7 Ways To Encourage Your Toddler To Eat

Take the battle out of mealtime

By By Rebecca Jaciuk, publisher of Macaroni KID Downriver Detroit, Mich. January 27, 2022

I've learned as a parent that sometimes toddlers just decide they aren’t eating, or don't want to eat what you're eating. That means mealtime can be quite the battle. I’ve put together a list of 7 ways we've found to encourage our toddler to eat healthy foods and what we've prepared for mealtimes. Hopefully some of my family's tricks will help you too!

A note about safety: Please be sure that any food you offer your toddler is age appropriate based on your pediatrician's or AAP recommendations, as well as your child's developmental stage.

Kara Murphy, Macaroni KID

A toddler buffet

I have never heard of this phrase, but apparently it’s a thing! Our pediatrician suggested this trick and we found it works! We use an empty ice cube tray and fill each spot with a different food: small bits of pancake or toast, cut up fruit, cheerios, puffs and other toddler-sized foods. My toddler loved the variety and the tray is the perfect size for toddler-sized fingers to reach in.

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Take your toddler shopping

I know taking a kid shopping can be ... well, an interesting time! But once my son was old enough to talk we had him help make the grocery list. Then he would go to the store with me and physically put the food in the cart, put it on the belt, and then put it away when we got home. Asking him for his help and giving him "power" to make decisions about his food choices made him feel important ... and later it made him excited to eat what we had purchased.

Get your toddler in the kitchen

DIY meals are a big hit. For instance, we let him roll out his own pizza dough then choose his own toppings. The first time he did this he ate two slices of pizza — a HUGE amount for him! We also let him help us prep food for meals. Along with washing and mixing, I bought kid safe plastic knives and a really cool looking (safe) chopper for him to use. He helps us prepare fruits and vegetables and choose how he wants things cut and prepared. 

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Garden together

My son helps us water our small garden in our backyard and pick veggies once they're ready. Last year he kept eating the tomatoes right off the vine! Don't have room for a garden? You can grow many vegetables right in pots!

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Change the presentation

In fancy restaurants, it's just as much about presentation as taste, it seems. Why can't that be true at home too? Presenting food in a different way can make your child look at it in a new way — and maybe give it a try! Serve pudding in fancy glasses, put a nacho bar straight on the table (with some foil underneath!), or make a funny-face sandwich. All are simple but different — and fun — ways to eat. Let your child pick how to serve your next meal — maybe you’ll eat soup out of a mug instead of a bowl today!

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Pay attention 

I have noticed that my son doesn’t like certain textures: Mashed potatoes and oatmeal, for instance. Some children don’t take to certain shapes or colors of food. Pay attention to what textures they don't like or any other proclivity and take it off the menu for a while — then try again in a few months.

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Make a charcuterie board

My kid absolutely loves a good charcuterie board. This method works for us for lunch. I try to switch what’s on it each day so he’s not getting bored with certain foods. We sit on the couch with our charcuterie board and watch TV sometimes. It's just a nice way to give him choices — and something we enjoy eating together!

Rebecca Jaciuk is the publisher of Macaroni KID Downriver Detroit, Mich.