Fussy Eating Toddlers

How To Handle Fussy Eating Toddlers?

Updated on July 5, 2024

Do you know the basic rules to handle fussy eating toddlers? Do you force-feed your children when they refuse to eat the food you give? It’s normal for children to like something one day but dislike the same food the next day, to refuse to eat new foods, and also to eat more or less from day to day. You should not worry much about such reactions from your children because children are likely to get less fussy as they get older. What about you? Do you eat anything that you don’t like? If you don’t eat, why do you force-feed your toddlers? Continue reading to learn more about fussy eating toddlers.

What are fussy eating toddlers?

Fussy eating (also known as picky/choosy eating) is usually classified as part of a spectrum of feeding difficulties. It is characterised by an unwillingness to eat familiar foods or to try new foods, as well as strong food preferences. The consequences may include poor dietary variety during early childhood.

How do fussy eating toddlers develop?

For several reasons, children can become fussy eaters. Many children are naturally more sensitive to the smell, texture and taste of food, especially junk foods. Some children develop fussy eating habits by watching their parents’ fussy eating habits. Also, children develop fussy eating habits when parents punish, bribe or reward them for eating as per their wishes.

Many parents force their children to try new foods. If children refuse to try new foods, they punish the children and this can turn new foods into a negative thing. If your child refuses to eat new food, do not force-feed, instead, calmly take it away and offer it again another time.

How To Handle Fussy Eating Toddlers? – Dr Chetan Ginigeri

A lot of mothers have concerned that their babies do not eat well. And if they are eating they don’t eat the right things. And somehow eating becomes a major issue of contention between parents, grandparents, and neighbours and the poor child keeps on suffering the forceful feeding that parents undertake for these children.

So my simple advice to all these parents is three basic rules that we look after with feeding your children.

3 Basic rules to handle fussy eating toddlers

1. Positive relationship between mother, child and food

The relationship between the mother, child and food has to be a very positive one. The moment force-feeding starts children develop an aversion toward food. The moment the mom brings food to the baby the first reaction is NO and the child will start getting up and running away. First thing, do not force-feed your child. The moment you start force-feeding the relationship goes for a toss.

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2. Interval feeding four times a day

The second and most important thing you need to realize is the stomach size of a small baby is equivalent to two to three times the fist size of the baby. That is all the stomach can hold. So what we tell parents is do not worry about the quantity your child is eating worry about the time and concentrate on the time. What it means is that you have to give your child four meals in a day. For example, 8.00, 12.00, 4.00, and 8.00. And once you start the feeding it should stop after one hour. That means if you start feeding at 8.00 it should stop at 9.00. And between 9.00 to 12.00 the child should not be offered anything other than water. What we end up doing however is that we try to feed the mother and child sitting with a bowl of porridge for hours together and then both are upset and both are angry. So give them time for feeding and if they do not feed even if it is one spoon or ten spoons stop after 1 hour. and in between do not feed and that is in scientific terms we call grazing. It kills the hunger for the next feed and children do not feel hungry at the right moment.

3. Do not get fixated on milk

The third rule that we tell parents is, do not to get obsessed with milk. Somehow Indian parents believe that if children do not eat well it needs to be substituted with milk. Milk per cent which is commercially available from the dairy comes in packets to your homes and predominantly it is one milk this milk is not healthy for a child. A maximum of 200ml per day is enough to meet the requirements of the child. Use other substitutes for milk, use curds, use cheese, butter, or paneer, but a simple big glass of milk which children are used to drinking and going to school is unhealthy, it does not give them enough nutrition. It fills up their stomach and completely kills their hunger for normal food. Do not offer milk to children as soon as they wake up. Make them eat a normal Indian breakfast. And milk, save it only for your post-dinner drink.

He previously heads the Children’s ICU at Narayana Hrudayalaya and then the dept of Pediatrics at PeopleTree Hospitals.

3 Basic rules to handle fussy eating toddlers

So three basic rules. Number one make sure that the relationship between mother, child and food is a positive one. The second rule is interval feeding four times a day, in between do not feed and do not allow the child to graze. The third rule is, do not to get fixated on milk. Milk once a day in the night post-dinner is enough. The rest of the time give solid food to your child. 

Importance of physical activity

The food which we eat converts into some form of energy that our body gets. If the body has less mobility, activity or less play or work then the demand for food is discarded by the body naturally. So playing is the most important activity a child should be involved.


Hope that you found the above three basic rules advised by the Doctor helpful to manage your fussy eating toddlers. Fussy eating is a bad habit and we should handle it properly. Feed your child healthy food and avoid eating junk food. Avoid giving them biscuits, snacks and other such items in between the feed time. It is the responsibility of parents to teach them good habits and break bad habits.

Recommended for further reading

Do you have a fussy-eating toddler at home?

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References & Credits: Dr Chetan Ginigeri, Consultant in Paediatrics & Paediatric Intensive Care at Aster RV Hospital, JP Nagar You can watch the video here.

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