Struggle feeding my toddler

Dear sir/Madam

my son is 16 months old I struggle feeding him. He just wants to eat fruits or biscuits and sweets. I am a good cook so I am trying every day a different dishes but he refuse even to taste when he was young I made sure to let him taste every thing. He refuses to eat any fish. I struggle to make him have regular meals because of his appetite. Your advice is much appreciated. ( please can you give me as well some ideas of healthy baby breakfast?).

Kind Regards

Tony Diaz

1 votes(Highest rated answer)
Hi Ghada,

The reason why your son is refusing not sweet flavour could be that food like fish has a very different flavour, and that is why he refuses to eat the rest of the foods.

Fruits are so beneficial for him, so if he likes them, that is fine (include berries later in time). In the case of biscuits, if they are home-made (for example, home-made oat biscuits, low sugar) that would be also a healthy option. As you are a good cook, that shouldn't be a problem ;)

You can try to provide him with the food he likes, even sweet food. Then, decrease gradually the amount sweetness of the food until it is just slightly sweet. Then, It is more probable he will accept different flavour like fish or vegetables flavour. Anyway, you have to keep trying different food combinations and preparations, as it really depends on the case.

For breakfast, I will simply say that you don't have to limit yourself to cereals + fruit baby food. This has been a very common until nowadays. You can choose literally any healthy food he accepts. Also don't grind the food too much, as that is not good for his teeth.

Joanne Jackson

0 votes
Hi Ghada, firstly if meal times are becoming a problem try to stay calm. Toddlers often go through a developmental stage where there like to assert themselves by saying "No!" This includes refusing food. As a parent it is your responsibility to provide healthy food but it is your son's choice as to which of those healthy foods he will eat and how much.

Food quantity is a tricky one. A toddlers appetite will fluctuate from day to day. It's best not to extend meal times and try to coerce your son into eating. Praise him when he is eating rather than being upset when he isn't, to ensure that meal times are a pleasant experience.

Offer food at regular intervals with one small snack half way between meals, so that your son feels hungry before a meal. Try not to offer any extra food at other times. Limit milk and milk products to 3 times per day and offer water to drink between meals. At each meal and snack try to offer something that you know your son will eat in addition to new or less favoured foods. Praise him when he eats and don't show signs of anxiety/stress when he doesn't.

Make a list of all the foods that your son eats over a week and check that he is eating foods from all the food groups (such as: starchy foods - bread, rice etc., fruit and veg, dairy - milk, yogurt, cheese, protein - meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses, and fats - oily fish, olive oil, and cakes/ biscuits (the latter should be kept to occasional foods).

Be a good role model yourself so that your son sees you enjoying healthy home-cooked foods. Involve him in the shopping and cooking.

Elizabeth Cooper

0 votes
Hi Ghada
Children go through different stages and although your son is refusing certain foods now keep persevering, as if we repeatedly give a child a food he or she doesn’t like, in fact around about 15 times, then eventually they will start to like it as their taste buds adjust. The key is not to give up, no matter how tempting it may be. Also, if you associate a food your son doesn’t like with something he enjoys then the chances are he will find it easier to eat it. For example, if you give your son fish before each visit to a play centre then he’ll start to associate fish with a place he enjoys and should eventually come to see fish as a positive food, as it’s the food he gets to eat before he goes off to play!

Involving your son in making the meals he eats can also be a helpful way of encouraging him to eat. Let him use all of his senses, encouraging him to taste the different ingredients, smell them and touch them, even throw the food around and have fun with it, within reason!

Certain textures can also be a problem at this age so you could try preparing the same food different ways and seeing if it makes a difference. For instance, try serving the same food when it’s mashed, blended, chopped etc., and it could be that it’s not the taste of the food he doesn’t like but how it feels in his mouth.

For healthy breakfasts, try porridge with stewed apple and cinnamon, buckwheat pancakes with berries (sweetened with a little apple juice), omelette soldiers (omelette cut into slices) or a smoothie (mix some fruit such as apple, berries and a bit of banana with some leafy green vegetables, avocado and some almond butter, so it tastes nice but he’s also getting a good range of nutrients from it).

Maria Mitchell

0 votes
Hello Ghada

I can sympathise as my son was also a very picky eater. At 16 months your son is still discovering new tastes and textures and it is natural for children to opt for sweeter foods choices.

Offer him food at regular times and try's to limit the amount of sweets he has, try introducing sweeter vegetables such as peppers or cherry tomatoes, introduce foods slowly and try not to be too worried about what he eats as children will pick up on any anxiety and if you keep reintroducing foods eventually he will start trying things.

I also find that children will copy your behaviour so if you are relaxed about meal times and eating the same foods he will be more likely to try what you are having.

Also make sure you involve him with preparing foods even if this is just adding blueberries to porridge or mashing foods as this will increase his confidence for trying new things.

One of my breakfast favourites is eggs, try making mini frittatas you can add in grated vegetables or even flake in small amounts of fish, children also like these as they can feed themselves and in my experience mini potions sizes work better with toddlers.

Good luck.

Sharon Scott

0 votes
Hi Ghada,

Thanks for your question.

Please be assured that this is normal behaviour at this age and although it is extremely frustrating for you after spending time cooking a delicious home made meal for your family only to see your son refuse to eat or even taste the meal please don't give up as you are doing the right thing and consistency is key. It can take several attempts offering the same foods before your son decides to try them.

I have also been there with my son and understand how difficult it can be.

I have listed below a few ideas that may help:

Setting a schedule for meal and snack times evenly spread throughout the day. This may help to support routine. At 16 months it is optimal to offer him food around 5/6 times a day around naps. His stomach is small at this age and little and often is a great approach to support his nutrient needs.

Finger foods - a variety of finger foods can be a great way to make food fun and let him play with food and familiarise himself with the foods before trying. Berries, hummus, pita bread/bread sticks, tomatoes, cucumber, raw pepper, cheese, chicken are a few ideas. Keeping it plain and offering foods one at a time. This may take several attempts before he tries the food but you can introduce new foods this way alongside foods that you know he likes.

Try a picnic on the floor with a blanket. Take him to the shops with you and let him pick some foods for the picnic. Make food fun and when he tastes a new food offer praise.

Rather than offering sweet treats as an incentive to eat savoury foods, sticker charts can be a great incentive for a young child. For every new food eaten a sticker could be added to a wall chart.

A great way to include fish is in a homemade mini fish cake.

Some good breakfast options to try:

A boiled egg and soilders followed by grapes.
Scrambled eggs with toast followed by apple slices.
Porridge with milk and berries.
Home made pancakes and strawberries.
Home made granola with oats and raisins.