The trials of toddler eating.

I’ve now weaned 2 munchkins and both of them have been through fussy stages. One of them is still there. That initial weaning part is something I find fun. Messy but fun. I love watching small people try new foods, learn about textures and experiment with what foods does. Both of my children have eaten practically anything at this point. Miss K wouldn’t eat Wasabi (cruel mum alert – it was in hummus, I didn’t think it through, but to be fair she did eat chilli), the J-boy doesn’t like leeks and neither of them have liked lettuce. 

Toddlerhood is another matter. Suddenly around 15-18 months your “fairly happy to eat what I’m given” person turns into a “I’m going to refuse things that look healthy and that you know I normally eat” person. I’ve now weaned 2 munchkins and both of them have definitely had their fussy stages. It is so, so easy to take these stages as a personal affront to your cooking. To get frustrated and downright annnoyed when they tip a delicious plate of homecooked lasagne onto the floor without even trying it. I’ve been there. I’m still working through it. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason to it – That same lasagne was eaten quite happily the next day. Sometimes there is a very valid reason for their fussiness and sometimes it makes no sense at all. Here are some reasons your little one may be in a fussy stage.

Dietitian UK fussy eating in toddlers

Why I am being fussy mummy:

1. My teeth hurt. Teething has always had an effect on my munchkins eating. It makes perfect sense. If your mouth is hurting why would you want to eat certain foods? Miss K would eat anything in a puree form. The J boy refuses to eat vegetables and just wants softer, suckable foods like rice cakes, cheese, yoghurt. It’s at times like these that I have to get inventive.

2. I’m not feeling well. They can’t always tell us what is going on can they. I’ve found in the past that after getting slightly frustrated that small child has not eaten well at dinner, they suddenly keep me up most of the night with a temperature. 

3. It’s just a stage. Some children can alter they way they eat in response to a developmental leap or it could be they are trying to express themselves  or test out a boundary. I know when I am stressed or anxious it can affect my appetite. When your child is learning a new skill or going through a growth spurt it may affect their eating in the same way. Perhaps they want more of your attention and know not eating is a way to get it? Maybe they just want to see what happens if they refuse to eat things? It will all pass. 

4. They are learning something. In developmental leap periods children can become fussier with their food. If you brain is on slightly overload at one end it can lead to other areas being affected. There is a wonderful app called The Wonder Weeks that takes you through these stages and explains what can happen when your child is in a “leap”. 

5. They just want to see how you react. What will mummy/daddy do if I don’t eat something? Do I get a reaction? Being consistent and calm is so the key here. “Keep Calm and Carry On”. 

Top Tips:

Don’t show them that it gets to you! Trust me I get frustrated but I  remind myself that there will be a reason for the fussiness and use my “mummy poker face”.

Keep on offering a range of foods. Don’t assume because they didn’t eat it the other day that they have a dislike for that food. One day they will eat it, one day they may not.

There is no need to cook a different meal. If your little one is choosing not to eat then that is ok. My toddler boy seems to hardly eat anything for lunch. A nibble of a cracker and a spoon of hummus can be his lot. They all make up for it somewhere. 

Extra veggies can be added into snacks and meals by grating. I often grate in courgettes and carrots or stir in frozem spinach to muffins, cheese biscuits or main meals to boost the nutrition in them. Offer vegetables in different forms at different times. My small boy will eat a mountain of raw mushrooms when I am cooking dinner for example.

Relax. All children go through fussy stages. In the main these are just stages. They will pass. Keep on offering nutritious meals, plenty of variety and ride it out. 

Finally if you are at all worried then chat to mummy friends, they usually have the best advice and do get in touch if you need some extra support. 


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One thought on “The trials of toddler eating.

  1. Fussy eating in children is really common, but for most children it’s just a phase. It’s important to keep re-offering foods, so that children have opportunities to learn to like different tastes and flavours. Seeing others eating a variety of healthy foods is also really important for establishing healthy eating, so eat together with your child whenever you can. Finally, never force a child to try a food. Instead, gently encourage them to pick up, smell, lick or taste a food. If force is used, mealtimes can become negative experiences for all involved, and this means that it is then much less likely that children will be willing to try new foods. More information and evidence-based support is available on our website:

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