How to deal with food jags, food refusals, and more

How to deal with food jags, food refusals, and more

Problems (and their solutions) for picky toddlers

Lucille Beseler, RDN

Is co-author of Nurturing with Nutrition and a former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics representing over 100,000 Nutrition professionals, while also active as a clinical dietitian in South Florida.

Article in collaboration with: Melanie Bazarte, PhD

Is your toddler on a food jag? Eating one or a few types of food? 

  • Toddlers commonly go on food jags and want the same food day after day. Go with it; it will run its course and it won't hurt to be deficient in a few food groups for a few weeks. 
    • Toddlers are trying to establish independence or get attention. After a few weeks, you can vary the favorite food or menu slightly.
  • Avoid feeding your toddler too often. 
    • Spacing meals and snacks at specific intervals are important so she will feel hungry. Some toddlers may fill up at one meal and cruise until empty.
  • Serve simple foods to keep flavors fresh and true.
  • Know it's okay if your child leaves food on his plate.
  • Never force, pressure, or bribe your child to clean his plate. Stop the "Disease to Please." Toddlers have small tummies and short attention spans.
    • When your child is hungry, he will eat and should NEVER be expected to eat to please you.
  • Expect Toddler to object, reject, or complain about new or all food on his plate. Keep serving the new food periodically so you do not contribute to his pickiness.
  • Toddlers may consistently refuse certain types of foods. Respect his preferences if they are strong and few. (You don't like everything either.)
  • Introduce a sample of a new food when your toddler is hungriest–only one new food at a time.
  • Offer a variety of easy-to-manage foods, but never bribe and do not create a power struggle if your child refuses to eat.
  • Relax. Pushing your child to eat gives him negative attention and increases pickiness; worrying only makes things worse.

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