How to Help Your Fussy Toddler Who Won't Eat Vegetables

Feeding toddlers can be really frustrating for parents, especially if you want your kids to eat a healthy diet. Today both of my toddlers seem to have forgotten that they love vegetables. They have turned into toddlers who won't eat. They have turned into toddlers who won't eat vegetables and will lie on the floor shouting and screaming about how "they don't really fancy vegetables today". Ha! This is not so unusual, but it does make me want to run to the hills and hide in a dark, sound proof cave.

Tonight it is vegetable curry that the toddlers have forgotten that they like.

Normal Toddler Behaviour

Life with toddlers can be tough in so many ways, especially when they won’t eat. It is difficult for them as well as parents. They are transitioning from ‘baby’ to ‘big boy or girl’ and they have SO much to learn, especially rules, communication and language skills. It’s difficult for everyone and on top of that, their eating habits change and suddenly you have a toddler who won’t eat.

Help! My toddler won't eat! 10 Great Tips to Transform your Toddler into a Healthy Eater

They change from ‘baby who eats everything’ to toddler who shouts “NO!” and shoves their plates away. Cups, plates, forks, spoons go flying whilst parents silently (or not so silently) scream in exasperation.

This is normal toddler behaviour. It is frustrating but normal.

Toddlers can be irritating, but you can still feed them healthy food. You can still start to teach them healthy eating habits.

Help Your Toddler Eat a Healthy

  1. Be Patient. I know it’s difficult to stay calm in the face of a screaming toddler but remember you are not alone. All toddlers scream and shout. That is normal.
  2. Keep presenting new and healthy food. It takes time for children to accept a new food. The first time they see it, they probably won’t like it. You just need to keep presenting it. (The norm is 10-15 times but some children take longer.)
  3. Toddlers tastes can change. My oldest used to love bananas. He’s nearly 7 now and won’t touch them. He can smell them in anything. He truly doesn’t like them now.
  4. Let them feed themselves. I know it’s frustrating and messy but exploring food is a great way for them to learn about the food and to learn how to feed themselves. If they ask for a bit of help that’s fine too.
  5. Don’t pressure them. Toddlers, like most people, don’t like to be told what to do. It will only serve to make them more stubborn. (There is lots of evidence that pressurising children to eat has adverse affects.)
  6. Don’t bribe them. You can have pudding when you’ve eaten your peas? Let’s face it, it’s just pressurising them in disguise.
  7. Learn to trust them. You choose what to offer them. They choose what to eat. When you trust them it’s much easier.
  8. Toddlers appetites can be erratic. 4 weetabix for breakfast one day, 1 strawberry the next. Or only veggies one day and carbs and protein the next. As long as you offer them healthy food it doesn’t matter.
  9. Offer variety. Research shows that the more variety you offer, the more variety they’ll eat.
  10. Prepare them. Get them used to the idea of strange foods before they are presented with them. Seeing them in books, playing with toy vegetables or the actual food (not at the dinner table) are all great ways to introduce them to foods so that when they see them on the plate they won’t be so strange.
  11. Help them. Sometimes, toddlers want to do things ALL BY THEMSELVES. Sometimes they want a cuddle and a bit of help. It's fine to help them if they are asking for help. Of course they need to learn a knife and fork but it's a balancing act. You don't need to help them all the time.

Toddlers Can Learn Healthy Eating Habits

It may be challenging feeding your toddler a healthy diet but you can start to lay the foundations of healthy eating habits at this really young age. Research shows that eating habits can start as young as 3.

Keep presenting them with healthy food and they will learn to love it. Of course they won’t like everything and they’ll still love treats but that’s fine. Treats are allowed. Just remember to keep them as treats and not as snack.

Toddler Remembers That Vegetables Aren't So BAD

I hold Sebastian's hand to comfort him. We start with a little bit of rice that he loves. Suddenly he finds a bit of carrot too. Oh yum. Before I know it, he's grabbed his fork out of my hand and is busy wolfing down his vegetable curry. "My like curry!" He says.

I smile. I know how frustrating toddlers are. If only I could explain that to him when he was screaming. I know he's can't listen to reason when his flight or fight response is triggered. He's too busy being chased by a big bear.

I clear the table away. All empty bowls, not a scrap left anywhere. (Galen picked out his eggplant but Celeste ate them for him.) Children, especially toddlers will always try our patience. But it is precisely patience and persistence that are the keys to teaching our children healthy eating habits.

How to help your fussy toddler who won't eat vegetables. Great tips to encourage your picky toddler to eat a healthy diet.