How to get a toddler to eat (healthy) is a question that most people around a toddler (at some point) have asked themselves.

As a mom you are probably faced with many challenges and struggles. Daily. A mealtime battles are therefore not needed.

Forget big questions like “Was motherhood supposed to be like this?” or “What did I do wrong to create this kind of a cute mini monster?”. These can be truly overwhelming and make us feel as if we had and have no idea what we are doing as parents. Huh. Relax, we all feel sometimes like this and this is just a sign we need a little break and a short walk in the park.

Let’s focus now on the essential stuff to keep them alive and healthy. As much as pretzel seem to be magically loaded with nutrients, logic and science suggest that a toddler cannot survive on a single pretzel diet.

So, how to get a toddler to eat? I’m talking about the ones who do not eat by themselves or refuse to eat.

Here are our suggestions with the things that worked for us! Mealtime does not need to be a battlefield. We hope some these suggestions will help you too! Most important thing – be patient and make eating fun.

How to get a toddler to eat?

  1. First, let them play outside and get them really tired.
  2. Eliminate unhealthy snacks.
  3. Always ask them what they want to eat.
  4. Offer choices.
  5. Make a shopping list together.
  6. Do the groceries together.
  7. Cook together.
  8. Let them feed you or feed their favourite toy.
  9. Make food look fun.
  10. Tell them they will grow up strong and big when they eat healthy food

1. Get them physically tired

Sometimes, toddlers just do not get hungry, because they did not burn enough energy. Toddlers need a daily minimum of 180 minutes physical activity to feel good, sleep well and grow up healthy. In the winter, we all tend to spend too much time indoors and indoor gross motor activities are more or less limited. So, at some point, if your toddler does not get enough physical exercises, they will start losing appetite. Try to give them enough time and space to move and get physically active. After a long walk or run outside, they will feel hungry for sure.

2. How to get a toddler to eat? Eliminate unhealthy snacks

Try to eliminate unhealthy snacks from your and their diet. One of the reasons your toddler might not want to eat is because they ate already sweets, pretzels, chips… Instead offer apples, bananas and yogurt. You cannot expect them to eliminate the food you keep on your diet though.

How to get a toddler to eat?

3. Ask them what do they want to eat

One of the most important things to remember is always to respect your child. Respect their taste. You don’t need to turn mealtime into an enforcement and frustration. Give them the opportunity to choose their food and respect it. First concentrate on them willing to eat.

4. How to get a toddler to eat? Offer choices.

Offer them healthy foods they enjoy to eat. For example – you can ask them,

“Would you like tomatoes or cucumbers with your toasty?” Or

“Would you like mashed potatoes and spinach or carrots to your chicken?”

Always offer them healthy choices and respect their wishes. Never ever offer unhealthy food as a reward!

5. Make a shopping list together

A great way to show your respect is to ask them to help you with the shopping list. In this way they they can express their preferences and you can teach them about making healthy choices. We love to play a simple game called “Healthy or unhealthy?”. For example, you say “We need milk, is milk healthy or unhealthy?” They will be excited to answer “Healthy!”. Make it fun!

You can check for inspiration our printable Toddler meal plan with a shopping list.

6. Do the groceries together

To make eating fun includes also to do the groceries together. Let your toddler help you doing the groceries according to the shopping list you did together. Involve them in the decision making and make them feel in charge and doing an important job.

When you are at home, let them help you unpack and sort the food.

7. How to get a toddler to eat? Cook together

When ready, cook together a recipe you both choose and prepare a family meal. Praise their cooking skills and appreciate their help. Make them feel good about themselves and about eating healthy food.

8. Make food looking fun

Toddlers love eating fun food – try to make funny faces, animals or even stories. They will be happy to eat it!

9. Let them feed you or their toy

A fun way to get them to eat is to share their food with someone they love. You can let them feed you and maybe invite to the table their favourite toy. Share the meal and have fun.

10. Tell them they will grow up strong and big when they eat healthy food

Toddlers just cannot wait to grow up. Explain to them that eating healthy will make them help build muscles and grow up big and strong.

Always works with my little one!

We hope that helps!