Picky Eating in Toddlers

Picky Eating In Toddlers

Picky eating in toddlers is not uncommon but ask any parent, it can be frustrating and worrying when your little one refuses point blank to eat what is in front of them (or in the fridge, cupboard, etc.) In fact, there is nothing worse than tipping a whole plate of food into the bin and fretting about whether your toddler’s sleep will be disrupted after he eats nothing you prepared for dinner. If this is you, you are not alone – most parents will admit that their toddler is a picky eater at some stage.

It is important to know that most toddlers thrive regardless of how little they eat. Try to watch your toddler’s consumption over a week (not a day) – you will find that over 7 days he is actually getting some variety and quantity in. Toddlers eat most at breakfast (unless they are fed milk at night – which at this age is a no-no); they eat less for lunch and eat very little for dinner. This is a healthy way to eat, so do not battle to get quantity in in the evening.

If your toddler is a picky eater, you may be concerned about whether her nutritional status is taken care of. For most picky eaters, there is no nutritional deficit and no need to worry. However, if your little one is listless and tired or looks pale or is losing weight, you may want to chat to your healthcare provider about whether you should be concerned. In addition, Kath Megaw, a pediatric dietician, suggests delivering nutrients and calories effectively in small meals and snacks:

  • Fat bombs are concentrated sources of fats and proteins in a small bite. They are generally bite size cold snacks that can be popped in a lunchbox or offered at snack time. For recipes see p268 of Weaning Sense
  • Smoothies that include milk, yogurt, fruit, nut butters and coconut oil are easy to consume and contain good nutrients and proteins. Adding veggies such as spinach and grains like quinoa mean that a sweet fruit smoothie is fortified with goodness. P266 Weaning Sense
  • Fruit pulp ice lollies made with nut butter cream are a fun way to add protein and healthy fats to snack time
  • Boost a yogurt snack with crushed nut and seed butters and egg white powder
  • Finally, a toddler milk may be used for very picky eaters. Only one milk bottle per day – usually at bedtime is recommended at this age, otherwise you run the risk of ruining any appetite your toddler may have for meals


Feeding a picky eater can be soul destroying, especially if you have spent hours planning and making meals. Take the pressure off yourself and go for quick win foods and snacks – in this way you will bring less emotional energy to the table and your toddler may relax a little and surprise you by eating.

Meg faure

Meg Faure

Hi, I’m Meg Faure. I am an Occupational Therapist and the founder of Parent Sense. My ‘why’ is to support parents like you and help you to make the most of your parenting journey. Over the last 25 years, I’ve worked with thousands of babies, and I’ve come to understand that what works for fussy babies works just as well for all babies, worldwide.