Blog: Fussy Eating - Hints and Tips

When your child reaches toddler stage, their eating behaviours are very different from when they were a baby. Around 2 years old children can become fussy. This change can happen over time or quite suddenly. Either way it can be a challenge and as parents and carers, we need to adapt our expectations and behaviours in response.

Our fastest growth happens in the first two years of life, this means we need energy to support growing. Babies stomachs are very small, so they tend to eat little and often. As babies develop into toddlers their shape changes, which can cause parents to worry as it coincides with change in their eating habits. During this development, it is natural for children to appear slimmer. This does not mean that they have lost weight or are not eating enough. Remember, respond to signs of hunger and fullness through interpreting their body language and behaviour, and trust that they will manage their own appetite.

“If we try to persuade a child to eat when they are not hungry, this can switch off their own internal appetite regulation, so they no longer recognise when they are full, meaning they eat too much. For some children they may become anxious about eating if they feel pressures and refuse to eat. We all have days we are hungrier and days when we are less interested in eating so go with it.”

Katie Hill (Specialist Nurse)

To alleviate your own worries about this, try to reason that we are in a world of relative hunger, not actual hunger. The next opportunity to eat is always within hours, not days or weeks. If your child does not want the food provided, you can reheat it safely once if they want it later. If they still decline, don’t worry, the next meal or snack time is within hours and you can always bring that forward if you need to. One common parental concern is what happens if they decline the last meal of the day.  Don’t worry, they will have the opportunity to top up at breakfast time with no risk of negative impact on their health.

Check below the image on our top tips to supporting your child to develop healthy eating habits.

For further ideas and to download a PDF of the hints and tips (also available in an accessible version) go to Building Healthy Relationships with Food