Breakfast, lunch and dinner time can be a stressful and worrying test of wills throughout the day with your little one if they are fussy about what they eat. Rest assured though, it is perfectly normal for toddlers to suddenly decide they will only eat a few different foods. While it may cause you some distress to have to continually throw away any food they don’t eat, it’s better not get too anxious about it, especially in front of them as it’s usually just a phase that they go through at that age.
Having a fear of eating new foods is called food neophobia, which we humans developed as we evolved and it’s a natural defence against eating food that we think is unsafe or dangerous.
Neophobia in toddlers is generally minor and hopefully reassures you that they will refrain from eating anything and everything they come across!
Fussy eating can be displayed as simply as your child refusing to eat a piece of food because it doesn’t look like it they think should, or they don’t like the colour! It may also be their way of being independent and feeding themselves, which may result in seeing how far they can push your patience by asserting control over what they do and don’t want to eat.
Generally, by the time the reach 3 or 4 years old being fussy will usually fade out. Be assured that their experimenting with food is a normal stage of development that they usually grow out of.
The best advice is to try not to get upset when they suddenly refuse their food, as it’s likely that they will come back to eating it at some point.
Your toddler weight gain will slow down after they turn 1 years old and this is normal with the change in their appetite. Most toddlers are generally good at regulating their own food intake, if you allow them to do so. The idea is to encourage, not demand they eat what you want them to eat.
Tips for managing mealtimes:
- Eat healthy food often and eat together as much as you can.
Toddlers learn how to eat by copying their parents and other children.
- Try to offer him the same food you have. If you like it, your toddler may be happier to give it a try.
- Eating together gives you the opportunity to give your toddler plenty of attention and praise when they’re eating well.
- Offer meals that includes at least one thing that you know they like.
- Allow your toddler the opportunity to choose something maybe on a set day or mealtime as they are more likely to eat what they have chosen themselves.
- Try to keep mealtimes to a set length as most toddlers eat as much as they’re going to in the first 30 minutes of a meal.
- Introduce new foods gently one at a time and try not to make a big fuss about it. Give them a taste before putting a whole serving on their plate, that way they won’t feel overwhelmed, and hopefully you won’t have to throw any away.
- Also, keep an eye on what they drink during the day as some toddlers have a smaller appetite at mealtimes because they’ve taken in too many calories from sweet drinks or milk.
If you still have any concerns about your child’s fussy eating, make an appointment with your GP or health visitor so that they can weigh and measure your toddler to check that they are growing well.