Should you force your toddler to eat?

Oct 21, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. ET

When it comes to eating toddler foods, your youngster seems to have an opinion about the fare he feeds on. But does your picky eater have you concerned about his toddler diet and nutritional needs? Instead of fighting him or encouraging overeating, get tips and tricks to taming your toddler's eating habits.


Toddler diet concerns

When it comes to toddlers and eating, it's a losing battle for parents of finicky eaters. Although no toddlers have been lost to an all-chicken-nugget diet, you want your toddler to consume a healthy diet. According to, toddlers need to consumer about 1,000 to 1,400 calories each day through a mix of grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans. Foods rich in iron are also important for a toddler's growing body.

Stock up on the 10 healthiest foods your kids need to be eating >>

Encouraging picking eaters

Unlike adults, your toddler's food choices are just as much about will as they are about a discerning taste, so convincing your kiddo to try new foods can be tricky. "It is said that it takes a toddler to see a new food item 19 times before he/she will try it," offers Boston-based pediatrician Thomas M Seman, M.D., FAAP of Instead of engaging in a battle every meal, Dr. Seman suggests you put the food on your own plate and begin to eat it, making it seem more like a treat for your kiddo. "Once the child realizes that he or she likes it the child will most likely eat more."

In addition, avoid associating food and behavior, do not introduce too many new foods at once and limit snacking before meals to increase the likelihood your child will try new foods.

Discover 5 healthy recipes for picky eaters >>

Toddler overeating

At the other end of the scale, childhood obesity makes headlines -- the philosophy of "cleaning your plate" is a thing of the past. "One in three children are/will be overweight by the time they are teenagers," warns Dr. Seman. "This is mainly due to unsupervised or regulated eating when young. Children who are presented with 'real food' such as fruits and vegetables when very young, drink lots of water and are encouraged to exercise will be more fit and less likely to be obese." Avoid pressing your little one to eat more than he wants to. It's simply your job to offer him a variety of healthy toddler food choices.

Keep in mind that your child is not the one stocking the pantry, so healthy food choices begin with you. Before adding vitamins or supplements to your toddler's diet, get the green light from your pediatrician. Don't lose too much sleep deciding whether you should force your toddler to eat - soon his picky toddler food phase will be over, and he'll be eating you out of house and home as a teenager!

Get your toddler to try new foods

How To Get Your Toddler to Try New Food

Learn tips from a toddler expert on how to get your toddler to try new food

More on picky eaters

Should you give in to your child's picky eating?
5 Healthy recipes for picky eaters
5 Steps to turn your picky eater into a foodie

Age 14 Age 15 Age 16 Age 17 Age 18 Age 13 Age 12 Age 11 Age 10 Age 9 Age 8 Age 7 Age 6 Age 5 Age 4 Age 3 Age 2 Age 1 baby pregnancy