Tips for feeding fussy toddlers

If you’ve got a fussy toddler when it comes to eating, here are some tips to encourage them to eat a wider variety of foods.


It’s very common for toddlers to show an aversion to food. Your cherubic angel can turn into a food-throwing monkey – taking an almost perverse delight at dropping your lovingly prepared meals on the floor. From chicken to cheese, broccoli to brussel sprouts, sometimes there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind their fussiness. 

But the good news is that there are things you can do to encourage your little one to eat more and throw less.

Keep it simple

Don’t overwhelm your toddler with massive piles of food on their plate. They have such little tummies, and don’t need much – as long as you focus on nutritious food with every bite and aim for three meals plus two to three snacks per day.

Pair new with familiar

If your toddler loves eating eggs, then try introducing a new taste or texture along with their next eggy meal. For example, you could mash up some chickpeas to serve alongside a hardboiled egg. They are familiar with the egg, and may be more likely to try the chickpeas as a result.

Encourage exploration

Give your toddler one cherry tomato and let them explore it, squish it, lick it, do anything they like with it. Shower praise on your little one when he tastes something new; and talk to your toddler about the new foods you’re introducing. For example, “This broccoli grows in the garden next to your favourite, tomatoes.”

Be consistent

If other family members or carers are sometimes responsible for feeding your toddler, then make sure they are on the same page as you. If your strategy is to be firm and make it clear that this is the only meal they are getting until the next snack time, don’t let good-time grandma spoil things by sneaking in a bowl of his favourite yoghurt.

More do's and don'ts

Other tips to encourage more adventurous eating:

  • Eat with your toddler as often as possible
  • Develop a regular eating routine that works around naps
  • Try not to feed your toddler when he’s tired or hungry
  • Arrange for them to eat with other toddlers
  • Offer finger foods so your toddler feels in control of feeding
  • Turn off distractions like TV and move toys away from the eating area to create a calm, focused environment
  • Watch out for signs that they have had enough – like turning away or keeping their mouth shut, spitting food out, refusing to swallow, pushing their bowl or plate away, crying or gagging. Toddlers are naturally in tune with their internal hunger and satiety cues so it’s important to watch out for, and respond to, signs that they have had enough to eat.

And remember:

  • Avoid offering alternatives – your toddler will soon work out that they can get their favourite foods by refusing others
  • Avoid giving them large drinks at mealtimes or an hour before a meal
  • Avoid offering sweet rewards as this can develop into an unhealthy habit
  • Avoid showing your frustration as this makes it more stressful for both of you

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