Parenting Matters: Tips on toddlers’ eating habits

Many parents become frustrated with the eating habits of their toddlers. Some things are worth trying but many times it is just best left alone. Let’s look at what is worth trying.

One of the first and easiest ways to handle a fussy eater is to set a good example. Don’t talk a lot about what you are eating. Just eat what is front of you. He is likely to do the same. It is amazing what setting an example can do.

If he is fussy, make it fun. Serve foods such as broccoli and other veggies that he can dip in a favorite sauce. Try putting out something he can spread or smear on the food you want him to eat. Tell him about the avocado boats on his plate or the broccoli trees. Cut apples thinly into apple moons. Banana wheels are usually appealing and so are cooked carrot swords that are thinly sliced. Cut other foods into interesting shapes with a cookie cutter. Serve brightly colored foods.

Disguise the food in a drink. It is easy to throw some fruit (banana or apples) in a blender with some juice and you have a special smoothie. Even if it takes a bit of yogurt or ice cream to make it look especially appealing, it is likely to catch his interest.

Turn off the television or the other electronic gadgets during meals. You want him to focus on what he is eating. Leave the television on and he is likely to see a commercial for a sugary desert.

If you expect him to eat dinner at night, don’t let him eat all day. Stick to a routine where you serve meals and snacks at about the same time every day. Don’t let him fill up with juice or milk all day; try to offer mostly water between meals and for snacks. Have snacks finished at least a couple of hours before you plan on dinner.

When you can, involve him in the cooking process. He can add the water you measured or the seasoning you show him how to add.

Remember young children have small tummies. Remember this as you are dishing out portions. Remember “the bite rule.” At least take one bite to try out the food.

Don’t argue about food at the dinner table. In fact, don’t argue at the dinner table. You don’t want to do this with your toddler or your teenager. If you have a problem that may cause an argument, save it for another time.


Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.


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