Nutrition for Kids' Life: How to Make Your Toddler a Great Eater (WO1006)


November 17, 2015 - Beth Olson

When Feeding your Toddler

Serve healthy snacks and meals

  • Use smaller portion sizes for your toddler. If your toddler is still hungry, offer another small portion.
  • Have regular meals and snack times.
  • Offer a variety of foods and let your child choose how much he will eat of any food.
  • Do not use dessert or treats as a reward or punishment.
  • Sit with your child when he eats. Your toddler will enjoy your company.

Trust toddlers' tummies

  • Watch for signs that your toddler is full such as playing with food. Some playing with food is okay because your child may be exploring the new foods offered.
  • Respect your child’s likes and dislikes.
  • Serve food in forms and textures your toddler can eat by himself.
  • Remember, toddlers prefer simple foods that they know. Serve a new food with a food your toddler already knows and likes.

Common Food Concerns and Suggested Actions

Child is not willing to try new foods

  • Be a good role model by trying new foods and eating healthy meals.
  • Give your child one new food at a time, with foods they know and like.
  • Offer small amounts of the new food at the beginning of the meal.
  • Let your child touch and smell food before tasting it.

Child has a poor appetite

  • Try serving five small meals and 2-3 snacks daily, instead of three larger meals.
  • Offer small servings of colorful and attractively prepared foods.
  • Involve your child in choosing and preparing food.
  • Place food in small dishes, bowls and cups.

To Help You Both Enjoy Eating


  • encourage trying new foods
  • expect spills
  • set up a mealtime routine
  • treat your child the way you want to be treated
  • turn off TV when eating 


  • force new foods
  • overload the plate
  • force your child to finish all the food on his plate.
  • get angry at the table 

Expected Behaviors and Skills

Twelve to eighteen months

  • Eats a variety of foods
  • Likes eating with hands
  • Uses spoon and fork awkwardly
  • Drinks from a cup
  • Wants foods others are eating
  • Tries various behaviors to see how you will react

Eighteen months to two years

  • Displays food likes and dislikes
  • Likes familiar patterns and routines
  • Likes trying foods with different textures
  • Is easily distracted
  • Uses a spoon and fork with more skill
  • Has a very clear idea about eating or not eating

Choking Dangers

Young children can choke on food. Watch your child while she is eating, and prepare food in small and easy-to-chew pieces. 

Foods that often cause choking are:

  • Hot dogs
  • Hard candies
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grapes
  • Large chunks of any food such as meat, cheese, raw vegetables and fruits, peanut butter

Further Information


Ellyn Satter. Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense.
Go to: How to Feed Children 11-36 months: Feeding Your Toddler
Children’s Nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters


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