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What to Do When Toddlers Refuse to Eat

toddler in high chair refusing to eat



What if your toddler just says "No!" at meal or snack time?

Don't get upset.  

End the meal naturally and remind your toddler when the next meal or snack will be offered. 

This approach supports your toddler's feeding "job" of choosing whether to eat. 

Here are some other ways to respond when your toddler refuses to eat:

  • Allow your toddler to leave the table.
  • Wait until the next regular meal or snack time to offer food or drinks.
  • Avoid using dessert or other foods and drinks as a bribe for finishing food.
  • Avoid using food for comfort. Instead, play with your child or offer attention or affection.

Here are some questions to consider if you’re not sure why your toddler won’t eat:

  • Is he overtired, excited or sick? Try to schedule some quiet time.
  • Is she full? Check the amount of cow’s milk or juice your toddler drinks. They need about 500mL of cow’s milk per day. If you offer juice, limit to 125–175 ml (1/2–3/4 cup) of 100% juice a day. Too much fluid leaves little room for food. Water is the best for thirst.

Resources and Links:

HealthLink BC: Helping Your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler Eat Well 
HealthLink BC: Meal and Snack Ideas for your 1 to 3 Year Old Toddler

Last Updated: August 8, 2013