Tackling fussy eating

While food refusal is a completely normal phase that most toddlers go through, there can be some medical reasons why your toddler might not be eating, the most common ones being constipation and anaemia. If you have concerns about your child’s eating, do talk to your public health nurse (health visitor) or GP. They’ll be able to check their growth and development and give you further advice.

In the meantime, here are some tips to help you deal with fussy eating:

  • Make sure you’re giving your child an appropriate portion size that isn’t overwhelming for them. This leaflet sets out the perfect portion size to suit toddler tummies
  • As a general rule, a portion of fruit and vegetables is the size of a person’s palm. So think about the size of your child’s hand when you’re serving up a portion onto their plate
  • Because children have small tummies, it’s a good idea to offer a small amount of food regularly, rather than overloading them at mealtimes. You might want to try three small meals and between two and three healthy snacks a day
  • Children are good at regulating how much they need to be eating, and will tell you when they’re hungry and or feeling full. It’s very common for toddlers to eat very little for a few days, and then eat really well a few days later
  • Most toddlers like to be independent, so give them a chance to feed themselves. After a little while you can always ask if they need some help putting the food onto the fork or spoon
  • Children copy the behaviours of others, so you may well see your little one picking up on what an older sibling is doing, especially if it seems to get them attention. Try to eat and enjoy regular meals with them wherever possible, and be a positive role model for them.
  • Avoid giving food as a reward, for comfort or to keep your child busy
  • If you want your child to try new foods, try offering the new food alongside one that you know your child already likes. Remember, you may need to offer a new food ten times or more, before a child will eat it happily

Find out more about how you can create tasty toddler mealtimes.

Useful links

  • The Infant and Toddler Forum has some excellent resources relating to fussy eating
  • Loughborough University has developed a free app which you can download from their Child Feeding Guide website. There are also lots of practical tips on how to get your child to try new foods

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

You can also call and speak to a public health nurse on our professional advice line: 0300 3000 007

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