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  1. #1

    How do you get a strong-willed toddler to eat a variety of healthy foods?

    I have a strong-willed toddler who will cover her mouth with her hands and simply refuse to eat any foods she does not recognize or has tried in the past and disliked. Her diet consists of mainly carbs such as waffles, cereal and pasta. I would appreciate any advice on how to persuade my toddler to try new foods. Thank you so much for your insight.

  2. #2
    Hi Jen,

    In your introduction you mentioned that your youngest child is 2 years old, so I'm going to assume that you're question refers to your 2 year old.

    If it's a food she has tried in the past and disliked, then I'd suggest that you change the way it looks (and tastes, to some degree). Let's say it was a piece of broccoli that you gave her, and she didn't like it. Sometimes children won't like the texture of something or they may not like the taste (or both).

    I would then try putting the broccoli into something you know she likes. If you know she likes a scrambled egg with ketchup on top, you could steam the broccoli well (to nearly a "mush" texture) and then chop it up really fine, and introduce just a small amount into her eggs. Or find something that's green, that she likes, and mix it into that.

    I'm really not a proponent of "disguising" food so a child will eat it because I think it's important for children to learn to eat and recognize healthy foods. But in this situation, you really do want to help your daughter to eat the healthy foods, first and foremost, and later you can work on helping her recognize the food in it's true form, after she has developed a taste for it.

    I know of a mom who had a child who would not eat the mushrooms and onions in the spaghetti sauce she made. So that mom sauteed up the mushrooms, onions and parsley, with butter and olive oil. When they were tender, she blended them with the canned tomatoes. She cooked up the ground beef and just mixed the blended tomato sauce (with vegetables) into the ground beef and served over pasta. He LOVED it and never knew he was eating mushrooms, onions and parsley.

    If you'll give us some examples of foods your daughter is rejecting, and a list of foods that your daughter really likes (try to focus on fruits, vegetables and proteins, as it looks like she doesn't have a problem with simple carbohydrates like cereal, pasta and crackers).

    Oftentimes children will be much more willing to eat foods that they've had a part in preparing. This works really well for 2-5 year olds.

    You'll find some ideas on foods that your child can help you prepare in the baby led weaning thread.

    Warm regards,


  3. #3
    Thank you so much for the response Kate. Yes, it is my 2 year old that is refusing new foods. My daughter refuses to eat meat, any vegetable besides corn and most fruit besides bananas. She will eat most carbs that are presented to her. I really appreciate the feedback - thanks!

  4. #4
    Hi Jen,

    Okay - so bananas and corn go right along with the carbs that she seems to be craving (craving to the point where she is refusing much of anything else).

    Would you say your daughter is underweight, overweight, or just right?

    Are you breast feeding her, is she on formula, cow milk, goat milk, or any kind of milk?

    Does she like juice?

    How much milk and juice is she eating each day?

    How does she sleep at night? What time does she go to sleep and what time does she wake up?

    How much does she sleep during the day?

    What would you say a typical day looks like for her (i.e. sitting, active play inside, active play outside)?

    Sorry for all the questions but my initial thought is that there's a nutritional imbalance that, if corrected, could allow her body to stop craving sugars and carbs so that she then is willing to eat more healthy foods.


  5. #5
    New Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    I am in a similar situation and am interested in the outcome of this thread....
    Want my
    Toddler to try new things especially veggies. The comments about nutritional imbalance caught my attn and want to know

  6. #6
    Hi PaulaC,

    Welcome to the Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond forum. I hope you find the forum to be a friendly, helpful online community where you can share your experiences and your questions.

    I noticed in your profile page that you are interested in experience regarding strong willed children. One of my son's has a wonderfully strong will and I have learnt to cherish it through this article from Little Hearts Gentle Parenting: The Gift of a Strong-Willed Child. I hope you find it useful too.

    How old are your boys? What are their diets like at the moment? What sort of food do they particularly enjoy? How about their exercise levels (not usually an issue with young boys I know!)?

    I look forward to hearing your response,

  7. #7
    New Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2016

    Thumbs up Our little o

    Thanks for the article - yes thanks a very good read. I love his strong will, he is confident and sociable and polite and clever as heck, now that he's a toddler he has learned that he can take control and so as parents i guess we have to learn too. Thankfully I feel good about how I'm handling parenting after reading, I am headed in the right direction I think

    I have two boys - 2y4m and 4m.

    When mr 2 gets frustrated he does let out a very angry loud NO! Which is hard to distract him from but we do our best to negotiate - tips and examples are always helpful.

    Regarding the questions, baby is breastfed so he's chill at the moment, it's mr 2 I mainly need some guidance with;
    Diet: well there are a handful of 'sure things' or 'go to' meals when we really want him to eat but every day it's a gamble, he might eat what we dish out he may not. We try giving him 'options' like what colour oats would u like today? Do u want bread or toast? So he feels involved but we limit his options as he's only 2 it's too much pressure I feel to just ask - what do u want to eat (I'm an adult and i hate it sometimes lol)
    Foods: fruit is a winner - bananas, strawberries, grapes, apples all winners. Also has oj when I freshly squeeze it. Drinks lactose free milk, water and juice. Likes yogurt and cheese, pasta (spaghetti and ravioli) is a go to. That's about it...He'd eat Nutella every meal if we let him. Plain bread is often ok. Also like sultanas. Liked corn at one stage, now not so much - I hide veggies in sauces I make. Has the odd piece of meat/sausage but not much.
    Exercise: not usually an issue as u say - lots of energy to burn, we've a big yard and he loves to run and climb and jump (everything bouncy is a trampoline &#128513

    We mostly offer dinner and if he doesn't eat we don't offer anything else but he loves to snack - I tell you what though I'm jack of wasting food! I sometimes just eat his leftovers instead of serving myself.

    Anyways that's us

    Thanks in advance

  8. #8
    Hi Paula,

    It was really good to read your reply. I must say what a wonderful mummy you sound You write of your parenting positively and confidently and I'm sure that this attitude will instill these same characteristics in your boys.

    It's great that your son enjoys fruit so much. You sound like you are being wise with his diet - giving him some choice and hiding veggies in sauces too. A roast vegetable sauce with pasta is always a hit in our house. We also use the slow cooker a lot - I find my kiddies like the meat when it is so tender, and you can cook it in vegetables for them to 'dip' (dipping is often a favourite with little ones).

    It's interesting that you mention that your son likes to snack. I don't know if you have come across Dr. Sears; he is a paediatrician who is a great advocate of gentle/ attachment parenting. Dr. Sears explains that meal-times can be difficult for toddlers because they have so much energy they want to be on the go all the time exploring the world, running and jumping. What can work better for a toddler is having a 'grazing plate' full of healthy snacks your toddler can access (at a low down surface) throughout the day. Healthy snacks could include: homemade hummus and vegetable stick dippers, steamed chicken pieces, pesto dip, fruit pieces, vegetable slices, dates etc

    Something else which can work well with encouraging healthy eating habits in little ones is to involve them in the cooking/ meal ideas. Homemade pizzas are great for this one and your son can design his own pizza topping.

    For healthy, kid-friendly recipes I like the baby led weaning website.

    In terms of saying no a lot this is very normal! Here are a great couple of gentle parenting resources on this topic: Aha Parenting (Dr. Markham) and another fab article for Little Hearts.

    Wishing you and your family the very best,

  9. #9
    New Member

    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Thanks for the hints and tips, I've started reading and have already found some good advice.

    Can I ask a question about eczema? Me 2 had it for a few months in his first year and now baby has it - also pretty full on (itchy and red).

    Is it caused by what I eat? Or the fact I let him try a bit of Apple? Should I hold off on introducing solids? Bub is 4months.

    Thanks again

  10. #10
    Are you exclusively breastfeeding? It is best if your little one has only breastmilk for the first 6 months of life. Any food that you give to your little one before this time is far less nutritious (in addition to the immunological properties) than breastmilk.

    Have you thought about whether to try spoon-fed weaning or baby led weaning with your little one?

    This resource is excellent about whether what you eat could cause a reaction in your breastfed baby.

    Warm wishes,

  11. #11
    New Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Thanks for the hints and tips, I've started reading and have already found some good advice.
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