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How do I get my toddler to eat something other than grilled cheese?

Or spaghetti? She won't eat vegetables. She'll have the occasional banana. I want to instill good habits from the start. help!

Mon. Apr 9, 3:32pm

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You can control what she eats. Don't give her grilled cheese or spaghetti as an option, if you don't want her to eat those (or save them for special occasions). Don't ask her what she wants for dinner; she's a toddler. Put a plate in front of her, and she'll eat it. If she doesn't eat it today, then by tomorrow she'll be really hungry and she'll eat it then. Don't give in just b/c she's not eating one meal. When she is hungry, she will eat.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 3:49 PM

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above poster, are you a mom? would be nice to know if you've dealt with this first hand.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 3:51 PM

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Make sure you eat vegetables too. She'll catch on eventually. Especially, only make enough for you. She'll start asking for whatever is on your plate.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 3:53 PM

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here is a link to the google search page. i typed in "my toddler won't eat vegetables." this seems to be a pretty common problem.


Monday, April 09, 2007, 3:56 PM

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a lot of the sites i visited suggest you give the vegetables to your toddler as the very first part of their meal, if not the very first thing in the morning.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:00 PM

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3:49pm poster here. No, I'm not a mom. I am a frequent babysitter though, over many years, and a mom to a picky puppy. I do recognize that these are not at all the same as being a mom though!

I have babysat for kids whose parents gave them food choices when they were toddlers; it's hard to wean them off of it. At ages 8 and 12, these kids were still only eating grilled cheese and pizza and french fries. When I grew up, my mom made one meal for the family; that's what you ate. And we definitely didn't have much say in what she made (of course, she knew what we liked and didn't like, and for special occasions we might get to choose). I'm sure that's how most people on this website were raised. That is how I'll raise my children when I have them. I know it's not practical for some families to all sit down to dinner together, and all have the same thing; I just don't understand why the trend towards grilled cheese (or whatever the one favorite food is in particular) even gets started. Toddlers don't inherently know that they get to choose what they eat; it's parents who give them a choice. I'm pretty sure that when I was a toddler, I did not know what grilled cheese was.

I don't mean this as a criticism of the OP at all, just as a means of suggesting ways around the grilled cheese. When I was little, I *had* to eat my vegetables, whether I liked them or not, whether I was already full or not. Because of the second part of that sentence, I learned to eat when I was full, so I don't approve of that method. But, kids are more instinctual than grown ups, and, when they're hungry, they'll eat what's in front of them. A toddler will not go on a fast in order to protest eating his/her vegetables, at least not one that lasts long enough to physically hurt them. In that sense, they are like my puppy, who wouldn't eat her dry dog food for a few days; she got over it pretty quickly when she realized that she was not getting another option!

I guess another way to get the veggies in would be to put veggies in the grilled cheese, and then as time goes on, ease up on the cheese and any butter, so it's veggies with a little cheese, on bread. That's a pretty healthy meal for a toddler, actually. Of course, it still isn't healthy if it's the only thing they eat.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:08 PM

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I'm not 3:49, but I'm sure that poster is a mom. And most likely, she's a mother of more than a couple kids! And I agree with her.
A couple other tips:
- try, try, try again! don't offer something just once - make her take one bite - the next time, 2 bites, etc. etc.
- don't "make" her eat them, but let her know there will be nothing else unless she does eat them
- this is one I happened on by accident - - DON'T offer them! lol! Seriously! tell her it's something special for just mommy and daddy...! "okayyyy... you can have ONE bite of my veggies...!" My kids are much more interested in food when it's something I'm trying to sneak! : )

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:08 PM

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try melted cheese on a baked apple

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:20 PM

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I wouldn't worry about it. As long as your house isn't constantly full of junk food and as long as your providing healthy meals at similar times each day it won't become an issue. Its not like grilled cheese and pasta are bad for kids. If they love it just be glad they are eating and that they are happy. I have freinds that force their kids to eat meals and I see the struggle and the heart ache the little ones go through and its not worth it. If my little ones want pickles or hot dogs or a grilled cheese I let them have it- They smile and carry on. As they get older they will do what you do and as long as you're living a healthy life style so will they. I read that over 95% of children obtain their parents eating habbits. Just make sure you're doing the right thing- and if you're on this site I assume you are.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:24 PM

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how about making a stir fry and asking your child to help by handing you certain vegetables. she can learn to use their nose, eyes and even mouth to help identify the vegetables and you might be surprised to find out what she will eat. hang in there, it could be worse! my brother ONLY wanted to eat spinach and threw tantrums when offered anything else. but, i enjoyed mushrooms and even oysters from a very early age! (now they say that you shouldn't give shell fish to children very young.) i think it depends on a lot, not just what you're folks eat. my dad won't go near vegetables, unless you count pizza sauce as a vegetable!

Monday, April 09, 2007, 4:32 PM

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I'm not a mom but I was a kid (still am?) and my parents served me whatever they were eating. Any unfinished veggies (mainly anything green) were breakfast the next day. This might not be the healthiest method psychologically but 20 years later or so I understand their reasoning and enjoying eating the healthy stuff.

It's surprising how fast a kid will eat what they don't want to get to the stuff they do like.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 5:05 PM

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I agree with 3:49 - I do have kids. One is very picky (10 years old) - the other one eats anything that doesn't bite back but is a very slow eater (7 years old).

In our house, you eat what I make. We don't give them the option of something different. I am not a short order cook, so I don't take special requests and we don't cater to them by serving their "favorites" over and over. It only took a couple of nights where they didn't eat much and were hungry later for them to figure it out that it was easier to just eat what was served than to complain about it, get grounded and then still have to eat it.

I know it sounds unsympathetic, but they have acquired a liking for some of the things they used to dislike, just like I did when my folks did the same thing.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 5:40 PM

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Kids are more likely to try new things and eat healthy foods when they are really hungry.

Also, kids are intuitively aware of when they have had enough calories for the day. Which is why dinner is often a most difficult meal. Often kids don't eat dinner because they know they don't need any more calories. We adults have trained ourselves that even if we've had 1800 calories by 4 pm, when it's 6 pm it's time for dinner, so we eat despite the fact that we aren't hungry.

Never force your toddler to eat. If she's hungry she'll eat. Try to serve veggies and fruits when you know she'll be hungry - for breakfast, morning snack, and lunch.

My children (ages 6 and 5) often go to bed without eating dinner. In fact, tonight I made chicken, spinach and orzo. My son ate nothing. My daughter had a few bites. It is hard to put them to bed when I know they haven't eaten, but I've done it many many times and they always survive.

If they're hungry, they'll eat!

Monday, April 09, 2007, 6:04 PM

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I'd let it ride. Toddlers do this. Sounds like reasonably healthy fare to me.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 7:24 PM

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6:04 - I've put my kids to bed without dinner (their choice) too, and it kills me! I think, won't they wake up starving in the middle of the night?? Nope. They don't! My 2.5 year old loves almost all food (including most/all? veggies), but when she's tired, she asks to go to bed. So I don't fight it.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 7:33 PM

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I am a mom to a very picky eater. My daughter won't eat, cheese of any sort, meat, apples or fresh veggies. I have tried a lot of things and tried being consistent but it doesn't work. Since my husband comes home pretty late she always eats earlier, except on weekends. What I've noticed is that if I stop giving her snacks she will eat things she typically won't normally eat. I try to give her each thing at a time. She gets her veggies first, then her chicken or whatever then the carb. She only gets desert if she eats at least half f her veggies and desert is usually fruit of some sort or if she's eaten really well some frozen yogurt. I have recently started making her smoothies which I notice if I let her help me she will drink. I also am able to put things in there she wouldn't eat, like fresh carrots or beets. My thought is, if they are hungry enough they will eat it, especially if you cut out snacking.

Monday, April 09, 2007, 8:35 PM

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I disagree with the 4:24 poster. You are the parent and you decide what your child eats. Do not say oh well and give them whatever they want unless you want to end up with a fat kid. Kids love candy and sugar and tons of other terrible things. Im not saying grill chz is awful but every night it is. Remember that other kids are very mean at times and if you make a fat kid your fat kid will know it no matter how many times you tell them they arent. Other kids will point out the obvious

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 4:30 AM

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I didn't do this with my children, but I think this is a great idea --- one of my friends used to give her kids frozen veggies as one their first foods. They were teething, and the cold (they weren't hard frozen - just cold when the child got them) felt good on the teething gums. Her child has grown up loving veggies -- and, it was easy for her to grab a handful and put it in a ziploc or small container to take as a snack at the park or whatever. The kid also liked to grab them and feed them to herself. In my mind, it was pure genius!

If you feel the need to keep your child from eating grilled cheese, you can "run out." When it's "all gone," your child will be more inclined to try your alternative. Give choices between two healthy items. Kids like to make their own choice.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 6:21 AM

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Have you tried to let her do it her way? Have you tried new things?

It sounds gross but both my son and daughter love to dip. So with my son green beans were eating gladly but dunking them in ketchup like frech fries, my daughter prefers ranch with her green beans. Both of them love sugar snap peas and opening the pod and digging out the peas from inside. Not the healthies vegetable but the sugar sweet nibblets corn is another easy favorite. Those are the veggie favorites in my house. Cold carrots are also a favorite snack... again with the ranch :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 7:53 AM

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This is the poster from 4:24. Different tactics will work for different children- theres no doubt. I have two children and still believe that as long as the parents are setting a good example (exercise and eating wise) then grilled cheese as a toddler won't make them obese for life. Most eating troubles are mental and a daily struggle with vegitables won't help that, let alone sending them to bed without dinner (if you want kids stashing food and going to bed feeling like they let their parents down) There are a lot of great posts here about encouraging your kids to try new things in a fun or exploritory way and I agree 100% with those. At the toddler stage they are to sweet and they can't always explain or understand what they are looking for. Great posts.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 8:15 AM

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I am a mother, My daughter used to push Vegi's away when she was an younger. She also started to get into the "chicken nugget" thing. Shes 2 now, We gave her healthy choices and now she eats everything, we dont allow her to eat unhealthy food. SHe loves brocolie (she calls them trees) You guys should try making some good tasting vegitables foryour kids to try at every meal. It will work! !

Monday, January 12, 2009, 2:57 PM

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I think we're caught between a health and parenting issue here. I wouldn't feed my child grilled cheese every day because like another PP said, I'm not a short order cook. Dinner time is family time and we all eat the same meal together. Also, can you imagine the lack of poop (sorry!) and the poop that eventually happens from eating all that cheese????? Kids need to learn how to eat in different situations.....there's going to be restaurants and dinner at friends' houses and school parties. I have a friend who literally brings her daughter's chicken dinos everywhere because she won't eat anything else. THAT'S RIDICULOUS. While it may not be completely unhealthy to feed your kid grilled cheese and pasta every day, it does foster a fear of trying new foods. We do "no thank you bites" at my house. Everybody has to try everything on the plate, if they don't like it they can say no thank you to the rest of the portion. They could say no thank you to carrots 1000 times but every time we have them with dinner they still have to try them. Eventually they end up liking much more than if i had only tried it once

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 10:06 AM

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I'm now a gradma, and I can't wait until my new granddaughter is old enough to pick which fruits and greens are going in our morning smoothie. Grilled cheese will never be an option, and I will be the grama that 'eats plants' :) Mashed potatoes full of blended greens, sweet potato fries, roasted baby carrots - green banana 'milk' shakes - I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 12:11 PM

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What is so bad about grilled cheese? Sure if that is the meal every day twice day, I can see the issue. But the occasional grilled cheese isn't evil for Pete's sake. Some of these comments of never allowing or offering are just ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 2:20 PM

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It will get better

Hi! I literally just came from a dr visit for a check up for my 5 yr old. I too expressed concern over what he ate. The other night all he wanted for dinner was an orange. orange. Well to make a long story short, first the doc asked was he a picky eater and my husband and I said "picky" at the same time. Then the doc said "it's ok, they are like that. If we, the parents, watch what we eat and set good role models, he will follow suit sooner or later. As long as his diet is not being affected (bowels & weight & overall nutrition) if he is into one food for a little while it's ok".

Personally i went through this with chicken nuggets, corn dogs, scrambled eggs, oatmeal, brocolli, hot dogs and corn bread. Oh and fetticini alfredo w/ chicken. Most nights now he will eat a small balanced meal, but sometimes he still picks here and there.'s normal.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 5:59 PM

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The issue of 'my kid only eats X' essentially boils down to 'I only feed my kid X.' A child cannot eat any food day after day after day if it's not purchased, prepared and/or presented. Yes, obviously some kids are very picky, but that doesn't mean the only parental option is to present a separate meal and/or their favorite food night after night.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 6:26 PM

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My son is just starting to enter the picky age (almost 2) but I can see how frustrating it is already. Generally I'm trying to relax about food with the following guidelines:
1) I will not be making any different meals for my son if he doesn't like what is offered. I generally try to include at least one thing he will eat with a meal (ex. chicken and veggie stir fry, he may only eat the brown rice).
2) I will not be making meals just because he will eat them. I totally agree with above posters that a kid can't eat nothing but grilled cheese if you keep serving it! Our meals generally include lots of veggies and whole grains, so I'm sure he will eat them eventually. But at this point, if he pushes all the peppers aside, I'm just letting it go. Once he's a little older we may start instituting a "Just one bite" rule, but he's still pretty little at the moment. And once in a while he surprises me! Just tonight he wanted carrots because we were eating them, which he had previously shunned.

I'll never forget what my mom told me about raising me: that if she could change one thing, she would worry less about what I ate. But on the other hand, my mom is overweight, so I'm trying to eat better than she did! But I think she is right about the not worrying. Just keep putting the veggies in front of them and be sure that they will NOT starve to death rather than eat them!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 9:08 PM

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I work with a lot of families, with very troubled children that have emotional and behavioral problems. Some of them are also picky or overly choosy children when it comes to food. We work on only offering one or two choices for snacks or just having an apple with peanut butter ready for them when they get home from school or getting the children to follow directions and leaving them a note (usually older children) with their options. If they don't eat the snack then they don't eat until dinner. Dinner is chosen by the parents and not the children. Occasionally letting the children feel like they have a choice is good. Like a previous poster stated, you can't be overly protective of what they eat. Being super strict could cause eating problems and weight problems later, but so can not teaching your children how to eat right. Also model how you want them to eat by eating those foods yourself! You have to remember as the parent you are doing the grocery shopping. If you buy the sugary special occasion items, don't leave them in plain sight because that's what most children will want. Put items that you want them to have in plain sight, and take those special occasion items out only when you want them to have them.
As for the grilled cheese. Why not let your child pick one meal a week (or how many you choose) either lunch or dinner where they can have grilled cheese without a power struggle. Maybe if they have a grilled cheese they have to have a vegetable side. Have the week start on Monday's, and if they try to pick it more than once (or the number you choose) remind them of the rule. This will be very hard at first, and a lot of power struggles may occur, but eventually the child will get into the routine of the rule.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009, 10:20 PM

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