How to Take the Stress Out Of Toddler Feeding       

There is no doubt that parenting toddlers is a tricky business. It’s true that toddlers are amazingly cute (which is just as well really) because they can also be extremely frustrating. Pretty much every 5 minutes. Each mundane thing that you want them to do – get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, leave the house, all of these seemingly easy tasks can turn into a battle of the wills.       

Yep, that includes feeding your toddler.       

It’s quite normal for us parents to find that our toddler won’t eat.  Before we know it, feeding our toddler has become a distressing experience for everyone. Mealtimes turn into battlegrounds and stress levels rise.

And did I mention that we want to help our children develop healthy eating habits? So that means healthy food as well.


A Healthy Diet for Toddlers:   

I’m going to presume that you know all about toddler nutrition.  A healthy diet for toddlers isn’t much different from a healthy diet for adults. Think lots of fruit and vegetables and less packaged food, and you’re on the right tracks.                                  

But even if you present them with the most delicious and healthy food, there is still a chance that your toddler is going to throw it across the room at you, and scream and shout and howl.                                      

That’s all normal toddler behavior. Frustrating, yes. But also normal.                                  

So what are parents supposed to do? (Other than lose their minds and go to meditation class?)                                 

You have one main job.

You need to present healthy and delicious food at regular intervals throughout the day. And that’s pretty much it.


A Healthy Eating Routine:                                  

Just stick to natural meal and snack times. Most people eat breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and then dinner.                                     

If your routine isn’t exactly the same, don’t worry. Work out what routine works for you and your family.                                      

Then present your toddler with their healthy food. You get to choose what you offer. They get to decide what they eat and how much. Don’t be tempted to pressure, bribe or cajole. As tempting as it is, remind yourself not to. Just trust them to eat what they want and to explore new foods and tastes. If they pick out the good bits and leave other bits, that’s fine. Keep presenting lots of healthy fruit and vegetables and less packaged foods.                          

If they don’t want to eat anything, they’ll probably be hungry later on. A little bit of hunger isn’t a bad thing. Don’t be tempted to cave in and let them eat an entire packet of cookies. They can wait until the next healthy eating time when you’ll offer them some more delicious healthy food.

Presenting New Foods:

Presenting new foods to kids can be really stressful. If you’ve made it the entire meal, they don’t like it, refuse to even try it and you’ll be left with screaming and starving children. This is not the zen parenting that I’m after! It can take up to 15 times of actually trying a food before kids decide whether they like it or not. And that’s not counting the 15 hundred times that it sits on the side of the plate untouched.

Here’s what I’ve learnt about presenting new foods (the hard way)…

  • I never make it the whole meal.
  • I give them options (not their favourite food but other things they can eat if they want to).
  • I use my poker face. I don’t want them to know that I desperately want them to try it. When they do try it, I do a silent happy dance (in my mind).
  • I give them a tiny bit so they are not overwhelmed. (My favourite is to present soup in an espresso cup. So cute!)
  • I prepare myself for the fact that they probably won’t eat it, they probably won’t even touch it. That’s fine. It is up to them to choose what they want to eat.

A Few Toddler Tricks and Tips:

Offer fruit and vegetables first.


Keep fruit in sight and treats out of sight in cupboards. (I know they quickly learn where the treats are, but if they can’t reach them and they can reach a bowl of apples, they’re more likely to eat the apples.)                                     

Toddlers appetites can be erratic. 5 bowls of pasta one day, 3 crumbs the next, is normal toddler behavior. If you’re worried about their intake, keep a food diary for a few days to see how much they’re actually eating.                                      

Don’t expect them to like or even try new foods. Just keep presenting them with patience and persistence.                         

Toddlers Will Be Toddlers:                                    

Life with toddlers is never going to be totally stress free. There will always be times when despite your best efforts, your toddler is screaming. Keep presenting healthy food and don’t enter into that battle of wills, which you won’t win. This advice is easy to understand and much less easy to implement, especially when you’re faced with a screaming toddler. But if you keep presenting your toddler with healthy food options, you’ll be well on the way to teaching them healthy eating habits.


Dr Orlena Kerek is a pediatric doctor. She is the creator and producer of SnottyNoses, a family and parenting site. She is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle in children, especially healthy eating habits.                                      

She has published a book Crunch! about how to help your children eat a healthy diet and her second book on feeding toddlers is due out at the end of August 2016. It will be offered free for 3 days at the start of the launch, so sign up if you’d like to be reminded nearer the time.


For more information on healthy eating on the go, sign up for my Free Real Food Mini Course or check out the full Real Foods Made Easy Program.

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2 Responses to How to Take the Stress Out Of Toddler Feeding       

  1. Denwcahill says:

    Much needed help

  2. Denwcahill says:

    Good help

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