Toddler Food Rejection

What to do when your toddler refuses to eat a certain food


Toddlerhood is the age of self-discovery, independence and at times unparalleled stubbornness. Toddlers are all about asserting their newfound independence, especially now that communication between child and parents is at an all time high. One common area where toddlers seek control is over the food they consume. Food rejection is a common, albeit frustrating experience, for many families. Dealing with food rejection can seem insurmountable, especially when the rejection seems to come out of nowhere and affect foods the child previously enjoyed. In order to best respond to food rejections, parents should be vigilant about possible causes.


Many times toddlers may seem to be rejecting a formerly favourite food, however, in reality the child may simply be temporarily bothered by it. If your child is suddenly avoiding raw vegetables that they previously couldn’t get enough of, take a look in their mouth; perhaps the texture is causing pain to their raw gums. The same goes for illness; a sore throat may have a similar affect, while many colds negatively affect overall appetite.

Fear of the Unknown

If your toddler’s food rejection has less to do with familiar foods and seems more focused on new foods, overcoming these obstacles can be a bit more difficult. Young children, including toddlers, tend to thrive on routine and at times this can carry over into their eating habits, with toddlers shunning food that is unfamiliar. 

Experts agree that exposure to new foods should be early and often. Serving new foods early in the day, when children are often at their energy peak, tends to produce better results. Offering new foods should be done in a comfortable, no pressure environment.

Parents should also keep in mind the importance of continuing to offer a new food, even if it has been rejected in the past. By continuing to offer new foods, the toddler will become more familiar with them and more likely to try it.

Asserting Independence

Toddler stubbornness might as well be a rite of passage, for children as well as their parents. Mealtime can be the perfect opportunity for toddlers to demonstrate their ever-growing independence and unique point of view.  If a toddler is rejecting certain foods as a means to exercise a sense of control, parents can encourage this independence while refusing to sacrifice nutritional content. Try offering an increased variety of healthy alternatives at each meal, that way the child can feel as though they are making their own decisions, while parents are comfortable knowing their child’s nutritional needs are still being met.

Toddler food rejections are common, however, as long as they are properly and promptly addressed they are a normal phase of development. Parents should ensure that their toddler is following requirements outlined by the Canadian food guide which four servings of fruits and vegetables, three servings of grain, two servings of milk and one serving of meat and alternatives a day. 

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