My two year old doesn't eat. Or seemingly very little. I swear our friends with children around a year-old or little less eat more then her or at least better. I'm not sure what we did or are doing wrong.

The other issue is she doesn't want to even try anything, not even one bite.


As a baby we exposed her to a wide variety of foods. We made her own baby food when she started on "solids". So she had vegetables and fruit etc.

What she eats now

Now though she likes very few things: milk, rice, peas (occasionally), meatballs, chicken, and for a time brocolli but now even that, yogurt. No potatoe in any form. No cheese. No sauce of any kind. Some select pasta. The sauce thing I could care less about. Thankfully she is almost equally disdainful of "bad" food (chocolate, cake, etc).

How we eat

We sit down to eat as a family every night for dinner at the table. No TV etc. She doesn't get options. It's a small amount on her plate cut up in little pieces. She helps set the table. She climbs into her chair. Then she doesn't eat.

She has a multivitamin every day, and she'd live on milk (3.25%) if she could. We try to limit juice intake as much as possible and she will drink water sometimes.


I've read in a lot of places that not really to worry, record what she eats across a week and see if she's getting all the nutrients she needs. I need to do this yet, but I'm fairly certain due to a complete lack of fruit and almost total lack of vegetables she's missing some important things.

Also, she's at the 25-th percentile for weight at last check, and our doctor has said that we can't just let her get away without eating. So I'm not comfortable with let her eat when she wants to. Also, if she doesn't eat any dinner, she gets hungry later, and will not go to bed, as well, she's hungry.

What can I do? What am I doing wrong?

asked 17 Mar '10, 00:15

Joe%20K's gravatar image

Joe K
accept rate: 0%

edited 17 Mar '10, 21:49

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦


You describe the evening dinner-time situation. Does she eat any better other times?

(07 May '11, 15:19) Meg Stephenson

It could be a lot of things. Sometimes it's just a phase (you didn't indicate how long this has been going on, or whether she's actually lost weight since she stopped eating), sometimes it's just the normal terrible-twos rebellion, and sometimes there is a medical reason for this.

We've had to deal with the first two of those situations, and have a nephew that has a medical problem with food.

In each case we tried several things:

  • Feed them what they are willing/able to eat. If that's just 8 glasses of milk a day, some fruit snacks, and cheese, then that's what they had because they were willing to do so - as long as they also took vitamins. We had one 18 month old that wasn't eating enough 'regular' foods and had already weaned himself. The doctor had us feed him whole milk all day long. We offered other foods to him as well, but the doctor indicated that whole milk had enough nutrition and calories that we needn't worry about feeding him other foods if he wasn't interested. That went on for several months before he really started eating more regular food than milk. Check with your doctor, but some one or two food diets are sufficient, and can get you past some stages of food problems.
  • Feed them on-demand. While it's convenient for us to be on a schedule, we were advised that for one of our kids that we should be paying attention to when they felt hungry, and satisfying it on demand. It seemed that part of the problem with one kid was he didn't associate the feeling of hunger and food. When he got grumpy we had to get him to eat a little, and eventually he recognized that he was hungry at dinner, rather than just grumpy and uncooperative.
  • Give them a choice. We tend to try to prepare only enough for the meal at hand, so you either like it, or you don't, but you don't have choices. This created a lot of friction, especially for independent minded toddlers. We've learned to provide several choices at most meals (while occasionally limiting it so they do have to get used to the sometimes-I-have-no-choice situations) and this give them a sense of control over what they eat. Mostly this is a "We can make you x, y, or z if you don't like what's on the table" but even if we prepare other foods in advance they are stored and used later so there's not much more waste.
  • Teach them about the consequences. At 2 this is hard, though, but if the above wasn't working I suspect we'd still go ahead and explain during dinner that if they didn't eat they would be hungry later, and later they might not a get a choice as to what they will eat.
  • We did have a few instances where we had to pull out the, "You can feed yourself like a big boy, or we can feed you like a baby. Your choice, but if you don't start eating now, then when I'm done I'm going to start feeding you." I think once or twice we even had one of them sit at the table in front of their uneaten (or slowly eaten) food until bedtime when they fought being fed.
  • We don't want them to be afraid of going to the doctor, so we never said this, but I think telling them that if they don't eat enough they'll have to go to the doctors to see why they aren't eating would work particularly well for some children.

We did have short phases where a kid would seemingly not eat for several days at a time - several bites at each meal, but these lasted for only a few to perhaps several days, and then they've be back to their normal self.

The above will really only help when it's a issue of motivation or independence.

It's important that you don't ignore the possibility that there's a medical problem. Keep track of your child's physical activity, weight, and intake. If they aren't consistently gaining weight, or if they are lethargic or sleepy most of the day, or seem to have frequent bouts of illness, consult with your physician about their diet and share your tracking information. 25th percentile isn't bad, and is generally well above the line needed to be diagnosed as Failure to Thrive, and due to the curve on the weight chart there's a big difference between 1% and 25%.

If your child is otherwise happy, active, and gaining weight, then they may well be eating what they need.


answered 17 Mar '10, 01:28

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%

edited 17 Mar '10, 03:23


She is active and gaining some weight. This has gone on since she started eating. So perhaps this will pass. Thanks for the advice!

(17 Mar '10, 01:48) Joe K

My first comment is it is not something you are doing wrong. When my son was 18 months he started to not eat his dinner, Fortunately he ate quite well at other meals. I took it as something I was doing wrong and my attitude made things worse. I think my reaction was compounded by being 4 months pregnant. My son is now nearly 4 and is a reasonable good eater.

Now my daughter nearly 2 has started the same thing. We are trying to be a lot more relaxed but I am also concerned as she is also on the 25%.

It is definitely a stage thing. Just about every child I know seems to go through this stage. I have read in several places (can't find any online support at present) that it relates to kids growth slowing and so their energy needs change. I also wonder some kids also realise that they can extert some control over mum and dad through food.

A few suggestions base on my experience or friends:

  • You say she eats meatballs, have you tried to add vegetables these.
  • Mix fruit into her yoghurt. You may need to puree it
  • We used give the kids milk with dinner now they have it after dinner, or at least after we have eaten our dinner.
  • Will she eat stuffed pasta i.e ravoli
  • My friend use to give her son toddler milk with extra vitamins etc when he went through this stage. -I know some parents who have a tray or container of food and allow their kids to snack through the day.
  • I also mix pureed fruit with my kids cereal at breakfast time.
  • Sometimes my kids eat more at lunch than dinner try offering vegetables and fruit then.

Hope this of some help. Just try not to let it get you down.


answered 17 Mar '10, 02:16

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

My son is at the 7% and they want him at the 30%. He won't eat dinner. So we just make sure the rest of what he eats is high in calories


answered 03 May '11, 12:11

Missybowers's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

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Asked: 17 Mar '10, 00:15

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Last updated: 07 May '11, 15:19