|‘I'm afraid my baby/toddler is not getting enough protein or vitamins because
she won't eat meat or vegetables’.
What it is:
Your baby/toddler will eat only certain foods, barely nibble on others, and flat-out refuse to try new dishes. Not only are you at your wits' end, but you worry that your fussy eater isn't getting the
Why it happens:
Picky eating is part and parcel of being a baby/toddler. As with many other perfectly normal but exasperating toddler behaviours, your child's growing need for autonomy and control is a major
contributing factor. Many toddlers are also resistant to change (trying new foods is a big-time
change), and some just have sensitive taste buds (preferring bland flavours for the time being).
What you need to know:
Hang in there. Your toddler will eventually outgrow his finicky tastes. If, however, you notice that your
child isn't gaining any weight or seems weak, lethargic, or unusually irritable, talk to your paediatrician.
What to do about it:
• Present your child with only healthy options. That way, even if he picks and chooses (and picks)
from what you serve, what he does eat will be nutritious.
• Ask him to join the "one-bite club." To be in the club, your child has to try one bite. If he refuses,
don't insist. But hey, you never know. He may be pleasantly surprised by how tasty it is, and one
bite may become two, then three, and so on.
• Indulge dawdlers. Many picky eaters are also poky eaters ("What's the hurry, Mom? I've got all day").
So be patient. When eating degenerates into playing, however ("See how I can smush my peas?"),
it's time to end the meal.
• Banish boredom. Change from finger foods to foods your child can practice eating with a spoon, or
vice versa. Make food fun. For example, ask your pint-size sous-chef to "help" you in the kitchen,
buy pasta with interesting shapes, use a cookie cutter to create sandwich stars or flowers, or
arrange the food to resemble a face or tree.
• Sneak in more nutrients. Hide chopped, grated, or pureed fruits and vegetables in familiar foods. For
example, add chopped broccoli to spaghetti sauce (your child can't complain about the green stuff
when it's hidden in the red); mix pancake or muffin batter with a small amount of pureed banana or
• Provide some control. By offering a choice ("Would you like some bananas or peaches with your
cereal?") and allowing your toddler to feed himself, you satisfy his appetite for autonomy.
• Don't fill up on liquids. Too much to drink between meals will leave toddlers too full to eat their food.
Aim for no more than three cups of milk and two of juice a day. At mealtimes, try to serve solids
first,then offer something to drink.
• Set a good example. Remember, children learn the most by watching what parents do. So limit your
own noshing and show your enthusiasm for good-for-you foods. ("Mmm…the tomatoes in this salad
are so yummy!")