10 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Eat Real Food

Posted by Ranie Denver on January 29, 2015

Vegetables don't appeal to toddlers as much as snack crackers and candy; any parent can attest to that. If he wont eat when you put your toddler at the table with a plate of recommended foods like vegetables, bread and meat, he doesn't need to be coerced, tricked or blackmailed into eating. There are easier ways to deal with it.

1. Eat the food yourself and enjoy it. Don't act foolish about it, but do mention when something tastes good.

2. Don't let the toddler snack within an hour or so of a meal. Their stomachs are very small compared to an adult's so they do get hungry between meals, but if they eat close to a meal, they will not be hungry for it.

3. A little hunger spurs the appetite so they will be more willing to eat what is offered. When a toddler eats a little bit every two hours or so, try to time it so he will be hungry at mealtime.

4. Have regular mealtimes. It's much easier to use the third tip if meals are always at the same time. You don't have to be rigid about it, but having a meal within 10 to 15 minutes of the same time every day will make it easier on both you and your toddler

5. Playing with food can get a toddler interested in it. Make faces with his vegetables, using peas for eyes, a carrot strip for a mouth and a piece of potato for a nose, or whatever your imagination comes up with. The way a popular pancake restaurant serves pancakes is a good example. Do yours the same way if you have to, then eat the nose with gusto. Make it fun.

6. Let the toddler "help" when setting the table or putting out the bread. Allow him to do it his way and don't criticize. He will be more of a participant in the meal.

7. Don't try to talk him into eating something he doesn't like, but do encourage him to try unfamiliar foods with the promise that if he doesn't like it, he doesn't have to eat it today. (Reserve tomorrow; he may change his mind by then.)

8. Don't trade off on food. Don't promise the toddler that he can have a piece of candy if he finishes his green beans. That makes candy more of a treat than ever and keeps it in his mind. If you absolutely have to blackmail him to get him to eat, use a piece of fruit, but promising something should be a last resort. Eating a meal should not be a chore to finish doing to get to something else.

9. Don't reprimand or discipline him for not eating what is on his plate. Encouragement and working with him a little at a time produces far better results. Disciplining him for not eating may set him up for a lifetime of obesity or other bad food habits.

10. Don't give him more than he can eat, then try to get him to eat it. A toddler's stomach is about the size of his fist. Look at that, then give him about that much food, but don't forget that liquids take up space, too.