

TV at Meals: Good or Bad for Toddlers?

Some toddlers may become distracted or agitated if they're not allowed to watch TV during meals if you have allowed them to eat while watching a screen. Other children may be perfectly content to focus on their food without distractions.

Do not worry if you have fallen into this habit. If you choose a new way, stay consistent; new healthy eating habits can form and replace the old ones!

Generally speaking, avoiding letting your toddler watch TV during mealtimes is a good idea because eating should be a time for family members to come together and connect over food. Television can often be disruptive and distracting.

Additionally, research has shown that watching TV while eating can lead to overeating or make focusing on your child's satiety cues more challenging. Set some ground rules if you let your toddler watch TV during meals.

How to Get Your Toddler to Enjoy Eating

There is no "right" way to get your toddler to eat. However, a few things can help make mealtime a more positive experience for you and your child.

One is to provide them with regular exposure to new foods. It may take several attempts for a toddler to become accustomed to a new food's taste, texture, and smell, so it's important to keep offering it.

Get them involved in the cooking process whenever possible; this will give them a sense of ownership over their food and may increase their interest in trying new things.

Eating should be a positive experience, not a battle. Please don't force them to eat anything they don't want to, but do require that they at least try a bite of everything; this will help them to understand that some foods may not be their favorite, but that doesn't mean they should never eat them.

Finally, lead by example and enjoy a variety of foods yourself. Children are more likely to try new things if they see their parents or other adults doing so.

The Pros and Cons of Feeding a Toddler a Separate Meal

Eating with your toddler at 5:30 pm may not be feasible with a busy work schedule. A separate meal given earlier when you are short on time or parenting solo can help.

On the other hand, If you are preparing meals for the entire family, making an extra meal for your toddler can be time-consuming. There is also the potential that your toddler will become used to being served a special meal and refuse to eat anything else; this can foster picky eating habits.

The Best Times To Serve Dinner For Toddlers

The best time to serve dinner for toddlers is generally around 5:00 - 6:00 pm; this gives them enough time to eat before bedtime, digest, and go to the bathroom.

Of course, every child is different, and some may need to eat earlier or later depending on their individual needs and considering parents' busy schedules.

If dinner time is going to be too late, consider moving the meal earlier and offer them a healthy snack thirty minutes before bed, for example, a sliced banana or yogurt. Often parents come home from work and can sit at the table with their toddlers for a healthy snack.


Eating should be a positive experience for both you and your toddler. The most important thing is ensuring your toddler gets the nutrition they need.

Regular exposure to new foods, involvement in the cooking process, and leading by example are all great ways to encourage your toddler to try new things.

And, remember to be patient – it may take several attempts for them to become accustomed to the taste, texture, and smell of new and exciting food.


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