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Solutions for Toddler Feeding Problems

Experts offer tips for parents of picky eaters.

Dilemma: I've noticed that my toddler doesn't eat very much at mealtimes. What should I do to improve my child's food intake?

Solution: In this case, your child may not necessarily be a picky eater. Grazing -- characterized as near-continuous nibbling or drinking, or both, throughout the day -- may be to blame.

"Grazers are often full when meal times roll around," says Delmonico.

Discourage grazing by loosely scheduling healthy meals and snacks. Think of snacks as mini-meals, and serve the same foods you would at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, such as whole grains, lean protein sources, fruits, and vegetables. 

When you serve healthy foods for snacks, there's no need to be concerned if your child skimps on the next meal. 

In addition to offering an array of healthy foods throughout the day, trust the cues your child is giving you about her hunger level.

"Kids instinctively regulate their appetites by eating when they are hungry and stopping when full," says Neville. 

Dilemma: It seems as if my toddler hardly eats anything at all. How do I know my child is OK?

Solution: During the first year of life, children typically triple their birth weight and add upwards of 10 inches of height to their frames. Growth slows down after a child's first birthday, and so does appetite.

"It's not unusual for kids to go through phases where it seems they barely eat enough to get by," says Neville. 

The good news about this toddler feeding problem? Left to their own devices, children typically tend to eat what they need. However, some children may not be getting enough for a variety of reasons.

To allay your fears, ask your pediatrician if your child is growing well according to measurements (head circumference, weight, and length) on the growth charts. You may need to consult with a registered dietitian about your child's eating habits. 

Reviewed on October 17, 2013
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