When Your Toddler Won’t Eat

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If you have a young child, you’ve no doubt struggled with this: your toddler just doesn’t seem to be eating.  He’s not sick, and he is active, but his appetite just doesn’t seem to be there.  Should you worry?

Young children are notorious for going on “eating jags”.  For several days, they will eat anything in sight it seems, and for several days after that, they’ll just pick at their food.  With my first child, I obsessed over the amount of food she ate.  I actually kept a mental diary of her food intake!  I worried and fretted if she didn’t eat what I considered “enough”. 

I discussed my concerns with my daughter’s pediatrician and found out several important things.  Firstly, you should listen to what your child is telling you.  If she’s not hungry, don’t force her to eat.  It’s especially important to not feed your child junk food with the hopes of coercing her to get something in her stomach!  Not only is it not healthy, but it can backfire.  I’ve seen children who refuse to eat anything BUT junk food after their parents resorted to this strategy.

Secondly, it’s important to watch the amount of juice that your child drinks each day.  My child’s doctor cautioned me about this quite often and finally, I asked her why.  Some children will “fill up” on liquid calories.  They’d rather drink juice(which is naturally sweet) instead of eating their meals.  If you have a child like this, you may want to watch the amount of juice that you offer per day.  Instead of offering plain juice to your toddler, you may wish to dilute the juice with water.  I found that once I diluted the juice, my daughter’s interest in it faded.  Once she stopped drinking so much juice, she began to eat more.  My son is this way with milk: if given the choice, he’d rather drink milk and not eat.

It’s also “normal” for toddlers to ask for one food over and over again.  As long as your child is getting proper nutrition at other meals, I wouldn’t worry about this too much. My son is going through a toasted cheese stage right now.  Every day for lunch, he wants a toasted cheese sandwhich.  Based upon my experiences with his older sisters, I know that eventually, he will grow out of this stage. Because of my past experiences with my older children, I am not worrying about his toasted cheese habit too much.  Of course, I make sure that he gets enough fruit and veggies and other good food during the day.

Of course, if you have any concerns about your child and his or her eating habits, you should check with your pediatrician.  If your child is losing weight, you should also check with the pediatrician.  Otherwise, take comfort in knowing that “this too shall pass”.

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