Help! My PreSchooler Won’t EAT!!


Peggy Stoor BSRDH


I often hear parents complain that they cannot get their kids to eat healthy foods.  I remember the frustration myself when I couldn’t get my toddler to eat anything, let alone a healthy vegetable.  Now that my kids are grown, I wish I had understood that my young child wouldn’t starve himself to death. Toddler’s appetites vary from day to day and if the child is growing and energetic, they are probably getting enough of the nutrients they need.

Here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Young children and toddlers need between 4-6 healthy meals and snacks per day.

2. Limit beverages such as juice, sweetened drinks and even milk,  as it can    reduce the childs appetite for food.  (not to mention harmful effects on the teeth!)

3. The context in which the food is offered is also of importance so present a relaxed environment, free from distractions like the tv.

4. Kids should be allowed to decide whether and how much to eat and they should not be pressured or rewarded for eating certain foods.

5.When introducing foods, patience is key as it often takes as many as 8-10 exposures to a food before it is accepted.

6. When children are stubborn about eating, it is commonly their way of exerting their independence and this may be a battle to be cautious with. Force feeding may cause a child to dislike that food, shuts off the mechanism in the brain that tells the child she is overeating, and may possibly make the child more stubborn and difficult about food.


All of this being said, with our increasingly hectic schedules and the relative ease in which fast foods and overly processed foods are available, nutritional deficiency as well as obesity is becoming more of a concern in our country. Scary Statistics show that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents since 1980.  In 2010, more than 1/3 of children and teens were overweight or obese.

Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for heart disease, prediabetes, or diabetes. They are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea and social problems like teasing, bullying, and poor self-esteem. Obesity also increases the risk of many types of cancer!

There are many websites on nutrition, healthy eating and ideas. Here are just a few healthy ideas for snacks and easy meals offered from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  1. Mini Pizza: Toast a whole-wheat English muffin, drizzle with pizza sauce and sprinkle with low-fat mozzarella cheese.
  2. Snack Kabobs: Put cubes of cheese and grapes on pretzel sticks.
  3. Peel a banana and dip it in yogurt. Roll in crushed cereal and freeze.
  4. Spread celery sticks with peanut butter or low-fat cream cheese. Top with raisins (optional).
  5. Mix together ready to eat cereal, dried fruit and nuts in sandwich bags for an on-the-go snack.
  6. Microwave a small baked potato. Top with small amount of cheddar cheese and salsa or plain low-fat yogurt. (Tastes just like sour cream)!
  7. Banana Split: Top a banana with low-fat vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with your favorite whole grain cereal.
  8. Apple Pie Oatmeal: Make one packet of microwave oatmeal with low-fat milk. Mix in ¼ cup unsweetened applesauce. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  9. Microwave a cup of tomato or vegetable soup and enjoy with whole grain crackers.
  10. Fill a waffle cone with cut-up fruit and top with low-fat vanilla yogurt.
  11. Parfait: Layer vanilla yogurt and mandarin oranges or blueberries in a tall glass. Top with a sprinkle of granola.
  12. Spread peanut butter on apple or banana slices.
  13. Breakfast smoothie: low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
  14. Try crunch vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat dressing for dipping.
  15. Keep cut veggies ready for an after school snack. Some favorites are red, yellow, or green peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas.
  16.  Dip pita chips in hummus.
  17. Dip graham crackers in applesauce
  18. Dip baked tortilla chips in bean dip
  19. Dip bread sticks in salsa
  20. Dip a granola bar in low-fat yogurt.

For more ideas go to     and


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics



  •  Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among US children and adolescents, 1999-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012;307(5):483-490.
  • National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2011: With Special Features on Socioeconomic Status and Health. Hyattsville, MD; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2012.lymphoma.15
  • Freedman DS, Zuguo M, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS, Dietz WH. Cardiovascular risk factors and excess adiposity among overweight children and adolescents: the Bogalusa Heart Study. Journal of Pediatrics 2007;150(1):12–17.
  •  Kushi LH, Byers T, Doyle C, Bandera EV, McCullough M, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2006;56:254–281.
  • Dietz WH. Overweight in childhood and adolescence. New England Journal of Medicine 2004;350:855-857.

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