Baby's First Year · Nutrition · Parenting

Why won’t my little one eat?

An unimpressed-looking little boy sitting in front of a plate of vegetables

Does your child eat certain foods one day and refuse to eat them the next? Many parents often worry about this and ask me why it is happening. Young children are learning to eat; they are figuring out what they like and don’t like in terms of taste, texture, touch and smell.  

Take time to make eating a positive and enjoyable experience for your child.

What affects your child’s eating?

  • Growth: Children grow at different rates. There will be times when they grow faster and eat more, and times when they grow slower and eat less.
  • Independence: Children like to feed themselves and choose what they eat.  Trust that your child knows when they are hungry or full.
  • Feelings/Emotions: Just like adults, children are more likely to eat when they are happy or in a good mood. If your child is upset, tired or not feeling well, they are less likely to eat.
  • Distractions: Children may be too distracted to eat.  Remove all distractions during mealtimes so everyone can focus on their food and each other. This includes toys, books and turning off all electronics including the TV, tablets and cell phones.  
  • Taste: Children can have a natural sensitivity to taste, smells, and texture. Offering foods a number of times can help to increase acceptance. There may also be foods that your child truly does not like, and that is ok!
  • New foods:  Young children are often afraid to try something new. Offer new foods regularly and at different times and days.

Other reasons your child may refuse to eat include: trying to get your attention, feeling pressured to eat, and drinking too much fluid like milk or juice, making them too full to eat.

You may need to offer a new food up to 15 times before your child will try it.

Tips to help your child eat well:

  • Show them! Your child likes to learn from you and copy your behaviour. They are more likely to eat the foods they see you eating, so make sure you are eating a variety of foods.
  • Eat at regular times. Offer 3 meals and 2-3 snacks at regular times each day. Offer water between meals and snacks.
  • Make one meal. If your child refuses to eat what is offered, do not offer them an alternative. Try to offer one healthy food your child likes with the meal, so they will not be hungry.
  • Make food interesting and fun. Provide food in a variety of shapes, textures, and colours. For example, offer orange carrots, green cucumbers and red berries together for a colourful mix.
  • Keep mealtimes enjoyable. A child who is happy and in an enjoyable environment is more likely to eat and try new foods.

For more information on healthy eating habits:

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