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How do you get a picky two year old to eat?

My son just turned two. He's always been a picky eater, but the last few weeks I've been lucky to get him to eat a banana and some crackers. I'm at my wits end. I offer plenty of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but he never eats anything. I try to switch it up so he doesn't get bored, and that doesn't help either. I've been told not to worry, that he'll eat when he's hungry, but it's been two weeks and he goes to bed almost every night without eating dinner! Does anyone have any suggestions?

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Asked by mikesmommy1117 at 12:10 AM on Jan. 21, 2010 in Kids' Health

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Answers (14)
  • he may not have a huge appetite right now. i know that some go thru stages where they eat like crazy and then go into a hibernation lol where they hardly eat anything! my son is almost 2 and is trying this out right now, he throws everything on the floor unless is has some kind of sugar in it he only gets water to drink and no snacks when he does this. i let him eat what hes going to eat, throw what he is going to throw and let him go on! i was aorried about him being hungry at bedtime but it didnt seem to bother him, and it surely didnt make him eat anymore then next day lol

    Answer by secondtyme520 at 12:19 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • you just described my son in a nutshell. i can't understand how a growing body can go days without anything but a few pretzel sticks...thanks for sharing your experience!

    Answer by mikesmommy1117 at 12:32 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • I call this the air-o-tarian phase. They all go through it. First, make sure that she/he is drinking water, so she/he doesn't get dehydrated.
    Most important, do not create a monster who only eats nuggets, mac and cheese and hot dogs.
    Just keep offering a variety of healthy foods, and eventually she/ge will start eating.
    Frozen foods are fun to play with, and will get eaten, like peas, blueberries and corn. Chunks of avocado and tofu are loaded with great nutrition, and are fun to squish between little fingers.
    I have never met a toddler who wouldn't eat hummus (lots of calcium, protein, good fats and iron), you can mix it with a mashed egg.
    Offer cut fruits with yogurt dip, fresh veggies with hummus or salad dressing, cooked whole wheat pasta and veggies with marinara or peanut sauce or cheese sauce


    Answer by rkoloms at 5:52 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • We use the 3 bite rule. You must try 3 bites of what is on your plate; if you don't like it, you fix yourself peanut butter and honey on whole grain toast with a kiwi or apple. Even my husband is expected to follow the rule.
    If you cave now, you will forever have a picky monster on your hands. I promise that your child will not starve. Parents who cave are part of the reason why one half of American children are both undernourished and overweight. One third of children born in this century will develop type 2 diabetes.
    Keep offering a variety of healthy foods; stop buying junk foods until the picky phase has passed. Make sure that you are setting a great example by eating a variety of healthy foods.

    Answer by rkoloms at 5:52 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • I agree with not getting into the habit of making pre-packaged chicken nuggets, mac and cheese etc in order to get him to just eat something. Keep offering a variety of healthy foods.

    Have you tried making some of the foods "fun". My preschooler is not much into chicken, but if I make my own chicken nuggets he loves them (boneless skinless chicken cut in pieces, dip in egg and coat with a mixture of whole grain bread crumbs and parmesan cheese ). I also make homemade french fries and sweet potato fries. Just cut the potato / sweet potato into sticks, put them into a bag to coat with a bit of olive oil and bake in the oven.

    Have you ever done the snack tray idea? Get an ice cube tray and put small bites of food in each cube. I do berries, diced fruit, pretzels, crackers, diced peppers, carrot sticks and dip, diced cheese. Sometimes for lunch we'll do small amounts of a variety of snack type food

    Answer by EmilyandIsaac at 6:40 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • Cont.

    We'll do a couple tbsp of yogurt in one dish, some grapes in another, a few wheat crackers with cheese, some applesauce and some chocolate milk. It's a complete meal, but more fun for them.

    Have you asked him what he'd like to eat? Are there some "for certain" foods? Ones you know he'll always eat?

    As long as he's acting normal I wouldn't worry too much (still energetic, in a good mood etc). Just make sure that the available food is healthy and that there aren't any unhealthy options. For your own sanity you might want to start preparing him things that don't go bad if they're left for a few hours. That way you're not throwing a bunch of stuff out and you're not having to prepare as much food. Just leave it on the table or wrap it up and put it away until he wants some more.

    Answer by EmilyandIsaac at 6:48 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • Here is my suggestion, although some are not going to like it...
    My son is almost 3 and we do this with him. I was an EXTREMELY picky eater growing up and now as an adult it is a henderence. Why was I a picky eater? Because my parents allowed me to be. I don't allow my son to be. He eats what is served to him or he doesn't eat. It is his choice. I refuse to make 2 meals. I know that sounds cruel, but it works. Why should we give in and reward bad behavior.
    NOW - with that said, that does NOT mean that there aren't things that he just doesn't like. I can tell the difference. If I KNOW he doesn't like something, then I don't expect him to eat it. I make a mental note and don't serve him that next time. But all in all - he eats what he is served or he doesn't eat.
    Toddlers are funny that way. As long as they have food offered - they won't starve. They will play us to get what they want. Just be strong!

    Answer by RutterMama at 8:05 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • I bribed with M&Ms. 4 bites equal 1 M&M. I would lay a couple out on the table in front of his plate to give him his goal to work towards, and the food would be what the rest of us were eating. No special menus other than, lets say, subbing out salad (which he has tried and really doesn't like) for carrot sticks and dip. He found out there were also sorts of foods he liked by having a little chocolate motivation to try it. =P

    Answer by karamille at 8:14 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • Offer lots of different fruits. Some days my son east 4-6 bananas other days he'll want some melon. Melon is really nice you could try that. Just offer different fruits and he will eat when he wants too.

    Answer by keyaziz at 8:56 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

  • tell him it's boogers. just trying to keep it funny, no harm no foul.

    Answer by GRANNYDONNA at 9:05 AM on Jan. 21, 2010

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