Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

In the past weeks my 17 month son has become fussy and is refusing some meals.

My son, who is 17mths old used to be a very good eater but for the past 4 weeks he has become very fussy and refusing meals altogether. He goes to nursery Monday to Wednesday but always has breakfast at home with me which is usually Weetabix. He eats well at nursery – they have a snack at about 9am which will be fruit, toast or something similar, lunch at about 11.30 which will be proper cooked meal followed by dessert then about 3-3.30 he will have a light snack for tea which will be sandwiches, scones or crumpets. When he comes home I usually serve him a proper meal at about 6pm which will be soup, quiche and vegetables, pizza, spaghetti bolognese which he refuses. It is getting really frustrating now as I am worried he is not eating enough. I know everyone says if a child is hungry they will eat but I still worry. What makes things worse is he has a cousin 3 months younger and everyone always compares them. Although my son eats more, his cousin looks bigger, although he is not as active as only started crawling few months ago and not walking. So I am stuck on ideas on how to get him back to his old ways and I also worry he is underweight!? I think he weighs between 25lb 10 oz – 26 lb and is about 86 cm in height? Also at nursery he sometimes has seconds of lunch and dessert whilst at home he refuses both? – I am beginning to think I am doing something wrong.

He naps from 12.30-2pm and is settled at night by 7.30pm. He sleeps through the night to 6.30am.

Toddlers of this age can become quite fussy and picky about meals. Your son is obviously walking so will be on the go all the time. It would make you think that he would need more food to keep going now than he did before. But the opposite seems to often happen. A toddler’s appetite decreases and he seems to need smaller meals than those he may have been eating a few months ago. It is always a worry to see meals being refused but a small child will not starve themselves. Providing he is full of energy by day and sleeping well at night try not to worry about it too much. Comparing him with his cousin will only worry you further. Accept that your son may be an entirely different build and body make-up to his cousin. Children develop at different rates. Your son and his cousin will go through growth spurts at different stages despite being so near in age. When they are grown up they may have totally different body shapes.

A toddler who is walking well will begin to lose his baby shape and thin down a lot. Now his body is using more energy than a child who is only crawling.

When your son comes home from nursery he must be pretty tired. Just as an adult does, your son will need to eat but will need something easy as well as tempting. Try to think of more things which you can give him which he can eat with his fingers. Goujons of chicken and fish can be made at home and given to him with a dip of some kind. Omelettes, frittatas and pancakes can all be eaten with fingers if cut up into small pieces. Use cooked vegetables, cheese and small flakes of fish to add to them. Individual pizzas can be made and decorated to look like a face to tempt him. As he will have eaten well at lunchtime, and had some carbohydrates at 3-3.30pm, he won’t need a large meal at 6pm but something easy to eat.

There is an interesting case study in The Contented Child’s Food Bible, p152, which is about a toddler of 14 months and how the contents and amounts of her meals needed to change slightly when having meals at nursery.

Don’t be tempted to pile too much on his plate. Offer him a small portion of food on a larger plate. This will not be so overwhelming to him, especially if he is tired. Give him lots of praise when he does eat this and very gradually increase the amounts, but don’t expect him to have a very large appetite at any one meal. Toddlers rarely do unless going through a growth spurt.

Look at your son’s food intake over a week rather than on a day-to-day basis and you will see that it balances itself out. Some days he will eat better than on others. On one day he may only have two servings of carbohydrates but on another he may have four to five. It averages itself out if he is offered small but nutritious meals and snacks.

Your son does still drink quite a bit of milk, which is fine, but if you also add up how much he has in cooking and puddings he is well up to the daily maximum of 20ozs recommended for this age. Although drinking milk is to be encouraged, too much can take the edge off the appetite. On his nursery days he sometimes has milk at 3.30pm. This, along with his snack, will fill him up so he won’t be so hungry for his supper at 6pm. Finding things he can enjoy at supper may take a bit of time but you will discover that he probably eats quite a bit if he is given easy to hold finger food.

If you would like to know the daily portions recommended for a child of his age look in The Contented Child’s Food Bible, page 105.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

My 13 mth old has started to refuse food. I am not sure which strategy to use so he eats more.

My son is 13 months old and has recently discovered how to point blank refuse food. He is happy with spoon feeding and is not particularly interested in feeding himself as he won’t eat any finger food I give him. He offered food at set times, breakfast at 7am, lunch at midday and tea at 5pm. I offer a mid morning and mid afternoon snack but he’s not usually interested and it ends up on the floor. So he should be hungry by the next mealtime but he refuses to eat. He will occasionally drink milk but if I left him without food, he would be quite happy! Clearly this is very frustrating as all the meals I cook end up in the bin and I am sure he is not getting enough calories. I know that it’s not the taste of the food as if he doesn’t like something, he will gag but these are all foods I know he is ok with. He has an issue sitting in his highchair and sometimes ends up on my lap but even though will only eat a tiny bit. We have resorted once or twice to feeding him in the lounge in front of the TV but even that is tentative and he is extremely fussy about eating. Up until the age of 1 he was wonderful and had really good meals – now it has all changed and I don’t know what strategy to use. Distraction doesn’t seem to work any longer. He is quite happy to eat if I give him a ready-made jar of pudding but he can’t eat fruit jars for all meals.

He takes 10 ozs of milk in the day and naps for a total of 2.25 hrs. He sleeps well at night.

Your son’s behavior is very typical of many toddlers at this age. It seems to happen almost overnight that they change from eating well into refusing most of the food offered to them. This is a perfectly normal, if somewhat frustrating, phase of toddler hood.

After the first year a toddler’s growth rate slows down and their appetite also decreases. They can become quite picky and fussy as to what and when they will eat. At 13 months a toddler is very interested in the world. He is constantly on the move, either crawling or walking, and wants to find out about everything. His attention span is short so it is not surprising that issues begin to arise over sitting in high chairs and having to eat meals.

The way you deal with this phase can either hasten its passing or possibly cause real food fights to develop.

Your toddler will be well aware of any pressure being put upon him to eat. His likely reaction will be to refuse; the more he is pressured the greater his capacity for refusal. Also, the more he is coaxed, bribed or force fed the more likely a long term problem may develop.

Keeping a food diary, noting exactly what he eats and drinks over the period of a week, will give you an overall picture of his intake. At this age he may eat little one day but the next day his food intake will be much better.

Providing you offer him healthy well balanced meals you will probably find that his average intake over a period of days is sufficient to meet his nutritional requirements. If you feel that his intake over the period of a week is well below the recommended amounts for his age then by all means seek medical advice.

Already you are keeping to sensible meal times. Until your son shows more interest in eating at these times don’t offer him snacks in between. A toddler only needs a snack if he shows signs of hunger well before his meal time. At this age even the smallest snack can take the edge off his already small appetite and the next meal will be refused, so setting up a vicious circle.

No small child will starve themselves. As adults, we often have unrealistic expectations of how much a small child is capable of eating. Watching their endless energy we feel that they must need to eat more to keep them going. Offering them very small meals which look appealing means the food is far more likely to be accepted than putting a larger amount in front of them. They will be overwhelmed and refuse to even try.

Use a dish which is divided into sections. By separating out all the ingredients to his meal, rather than offering them all mashed together, he is more likely to want to try those which attract him. Offering a small but wide selection is better than just one or two larger amounts. For instance, by using a divided dish you could offer him a small spoonful of shepherds pie, a few pieces of chopped carrot, a sprig of broccoli and a teaspoon of peas. This may be received with more enthusiasm than one bowl with two or three spoonfuls of shepherds’ pie mashed together with peas.

Although your son is not showing much interest in finger feeding yet, you may find he is far more likely to have a go at feeding himself if you separate out his food and make it look attractive. Whilst he is busy trying to finger feed himself peas you may be able to feed him several spoonfuls of shepherds pie, without his really realizing. Using finger food to distract him is a far better idea than using the TV as a distraction or chasing after him with a loaded spoon.

The habits you install into him now regarding sitting down in a certain place for meals will help you as he becomes more mobile and wants to run about. If he really does not want to sit in his high chair any more then use a booster seat at your main table. Eat at least one meal a day with him. Your son may be far more willing to eat if he sees you sitting down and eating at the same time. If possible, try to eat the same food as him so he begins to understand that meals are social occasions as well.

Try to remain very matter of fact about his food refusal. It can be very frustrating when you have spent time preparing a nutritious meal only for it to end up in the bin, again. Your frustration and trying to persuade him to eat will be stressful to you both. By all means continue to prepare him healthy meals which you know he has enjoyed before. Serve a very small portion in an attractive way on his plate and have a positive attitude when telling him that it is meal time. “Look, it’s lovely broccoli trees and fish today”. Before his meal, spread newspaper or a washable mat beneath his chair and cover him with an all-in-one bib. Offer him a spoon and invite him to help you. Place his bowl in front of him so he is able to see what is being offered. His first reaction may be to put his hands into the food. That is the normal reaction for a child of this age who wants to explore everything he can see. Don’t comment on this or try to prevent him. Load a spoon and offer it to him. If he refuses, either by turning away or clamping his mouth shut, accept he is not yet ready to begin. Leave the dish in front of him and see if he is willing to try picking up some of the small pieces of vegetables you have prepared for him. Although meals are social occasions, by focusing on him and what he is doing all the time you could be creating another reason for his refusal to eat. Watch what he does but don’t always talk to him in a constant stream of conversation. If he does put a sprig of broccoli to his lips then casually comment,

“Oh, I see you have found a broccoli tree; well done”. If he continues to try the vegetables then have another try with your spoon. If he refuses to take the food from the spoon again ask him if he would like to do it himself. You may need to help him guide his spoon into his mouth but the more you let him try on his own the quicker he will pick up the skill. Some toddlers like to have their spoon loaded for them and then they pick it up and feed themselves. Other toddlers of this age may like a baby fork to try stabbing at the vegetable pieces. If you load a fork for him, again he may feed himself.

In the beginning it will be messy. By the end of the meal he may well have food in his hair, ears, and nose and there will also be quite a bit on the floor. Be prepared with clean damp flannels to wipe him over once he has finished. It can be quite difficult not to keep wiping a toddler up as they are feeding but leaving it until the end, if possible, will be far less disruptive to him.

You are quite right to not want every meal to end up being a jar of ready made pudding. A toddler of this age is quite capable of refusing everything put in front of him if he knows that in the end you will offer him the jar of pudding that he finds really easy to eat.

Although it is hard to let your toddler finish a meal whilst seeming to have eaten very little, this is the only way you will stop the habit of him holding out for the jar which appears if he has refused everything else. This may mean a day or two of him having very little food. Remain calm but determined to see this phase through. Continue to offer him meals in the way described above. After about 20-30 minutes finish the meal if your son is showing no more interest, even if he has eaten hardly anything. Just take the food away, clean him up and let him get down. Don’t offer him a snack unless he is showing signs of being really hungry long before his next mealtime. Offer him the next meal in exactly the same way. Place the meal where he is able to see it. Section it out into very small portions and let him try what he wants of it in his own way. Taking away the pressure to eat “one more mouthful” is the best policy. It is not an easy one to carry out, but it is the only way to stop this problem becoming a real issue.

Take a look at Gina’s Contented Baby to Confident Child, page 95 onwards, where this issue is discussed at length. Food fads do pass if dealt with in the right way. Keep looking at your son and his boundless energy by day. His intake may appear small to you but, providing he sleeps well and is active all day, his food intake is sufficient for his needs at this time.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

My 13mth son has become a fussy feeder. How can I improve this?

My son of 13mths will not eat protein. I have tried to disguise it by mincing and adding it to dishes. Since moving house one month ago he is refusing most foods and only accepting those he likes and knows. Previously he was an excellent feeder. I know can only get him to eat bread, rusks, cereal, lentil soup and apple.

I am keeping meal times happy, trying lots of finger foods and different recipes but we seem to be getting no where. Could you suggest some ideas? Should I reduce his breakfast?

At present he takes 7ozs of milk at 7.15am followed by 5/6 tablespoons of muesli or ready brek mixed with chopped fruit and 3ozs of milk. A dozen dry shreddies and 2 mini rice cakes. He is offered very well diluted juice all through the day. Lunch at 11.50am is a slice of cucumber, a piece of brown bread, an apple and a biscuit toast. He takes 4ozs of milk at 3pm. Tae at 5pm is lentil soup, rusk and yoghurt. My son has a further 6ozs of milk before bedtime.

Your son is at an age where fussy eating can become a problem. After the first year a baby’s appetite does decrease quite a lot and it can be worrying when a baby refuses foods that were previously accepted. Try keeping a food diary as this will help you look at his food intake over the period of a week rather than day by day. If you see the full picture you may find that, apart from his unwillingness to take in protein, he is eating a balanced if somewhat limited diet.

Cutting back on breakfast is a good idea. Begin to offer him milk from a cup at breakfast rather than having a 7oz feed before the meal. Offer him natural yoghurt mixed with cut or grated fruit and a few finger foods. When dealing with a fussy eater it is easy to keep offering food throughout the day in an attempt to make him eat something. However, stay with three meals a day until he appears happier to eat a wider variety of food. Only offer him a snack mid-way between meals if he really seems hungry. Keep snacks to fruit rather than breadsticks or bread which may fill him up too much before his next meal. Watch his fluid intake which could also be knocking the edge off an already small appetite. Offer him a drink of well diluted juice mid-way between meals. Remove his cup once he has had a drink, rather than leaving it in sight where he may sip on it throughout the day.

By the age of one year a baby needs a minimum of 12ozs of milk, including that used on cereals and in cooking. Cut out the feed you are offering at 3pm and replace it with well diluted juice. This should help increase his appetite for tea. If you stop offering him cereal at breakfast give him a small bowl of cereal after his savoury tea so you know that he has had enough carbohydrates to see him through the night.

Once you have cut back on his breakfast you may also find your son more willing to try something different at lunch time. As he likes bread and rusks try spreading them with a casserole recipe. Begin with a very small amount and gradually increase it so he gets used to the taste. It can take time to get a baby interested in food again. Keep using finger foods and offer them with dips such as thick cheese sauce. Lentils are a form of protein so your son is receiving a small amount if he continues to enjoy the lentil soup and you may be able to enrich it by adding a very small amount of grated cheese. Take a look at the question and answer on page 127 of the Contented Weaning Guide which is similar to your own problem. You may also find the Contented Child’s Food Bible a useful read as this gives you the exact portions a baby of this age needs. It is easy to overestimate how much a baby can be expected to eat over the course of a day.

Make sure the food you are offering him looks attractive as this may encourage him to try different things. Giving him small amounts of several different foods, laid out in an attractive way, could appeal more than one or two foods mixed together.

There are several cookery books on the market which have ideas for “picture” food. One of the best is “First Foods” by Miriam Stoppard. It can be fiddly to prepare these foods but they may entice your son to try different things as the food is presented in the form of a picture. Things such as a train or car made from small amounts of finger food may encourage him to try new tastes.

Make sure you eat at least one meal a day with your son as he may be encouraged to eat more if he sees you enjoying the same meal. You are right to keep meal times happy as a baby will quickly pick up on any tension you may be feeling about his small appetite. Make meal times short and just remove any uneaten food once it is obvious your son has finished. If, despite your continuing efforts, he still seems to reject most forms of protein discuss your concerns with your health visitor or doctor.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

My 13mth son eats well but only when he is distracted which make mealtimes long and stressful.

My 13 month old has always eaten what I have cooked. He doesn’t have a problem with new tastes or foods but he has a serious problem with eating without being distracted.

As soon as he has had a couple of mouthfuls he turns away, moans and reaches out in the other direction. If we get to touch his lip with the spoon he will open his mouth and eat it but this doesn’t last long so we resort to all sorts of toys as distractions. As soon as he is distracted he will eat the whole lot but this can be a nightmare and can be very frustrating especially if we want to eat out anywhere. I can’t quite remember how it started. I think it was after he had been poorly and was refusing food and when we gave him a spoon or other object he would eat and it gradually got worse from there.

He is not very good with lumpy bits either and often spits them out. He will chew food if he takes it in his hand. If big bits are on a spoon I think he tries just to swallow it.

Do I stop the toys altogether and if he refuses, take him out of his high chair and hope he will get the message ? If so, do I not let him have anything to eat until his next meal i.e. no snacks? I don’t give him many snacks anyway and if I do they are usually good snacks.

My son has a 7oz bottle morning and at bedtime. He has Weetabix or porridge and brown toast at breakfast. He eats a home cooked lunch and tea. He will have a little fruit puree or yoghurt to end his meal. His snack maybe a goodie bar.

He naps at 10.45-11.45am and 3.45-4.15pm. He is settled at 7.30pm.

Now is the time to get your son more involved with feeding himself. This can be messy and take time but he will be more interested in his meals if you let him become more involved. A 13 month old has a very short attention span. He is probably on the go all the time when not sitting in his high chair and being fed. Distracting him with toys may mean he eats his food but he is not learning the vital skill of spoon-feeding himself.

Cover the floor under his high chair with a plastic sheet or newspaper. Use the best all-in-one bib you can find. It may be easier if you remove any jumper or sweat shirt he is wearing so you can use a bib with sleeves. Be prepared for the mess which is inevitable when a baby first begins to feed himself. Have one or two clean face cloths nearby which are washed after every meal. Put his food into a bowl which has partitions. You can buy plastic ones which can be suctioned to his high chair tray or his high chair may include a portioned tray insert, which is ideal. Have plenty of spoons and baby forks to hand as some are bound to end up on the floor.

Although your son does not appear to like lumps when he is spoon fed he seems able to cope with finger feeding himself. Begin to offer him his meal laid out in separate amounts so he can see and choose what he eats. For example: using a bowl with divisions, place a spoonful of chicken casserole in one section, some chopped green beans in another, a few pieces of baby corn in another and a spoonful of mashed potato in the last section. Offer your son a spoon or baby fork and show him how to spear a piece of chopped chicken or bean. His first attempts may not be very successful but this is a skill he will learn in time if given the opportunity. Whilst he is busy trying to feed himself you may be able to pop in one or two spoonfuls as well. Try to make sure all his meals contain food which he can easily cope with, even if he ends up using his fingers most of the time. Accept that food will end up in his hair and ears and mop him up from time to time as the meal progresses, but not too much as he will just get annoyed at the constant interference whilst he is trying to feed himself.

If the meal you are offering is not so easy to divide up i.e. thick vegetable soup offer him a suitable finger food, such as a piece of bread roll or mini sandwich, to dip into the soup whilst you spoon feed him. By giving your son finger food you will keep his attention on his food and you should not need to resort to toys and other distractions at every meal time.

After the first year a baby’s appetite often decreases. If your son is not interested in his meal after about twenty minutes, even though you feel he has not eaten much, end the meal. Constant coaxing and prolonging meals in the hope of “just one more mouthful” may turn him into a fussy eater and turn meal times into food fights. Offer him an appropriate snack at the usual time if you feel he is hungry then but, otherwise, just let him wait until his next scheduled meal. He may be hungry at some times of the day and eat a big meal but, at other times, only eat a small meal. If you are worried about his intake keep a food diary over a whole week. This will give you a better picture of his eating habits than just looking at each day’s intake. Babies of this age will often have one day when they seem to eat little followed by another when they eat a wide range of foods. An overall view of your son’s eating habits will probably reassure you that his nutritional needs are being met.

The most important thing to remember is to keep mealtimes calm and relaxed. Include him in family meals as much as possible. Watching you eat will encourage him in his efforts. The messy stage will be over in time; the more he is allowed to feed himself the quicker this will happen.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

Should I be concerned about my 17mth old son who does not want to eat? Is it just a phase and problems with teething?

Can you advise me when I should start worrying that my 17month old son isn’t eating anything? I have read the FAQ’s and fussiness is obviously a common problem at this age but he seems to be eating even less than the other children featured. Also, his milk consumption is very low – between 5-10 ozs a day. A molar has come through very recently, which probably caused him some discomfort, but this has been going on for about four weeks now. It’s not that he’s fussy – he just does not want to eat. I’m remaining calm and treating it as a phase he’s going through but I’m wondering if there may be something else wrong and need to seek medical advice. He’s a happy little boy and sleeps well but he doesn’t seem to have as much energy as normal – obviously because he’s not getting any energy. Is this just teeth and something I just have to see through?

A typical day intake is as follows: Breakfast: scrambled eggs and baked beans with a piece of toast, 3 mouthfuls eaten and ½ banana. This is given with a beaker of water. Lunch: lentil and vegetable Bolognese with spaghetti. 1 mouthful taken, and then spat out, handful of raisins’. Water given at lunch and at 2pm. Tea: Broccoli florets, pieces of carrot, baby sweet corn with some humus and Quorn sausages, broccoli munched on but spat out. Few mouthfuls of yoghurt. 8oz milk offered before bed, only 3ozs taken.

My son sleeps from 12.30-2.30pm and settles at 7pm to 6.30am.

Although your son is sleeping well, his lack of energy could be a sign that he is not eating enough and it should not be ignored. It would appear that you are following a vegetarian diet so it is very important that he does eat enough iron- rich food to prevent him from developing iron deficiency anaemia. Take your son to the doctor to discuss his lack of appetite.

It is true that toddlers of this age can be quite fussy over food and they also have a smaller appetite than when they were younger. Offering healthy meals in a calm way, and removing the food when it is obvious that your son has finished eating is a sensible way to deal with this phase. But most toddlers who seem fussy and eating little still have endless reserves of energy, which indicates they are receiving enough nutrients for their needs.

Keep a food diary of your son’s food intake. Note the times of his meals and write down exactly how much food he ate and what it was. This will be useful to show your doctor and help him see if there is a problem. Over the period of a week most toddlers’ food intake will even out and be fairly balanced. Although on a day-to-day basis a toddler’s intake can look small, an overall picture usually enables a parent to see that a toddler is eating enough food for him to live life at full speed.

Your son’s molars may well be causing him some discomfort, although this should not have continued for 4 weeks. Of all the teeth to come in, these last four can cause some problems and a toddler may have less of an appetite for a few days. Plan small and tasty meals, which use plenty of colour, texture and variety. If his teeth and gums are clearly bothering him give him easy food, such as mashed potato and grated cheese, which will not involve too much chewing. Offering him his food at a slightly cooler temperature will make it easier for him to eat. It may help to rub some teething gel on his gums about twenty minutes before a meal is due.

Make him some homemade smoothies with fruit and yoghurt and serve them with their own spoon. Make up some ice-lollies, using moulds which can be bought from kitchenware shops. Use diluted fruit juice or natural yoghurt flavoured with fruit puree. These both may be soothing to him if he is still in discomfort with his teeth.

To encourage your son to eat more at each meal make a real effort to present each meal in a cheerful and fun way. Use different plates and bowls or find other small pieces of crockery to in which to serve small portions. For example, a novelty egg cup could be filled with a small amount of yoghurt. Keep the portions you offer him very small so he is not overwhelmed by the amount of food on his plate.

When your child has been checked over by the doctor you will know whether you are just passing through a phase with him or whether he is unwell. If it is just a phase, continue to deal with it in the calm way you have described. Keep offering him his food but remove it when he appears to have had enough, even if that is just a few spoonfuls. Use nutritious finger foods to encourage him to feed himself such as cheese sticks; omelettes; quiches with vegetable fillings; pasta shapes with a vegetable or cheese sauce. Always offer a very small amount at first as this will encourage him to empty his plate.

Sit and eat as many meals as you are able to with your son. He will enjoy your company and learn that there is a social side to eating too.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

My son of 1yr has lost interest in his breakfast and needs coaxing to eat all his meals.

My little boy has completely gone off breakfast. I understand this is a natural stage of development but he eats so reluctantly with lots of coaxing and then gets hungry and upset midmorning so I give him a small snack which then affects his appetite for lunch.

I have tried lots of different cereals, most of which he used to enjoy. He seems to enjoy the more “grown up” ones such as Rice Krispies, mainly as his Dad has them I think. However he doesn’t have anywhere near your recommended 50g, it’s more like 25g or half a weetabix.

I always offer finger foods of toast, with various spreads and fruits so I don’t know how else I can offer greater variety.

He drinks 180mls formula slowly using a beaker so is not particularly bothered by that either.

He likes a lot of milk before bedtime [240mls] so I tried reducing that to 180mls but it had no effect other than him waking up an hour earlier and chatting in his cot.

I have noticed at all mealtimes that he doesn’t like eating in his chair. He wants to get out after about 10minutes but will eat happily whilst on the move in the playroom. I though this was he was just starting to walk and has always been an active baby. I don’t think this is a good habit to get into but do want him to eat as he is small for his age.

7am, breakfast: 180mls formula from a beaker, half a weetabix or 3-4tablespoons other cereal. Half a banana or handful of grapes. Half a piece of toast with butter and spread. All eaten with little interest and lots of coaxing.
If given a snack mid morning it is generally a small piece of fruit.

11.45am, lunch and 5pm, dinner: protein meals, both approx 30g meat/fish, portion of carbohydrate, portion of vegetable. Yoghurt, fruit or cheese.

Every day is pretty much the same.
His snack in the afternoon at 2.30-3pm is either fruit, cheese, malt loaf or toast.
6.30pm 240mls formula.
Water offered through the day. My son weighs approximately 22lbs.
He naps at 9-9.30am and 12.30-2.30pm. He settles at 7pm.

Over the age of one year a toddler’s appetite may decrease. His growth rate begins to slow down and, despite seeming to use up more energy as he learns to walk, climb and run, he does not need larger amounts of food to keep him going. Indeed, the reverse may happen and he will seem to eat very little at all. During the second year a toddler will gain, on average, around 5lbs 8ozs, showing how much the growth rate slows.

It is easy to become worried about your child seeming to eat very little and for you to start all manner of tactics to tempt him to eat. This may result in your child becoming fussier and refusing most food. Your child will readily pick up on any tension you may be feeling over this issue and play up for all the attention that can be caused his refusal to eat.

Prolonged coaxing or chasing your son around as he walks, to get him to eat more, is not to be encouraged. This could lead to more serious issues over eating in the following months. Your attitude to the problem is most important. You need to stay calm, so meal times can be enjoyed by you both. One of the best ways to do this is to eat your meals at the same time as your son. Now that he is over a year old he should be able to enjoy most of the food you prepare for yourself and his father. Sit with him at the table so he can enjoy the social side of having a meal, as well as watching you enjoy your meal, which will encourage him.

Once your son starts to refuse to eat any more of the meal, or begins to play with his food, remove him from his chair and end the meal. Don’t offer him alternatives or let him enjoy a dessert if he has lost all interest in his main course. At this age a toddler will resist being constrained in a chair once he is no longer hungry. Once he is down from the table don’t be tempted to give him “one more mouthful” as he runs around. He needs to learn that eating takes place at the table. Until his next meal or snack time is due resist offering him anything to eat or drink.

Set the times for your son’s meals and snacks and stay with them. Unless you need to be out of the house early in the morning you could try giving your son his breakfast around 7.30am and see if he is hungrier once he has been up a while. He may then be able to wait until 11.45/12 midday for his lunch, without the need for a snack mid morning. Until his eating improves at meal times only offer him fruit as a snack.

Keeping a food diary over a period of at least a week will help you see the full picture of your son’s food intake. For several days he may eat very little, and then have a day when he eats bigger portions at most of his meals. Looking at his intake of all the food groups he needs over the period of a week should help you see that on the whole he is eating a well balanced diet.

Some mothers do find that by moving their child into a booster type seat, providing it has a safety strap, can help with the problem of a toddler who wants to get down from his chair after a short space of time. Your child will then be sitting at the same table as yourself which will help him feel included in the mealtime.

The way that you present your son’s food can also encourage him to eat more. As well as using attractive plates and bowls, make sure he is aware of exactly what is being offered to him. He will be very aware of textures and colours now so separate the different items of his meal. Using a plate which has divisions is useful for this. His protein meal of meat, vegetables and carbohydrates is ideal to serve in this way. Chop the meat portion finely and place it in one division. In a second division offer him a small but varied selection of vegetables, chopped, sliced or diced. Be aware of the colour combinations. Use two or three small florets of broccoli with a spoonful of diced carrots and some frozen peas rather than just two vegetables mashed together. Place the carbohydrate portion in the third division. This means he is able to choose what to eat next rather than having it all in one bowl mixed or mashed together.

Encourage your son to self feed as much as possible. By arranging his meals in an attractive way he will be tempted to pick up the pieces to eat. You can give him a spoon to scoop up mashed potato, or he may enjoy using a plastic baby fork if you show him how to stab at pieces of vegetable and meat. This can be a messy stage so be prepared by covering the floor under his chair, covering him with a suitable bib, preferably with arms, and having several clean, damp flannels close by to clean him up at the end of the meal.

While your son is seeming uninterested in food give him small portions on his plate, so he is likely to finish all the food. Praise him for eating well and increase the portions by a very small amount each day until he is eating a suitable sized portion for his weight and age.

At breakfast replace your son’s cereal with natural yoghurt and fruit. He may enjoy finger feeding himself a small handful of Cheerios or Shreddies as well. This smaller breakfast should give him a bigger appetite for lunch. Only offer him a snack of fruit if he seems really hungry.

With more of an appetite your son should manage to eat his 50g portion of protein at lunchtime, as well as a selection of vegetables and carbohydrates. Offer him a drink of water after he has eaten at least half of his main course. Drinking too much water, either between or during meals, can knock the edge off a toddler’s appetite very easily. If he does not appear to be thirsty whilst eating wait until he has finished his meal before giving him a drink. Offer him water at his snack times but do be aware of how much he may be drinking if it is on offer throughout the day.

Keep your son’s afternoon snack to fruit only until he begins to eat more at teatime.

Once your son is eating his full protein meal at lunchtime you can begin to offer him a carbohydrate rich tea which can be things he will find easy to eat if he is getting tired. This meal can be mainly finger food. Try vegetable and cheese sticks with dips such as cream cheese, hummus or avocado. Make a one egg omelette, fill with grated cheese or another suitable filling and roll it up. Cut it into slices so your son can pick them up easily. Mini quiches and home made pizzas are usually quite popular. If your son still seems hungry after his main course you could offer him a small bowl of cereal if he is not having much at breakfast time.

A toddler will enjoy being offered a variety of food, just as we adults do, so make yourself a menu plan for one or two weeks, offering him plenty of variety both at lunch and tea. Have a look in The Gina Ford Baby and Toddler Cook Book if you need some ideas.

A way to cut back a little on his bedtime milk, and so help him be hungrier for breakfast, is to offer him a small drink of milk at teatime and then give him 150-180mls [5-6ozs] in his beaker at bedtime. This means he would still be having in excess of the recommended 350mls[12ozs] a day, if you include the milk used in cooking as well as the milk that he drinks.

There are two case studies which may help you. Theo, page 98 of The Contented Book of Weaning and Daniel, page 127 of The Contented Childs Food Bible.

Feeding FAQ: 12-18 months – Food Fads/Fussiness

his may not sound like a problem, but my son doesn’t like potatoes in any form! It’s hard doing dinner, as potatoes go well with most things, like stew, roast, sausages and chicken.I have tried mash, roast, boiled, oven-baked chips and jacket potatoes, but he doesn’t like them in any form.

What can I give instead? I need something to satisfy him, as the main things he eats are vegetables (broccoli, peas, cauliflower, sweet corn) and meat. He isn’t particularly fond of pasta, and you can only give so much before it’s boring! Besides, plain pasta is awful. Thanks for your help.

You have had a frustrating time trying to get your son to eat potatoes cooked in such a variety of ways! Well done for persisting with this, as it’s always a good idea to serve any food a number of times before concluding that your child doesn’t like it. It does sounds as though your son is quite adamant in his dislike for potatoes though, and you are doing exactly the right thing in looking for something to give him instead, rather than just providing extra portions of the other foods on the plate. It is important to give energetic toddlers plenty of starchy carbohydrate foods like potatoes because these provide most of the calories for physical activity, including running, jumping and playing – favourite toddler pastimes. In addition, just as you have found, these foods are a very filling part of the meal, more so than vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. Although potatoes grow in the same way as some foods from the vegetable group, nutritionally they are more similar to grain-based foods. Thus, the foods to choose to replace the potato on the plate are from the carbohydrate or starchy food group: bread and other grain foods such as rice, pasta and breakfast cereals. So your comment about giving pasta was spot on, though if he’s not too keen on it you’ll want to give other options more frequently. These include rice and rice cakes, as well as bread in its multitude of forms: pitas, bread rolls, sandwiches, bagels, English muffins or crumpets. Cous cous is exceptionally quick and easy to cook (there will be directions on the pack) and children love it; try adding a few sultanas or brightly coloured, chopped peppers. You might also like to experiment with other grains, such as pearl barley, which can be served boiled but is also great in a soup, and quinoa, which is available from health food shops and has a lovely nutty flavour.

Though most adults would turn their nose up at plain pasta, many children love it, and it is nutritionally similar to plain potato or rice. If your son gets bored with it, you could try adding a tablespoon of tomato-based pasta sauce or cream cheese to moisten it – this would probably go well beside the chicken dishes you normally serve potatoes with. The whole family might enjoy cous cous with your stews to mop up the delicious juices, and when having sausages you could try giving them to your son on pieces of bread roll.
Do take heart from the fact that many children go through phases of disliking one food or another. In a few months you might find that your son is looking for mashed potatoes with every meal!