Q: Lately my toddler absolutely refuses to eat at meal times but I’m hesitant to give him more to eat at other times of the day. What can I do to ensure that he eats with the rest of the family?

A: Your child’s lack of appetite at dinner may be a result of too much snacking during the day.

A: Your child’s lack of appetite at dinner may be a result of too much snacking during the day.

Aim for a two-hour window before dinner where snacks aren’t allowed. This includes juice and milk too, both of which can fill him up more than you realize.

Beyond that, it’s important to create a win-win situation for both of you so that your child will take an interest in eating with the family. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Serve your child smaller servings since they can be put off by larger portions.
  • Introduce a new food in tiny amounts—the size of a quarter—and ask them to try it (they can always have more if they like it!)
  • When you serve two or three vegetables with the meal, you can start by asking your child which one they’d like to try; eating one is better than none.
  • Don’t cater to your child by offering them whatever they want.
  • Be a good role model and eat your vegetables too. Your child is more likely to try something if they see you eating and enjoying it.
  • Last but not least, always introduce a new food when your child is happy and hungry!

Even though dinner is an everyday event it can still be a special one. Let your child know that it’s important to sit down together, and enjoy the meal and the conversation. Encourage a pleasant mealtime atmosphere by eliminating distractions such as TV or loud music.

As your children get older, you can get them more involved in mealtime preparations. It could be teaching them what you're doing as you cook or letting them set the table, both of which can increase their interest in what’s being served for dinner. 

Montreal Children's Hospital

Clinical Nutrition

Room number : B S1 2238
Phone : 514-412-4400 ext. 23873