Toddlers can be difficult to predict when it comes to eating habits. Some days they may not eat much; while other days, they may eat all day long. They may like to eat one food every day for weeks and then suddenly start hating it. How much your child eats may differ from how much another child eats. But don’t worry. Picky eating is typical behaviour seen among toddlers. Your child is trying to practise his or her independence by refusing to eat.1

Common eating problems and helpful tips to manage toddler2


Refuses to eat

If your child is healthy, a skipped meal will not harm. Take away the food after about 15 minutes. Avoid forcing the child to eat, but remember to offer a healthy snack after some time.

Doesn’t try new foods

Continue to offer new foods and foods items that your child had refused in the past. He/ she may need to see and touch a food several times before trying. Avoid forcing the child to try new foods.

Eats only one food

Let your child eat what he or she wants, provided the food is healthy. Keep offering other foods at snack and meal times.

Plays with food

As toddlers learn by touching, give them some time to explore the food, to learn to use utensils. Sit with your child and eat slowly with the child. Creating a mess is normal, and it’s part of learning how to eat.

Eats only certain foods

Try to offer a variety of colourful and healthy foods but don’t force the child to eat.

Don’t eat vegetables

Keep offering vegetables. Toddlers usually prefer bright colours and crisp textures of raw vegetables compared to cooked vegetables. Try to be a good role model by enjoying eating vegetables. Offer them fruit as well, as they too contain nutrients.

Doesn’t eat what is served

Avoid preparing alternative meals for toddlers if they refuse to it. Include something at each meal that the toddler likes to eat. Set limits while being supportive. Offer something healthy 2 hours after a meal.

Eats only a few bites of the main

Try offering small portions of less healthy choices, e.g., cake or pastry along with some fruit.

Doesn’t eat all the food on their plate

Serve small portions and if it is finished, praise them and offer more. Look for signs that your child has had enough and take uneaten food away after 15-20 minutes without saying anything.


  1. When your toddler doesn’t want to eat[Internet]. Available at: Accessed on Feb 27, 2020.
  2. Cowbrough K. Feeding the toddler: 12 months to 3 years – challenges and opportunities. Journal of Family Health Care. 2010;20(2):49-52.