How to Deal With Your Toddler’s Picky Eating and Tantrums

18 Months-2 Years

Providing healthy food options for toddlers can be exhausting, especially when they’re picky eaters. While it can be challenging at times for parents, positive food parenting is worth the effort because what and how you feed your toddler today can help shape her eating habits for life. Studies show that a child’s eating habits are hardwired by the age of 3.

Help your toddler grow into a healthy eater with these helpful tips.

Dealing with a picky eater

At 18 to 24 months, your toddler is communicating with you more every day, including loudly sharing her thoughts on how she feels about what she’s eating and drinking! It’s natural for her to not like certain foods, especially the first few times they are offered to her. Many kids need to see a new food 10 to 15 times before trying it and liking it, so keep offering a variety of healthy foods.

Other things you can let your toddler do to encourage her excitement about the food you’re preparing include:

  • Helping out in the kitchen
  • Picking out veggies at the grocery store
  • Rinsing fresh produce
  • Mixing ingredients in a big bowl
  • Tearing up greens for a dinner salad

Setting a healthy meal and snack schedule

Let’s be honest. When life is crazy busy, a meal schedule for your toddler can feel overwhelming and burdensome. While you don’t need to bust out a spreadsheet, a simple meal schedule can make your life a whole lot easier.

Aim to serve three meals and two to three healthy snacks around the same time every day. Being consistent will help your toddler know what to expect when—which can help prevent hunger-induced tantrums.

Handling a full-blown meltdown

Yup, we’ve all been there. That moment when your toddler throws a full-blown temper tantrum in public. Whether it happens at the grocery store, library, mall or park, it’s natural to feel like you want to crawl under a rock and hide. Skip the judgment and know that not only has every mom been there, your child’s food-flinging might be happening because he’s hungry. Sometimes, a growth spurt or changing appetite can be satisfied with a regular schedule of filling, nutritious meals and healthy snacks.

Offer him two to three healthy snacks a day that can include:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Veggies
  • Whole-grain breads, crackers or pasta
  • Lean meats
  • Low-fat cheeses

If your toddler refuses to eat a meal or snack, don’t stress; you know there will be another chance to eat in a few hours, and you can calmly remind him of that too. Remember: His body will let him know what it wants, but he needs you to help him learn to listen to those cues.