My daughter is 15 months now and I'm not sure how to convince her not to pick out what she wants in a meal. Is she too young to understand that she should try what I put in front of her? I don't want her to think that she can just eat the 'good' food and leave the rest.

She is also unpredictable with what she will think is good and not, one day she will eat the vegetables and leave the bread and the next day she will eat the bread but refuse to touch the vegetables even if they are the same kind. If she doesn't want any of it she won't eat. Do I let her go hungry? I don't want to form bad habits in letting her just eat what she wants or giving her a separate meal if she won't eat what we are eating.

edited for clarification

asked 06 Jan '10, 18:43

nikjoyce's gravatar image

accept rate: 11%

edited 07 Jan '10, 15:21

My son was quite a fussy eater untill i started letting him help me cook. Check out this website for tips www.mydaddycooks.com.


answered 12 Jan '10, 17:05

Phil%20Seller's gravatar image

Phil Seller
accept rate: 9%


I love the idea of having them help cook.

(12 Jan '10, 18:24) nikjoyce

We discussed it between us and we are against the "eat everything on your plate" idea because we think it might contribute to unhealthy overeating, but we don't have any proof that's the case. It's just a decision we made.

We are content to let our daughter eat what she wants and leave the rest, but:

  • She doesn't get anything special (she has to eat what we're eating), except she gets milk
  • If she starts throwing it on the floor (deliberately), we take the food away
  • She doesn't get anything else after dinner

We figure, if we only serve her healthy food, whatever she eats is fine, and if she's hungry, she'll eat. I don't think one light dinner will hurt her, especially given the amount of other meals or milk in a day.


answered 06 Jan '10, 18:53

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
accept rate: 10%

Thank you. I also am against 'eat everything on your plate'. I am just hoping to somehow not have a picky eater. Sounds like you have a good system.

(06 Jan '10, 19:00) nikjoyce

+1 Our approach was similar. (One thing we knew for sure that we would not be running around after her trying to convince her to eat food)

(06 Jan '10, 19:08) Emi

This is what we do too. The health region here has a saying "You choose what your child eats, your child chooses how much".

(06 Jan '10, 19:22) Kate

We have followed pretty much the same plan with all our three. The first is a REALLY picky eater, the second eats anything (tv remotes, the wii remotes, clothes, lego etc) (he's 7!), the youngest is a girl and is somewhere between the 2 boys.

(12 Jan '10, 17:35) pipthegeek

I remember reading Touchpoints, where he says that at a certain age, children don't actually NEED to eat that much, and they are far more interested in exploring and moving than in eating, so he recommends just putting little bits of everything on their plates, and letting them come back to it.

Our experience with the oldest is that she would eat pretty much anything till around 15 months, then she spent 6 months being intensely fussy, pretty much eating only pasta or bread sticks. We just put extra vitamins in her milk and let it ride. Now (at nearing 5) there are still quite a few of the classic no-no veggies she doesn't like, but she eats lots of apples, carrots, and has a fairly balanced diet.

Children differ too, our younger daughter is far more inquisitive, she's up for tasting anything, even if she decides she doesn't like it, whereas her sister is much more conservative.

Overall, I would say the most important thing is to teach your toddler to ENJOY eating. We have a friend whose daughter is 6, and she just doesn't eat. Every single mealtime is a battle, every single mouthful is a battle. I strongly suspect it is at least partially because of her mother forcing her when she was younger.

Remember that food is an excellent weapon in the battle of the wills. This is one of the few areas where your child can exert his/her will and 'win', so you don't really want to go there. Our eldest daughter is far more 'fussy' when she is at home, and when both parents are present - because she can get more 'mileage' out of the conflict. Sometimes I suspect it's just a way to get attention.

Of course, we are also influenced by our own upbringing - "waste not, want not". My parents grew up in the post-war years, when being fussy was pretty much criminal. That doesn't mean that now we should be wasteful, of course, but we do perhaps need to rethink and justify our priorities, and what food and eating actually mean for us.


answered 07 Jan '10, 07:27

Benjol's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

My Mom says that there are 2 things you can't make a kid do. You can't make them eat, and you can't make them sleep, all you can do is make meal-time and bed-time pleasant, calm experiences so they want to do them. It worked with all five of us, and it's worked with my 4 kids too, well, most of the time.

(And since these are the 2 things that we can't control, they are, of course, what we obsess over the most!)


answered 31 Jan '10, 09:30

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

One thing that I have found has made a huge difference with my children is variety. They tend to balk at eating some foods if they have seen them several days in a row, or even the same meal several weeks in a row. I find this harder to do in winter when fresh fruits and veggies are scarce (at least here in Canada), so I get creative in how I cook them.

I find that weekly/monthly menu planning has helped me immensely here - that way I can keep track of how often we are eating certain dishes and make sure that there is a good mix.

I also ask them to help in the meal planning - for example they will get to choose what shape of pasta we have, what vegetable, how the potatoes are prepared...

My son has also started looking through the grocery flyer with me, and he gets to pick out some of the foods that we buy. In our case, he is more likely to eat the meal when it is something he requested. He is 2.5 and seems to take a certain pride in having contributed.


answered 31 Jan '10, 23:35

Krista's gravatar image

accept rate: 18%

I don't think that at any age it's a good idea to expect someone to "eat whatever is put in front of them". You wouldn't want to be told this, and even at a young age, kids are also individuals with real preferences.

Since you say, "one day she will eat the vegetables and leave the bread and the next day she will eat the bread but refuse to touch the vegetables," I think that the chances are good that overall she is getting a balanced diet. So what if she only eats bread one day and only vegetables the next day? Aim for a balanced overall diet on a week-by-week basis, not a meal-by-meal basis.

Some advice:

  • Give a good selection of healthy foods to choose from, and allow her to self-regulate how much she eats and which things. Kids will not starve themselves.

  • Don't get into the habit of preparing food for her that is not part of the adult meals. If she refuses to eat anything that's part of the meal, let her be hungry. She will learn quickly that it's in her interest to eat something. Assuming you have prepared something tasty and nutritious, if you give in and make something different just for her when she complains, this will just reinforce the behavior and lead to more complaining and pickier eating.

  • Make sure that in the long run, she has no choice but to be balanced. If she's refused to eat anything but bread for three or four meals in a row, don't provide bread at all the next time.

  • If you really think that (again, in the long run) she is not eating a balanced diet, I think it's fine to have rewards tied to eating well. Want dessert or TV? Sorry, you need to have had something from all four food groups today.


answered 07 Jan '10, 00:44

lgritz's gravatar image

accept rate: 14%

edited 07 Jan '10, 08:31

While you seem to be agreeing with me, the tone is judgmental. I think my answer is, "here's what we did and I hope that helps", while this is, "do this because I said so". Not sure why the SHOUTING is necessary either. You can use asterisks (single or double) for emphasis. People have a natural unwillingness to ask for help. We're trying to make this an inviting place where people feel comfortable sharing (if there were no questions, there'd be no site). Please reread this section of the faq: "What kinds of answers should I be giving here?" Thanks.

(07 Jan '10, 01:09) Scott ♦♦

Fair enough. Chalk it up to a rushed post and forgetful formatting. I've edited the post.

(07 Jan '10, 08:33) lgritz

This is similar to what our pediatrician told us when our kids were little. Don't look a just one meal, but look at several meals over several days.

(03 Jul '12, 14:20) mkcoehoorn

Our pediatrician told us when our kids were little that we shouldn't look at just one meal, but look at several meals over several days. If he is only ever eating bread then, yes, you should be concerned. But if in the course of 2 - 3 days he hits all the major food groups, then he is probably doing okay.


answered 03 Jul '12, 14:22

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accept rate: 8%

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answered 07 Jul '12, 01:26

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accept rate: 0%

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Asked: 06 Jan '10, 18:43

Seen: 10,841 times

Last updated: 07 Jul '12, 01:26