What to Avoid with a Fussy Toddler!

Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist


Fussy eating in toddlers can be one of the most difficult things a parent has to face! But all hope is not lost – there are steps to take which can make life easier. Following our tips on what steps to take with a fussy toddler, the Infant & Toddler Forum is here to help, with advice on what to avoid with a fussy toddler.

First of all, it’s key to remember that this is a normal stage of a toddler’s development. Secondly, don’t forget that some children are fussier than others (even in the same family). You may have tried to introduce all the right foods in infancy, but your little one still refuses everything but their favourite foods! This type of fussiness is genetically determined and is not due to anything that you have or haven’t done. Children like this are more likely to be reactive to any sensory input – messy hands and feet, having their teeth cleaned, odd noises, funny smells. So, they like to stick to any foods that have the same smell, taste and appearance.

What should I avoid doing with a fussy toddler?

Even though this is a normal stage, there are some things you can avoid to make things easier! Here are our top tips.

Top Five Things to Avoid with a Fussy Toddler

  • Don’t Panic! If you stay calm your neophobic (a normal stage of development when children refuse any new food on sight, normally from around 2 years of age) toddler will usually become a better eater with time. And most fussy eaters seem to stay surprisingly healthy on a limited diet
  • Don’t force feed, get cross or argue with your partner! All of these, although understandable, increase anxiety at mealtimes. Your child will then be even less likely eat the things you want them to
  • Don’t withhold liked food until they haven’t eaten what you want them to eat – it doesn’t work and they may not eat anything at all!
  • Don’t bribe and reward at mealtimes – ‘eat up your vegetable and then you can have some pudding’ makes them like the pudding more! ‘Finish what you have on your plate and you can….’ teaches them to eat more than they need. And for very fussy eaters there is no reward big enough that will make them eat cabbage!
  • Don’t put disliked foods next to liked foods. Even children as young as 2 years will find the foods that they don’t like disgusting. If you put a disliked food next to a liked food then the disgust contamination can only go one way! Anything touched will be refused.

If you’ve found these helpful, why not share with your friends? And be sure to check out our first blog, with top five things to do with a fussy toddler!

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Further Reading

  • Dr Gill Harris, Consultant Paediatric Clinical Psychologist   Yesterday marked an exciting point in the history of the Infant and Toddler Forum! After fifteen years of supporting parents and professionals in early years’ nutrition and development, we are transitioning to become a Community Interest Company (CIC).
  • Atul Singhal, Professor of Paediatric Nutrition and Chair of the Infant & Toddler Forum   At the Infant & Toddler Forum (ITF), we are committed to giving every child the healthiest start in life. As an expert-led, not-for-profit organisation we have dedicated our work to early life nutrition, from pregnancy to pre-school, because we know that healthy eating habits established in childhood are more likely to last a lifetime.
  • Judy More, Paediatric Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist   As Christmas approaches it can be difficult to plan activities for toddlers! Between decorating, shopping and cooking it may be a challenge to find time to include fun active play with your little one. The Infant & Toddler Forum is here to help with our top tips for maintaining healthy, fun activities for your toddlers during the festive season!