My Picky Toddler Won’t Eat


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My family members often joke that my baby Levi eats more than my toddler Myles and I usually laugh with them, but I know deep down that it’s the truth. When Myles was Levi’s age he ate so much and was willing to try anything. He wasn’t picky, explored different textures, and was willing to give everything a shot. Once he hit toddlerhood, things started to change. My little guy who used to love all types of fruits and veggies wanted to live on just crackers and smoothies. He started getting picky and didn’t care to sit down to enjoy a meal. When he does sit down to eat, he usually only eats a small amount before he tells me that he’s done. Here today to tell you that this is normal. Is it frustrating at times? Absolutely…but normal. 

Toddler eating - Picky eating and decreased appetite
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At Myles’ 18 month appointment I was confident that our pediatrician was going to tell us that he wasn’t eating enough. I was already preparing a speech that I’d tell her about his eating habits and why he wasn’t consuming much daily. When she came into the room and told me that “he’s growing great” I thought to myself, growing great??? How?? She told me that he was following his growth curve and consuming exactly what he needs. 

Many times what we think our little ones need is much more than what their bodies tell them that they need. I let Myles regulate his food intake and trust that he’s eating the right amount for what his body needs. Are there days that he eats great? Absolutely! Are there days where he barely has a good meal the entire day? For sure. Toddler appetites fluctuate so much, so I keep that in mind and have peace knowing that he’s in tune with his body. 

Why is my Toddler Eating Much Less?

Why is my toddler eating much less?
  • Between the ages of 1 and 5, it’s completely normal for a toddler’s appetite to slow down. Toddlers don’t grow as fast as babies do!
  • Think about how much growth a baby goes through from the newborn stage to age 1. Most full term babies double their birth weight by six months of age and triple it by the time they are a year old.
  • Once they hit toddlerhood, the growth spurts slow down. They gain weight much less quickly, resulting in decreased appetites.
  • You may feel like your toddler isn’t eating enough or is never hungry, but they are matching their rate.

My Toddler Isn’t Interested in Eating

My toddler isn't interested in eating
  • As toddlers are growing physically, their minds are growing at a constant rate as well. Toddlers are so interested in everything around them and sitting down to eat a meal is probably at the bottom of the list of things they’d like to explore.
  • Try to set some mealtime structures so that there are clear expectations in place for meal time, but allow toddlers to take control of what and how much to eat.
  • Know that picky eating is normal. Toddlers begin to develop preferences and go through phases of loving and not loving certain foods.

Making Mealtimes Enjoyable

Making mealtimes enjoyable
  • Don’t force feed. Force feeding can have negative effects such as developing poor relationships with food down the line.
  • Don’t leave your child to sit at the table alone to finish their meal after everyone else is done eating. This makes them feel excluded and it doesn’t have positive effects.
  • Don’t make a big deal to your child about how little or how much they eat. Mealtimes should be an enjoyable experience and making a big deal if they finish their plate or if they’re not eating much brings unneeded pressure to the table.
  • Don’t threaten them/bargain with them. This will only drive you away from the goal of setting healthy relationships with food and may just result in a constant power struggle.

Continue to offer a variety of foods and try to make things interesting and fun! Involve your toddlers in the kitchen and try to make meal times an enjoyable experience!

It is so important that we allow our babies and toddlers to listen to their internal hunger cues. They are in tune with their bodies and when we try to interfere with this natural ability, that is when power struggles and negative relationships with food come into play. Of course if you are seriously concerned, contact your pediatrician, but the division of responsibility still applies in toddlerhood. It is our job as caregivers to provide nutritious meals and their job to choose what, when, and how much to eat. 

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Until next time, Lily!

About Lily Payen

Hi, I’m Lily! The mama behind Feeding Tiny Bellies. I’m here to help you take some of the stress out of meal times for your little ones. My goal is to create simple recipes with baby in mind that can easily be adapted for the entire family.

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  1. Zoe H says:

    I am the head teacher in the one year old program at a local daycare. Parents often ask for help with their picky eaters. Since my youngest is 28, I keep up with great ideas from your website and will refer them to it when they are struggling. I only wish I had such a great reference when I first became a mom 40 years ago! Thank you!!

    1. Lily Payen says:

      Hi Zoe! I’m so glad that you still find the ideas helpful! I appreciate you sharing and thank you for your feedback!😊

  2. Aaliyah Woods says:

    My toddler is three yo and he only consumes rice, beans, eggs, homemade waffles, sausage, mash potatoes, baked potatoes, and home made French fries. He won’t consume anything else and I have no ideas what to do anymore. It can be extremely frustrating to get him to try anything else. As a baby he ate all his veggies and fruits and now he barely eats. I have no idea what to do help me!!!

    1. Lily Payen says:

      Hi Aaliyah! It sounds like your little one is eating a great variety of foods! You can try incorporating other foods into the foods that he already likes (ex: adding veggies to rice, fruits into homemade waffle batter) but it’s ok if he has preferences as it is normal at that age. Smoothies are also a great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into his diet😊

  3. Yvonne says:

    Thank you. My 2 yo had eaten very little at dinner the past 3 nights. So I was getting frustrated. I appreciate this post. I definitely need to keep my emotions in check. Thank you

    1. Lily Payen says:

      It can definitely be frustrating when they don’t eat much at times but definitely normal! I’m happy you found this post helpful!❤️