Toddler Won't Eat and then Holds Out for Snacks!

  • My son won't eat much at breakfast, lunch, or dinner and then suspiciously is available during snack time. I am trying not to give in to my rule of "no lunch--no snacks", but it is getting hard. How do you manage to get your toddler to understand that they need to eat healthy food---not just snacks? - Bonnie, StrongMoms Facilitator

  • Well, my boy does the same. I have started taking away crackers/carb snacks. I find that he just lives on those if I let him! I decided that he really doesn't need them in his life anyway, so he has a bunch of fruit/veggie options with dips, peanut butter, etc. for snacks. At least I don't feel guilty if he snacks on those things instead of eating his main meal. He protested at first but now he is eating a wider array of stuff. Just hold firm - you can do it! 

  • Ah MommyRN, the food challenges have started.  This is really typical at his age, and the hard thing is that you have to set your limits and stick to them.  I find that this is REALLY hard around food issues as-we know that he needs food to live and there are so many issues in our society round food.  My inclination is to suggest that you stand your ground.  It's really hydration that we have to worry about the most and so long as he is drinking it's ok to hold your ground on meal times and no snacks for a few days.  You have to watch though that he isn't then filling up on milk and juice and not eating.  One thing that I often tell parents is that the bigger deal that you make out of food, the bigger deal that it becomes.  Make three meals, put him at the table and I would set a kitchen alarm for a determined amount of time.  Then if he doesn't eat meal time is over and just move on, new activity.  I find that with any toddler behavior there is a three day learning curve in which it's the hardest and then things get easier.  The trick is that day one is semi rough, day two can be a lot better and you think you have it made until day three when things are really hard and the child is really resistant. Day three would be a good day for mom to have some support in the house.  So dad's in the house or aunties-someone to help mom stay strong.  Day 4 then typically is a lot better and things improve from there on out.  Hang in there and let us know how we can support you!  -Jess

  • Well my first response was a lot like Jess'es responce only mine was way more direct... apparently too direct so i will give it another go.... I grew up in a household where you ate what was put at the table or you didn't eat for that meal regardless of age you were not catered to as a general rule. It was not made a big deal of if you didn't want to eat, but you certainly wasn't getting anything special if you went that route. As we got older there were more strict rules like if you don't have dinner then you can't have desert and same for lunch. if you didn't eat lunch then you couldn't have cookies as a snack, but we could have carrots or something like that. These guidelines made us realize that not eating didn't get us what we wanted... infact it was just the opposite. I am in no way suggesting that you don't offer food to your child, just don't give him what he wants if he is being stubborn. If you cater to him now; then he will expect it later. Not to mention like Jess said (and me in my denied post)  He will be ok if he misses some meals or snacks. as long as he is hydrated he will be ok. I know from experience that he will not hold out for so long that he is going to starve, when he gets hungry he will eat.

  • Thanks...I think that he is filing up a little on milk which doesn't help. I am trying to limit his milk a little bit so that he is hungrier at lunch and dinner...that seems to be helping.