Is Your Toddler Refusing to Eat?

7 Reasons your child refuses to eat anything

Susie came to me when her child refused to eat anything.

James had been a good eater as a baby. Eating lots of variety of home-made baby foods, from pumpkin puree to liver puree.

Then it all changed.

He knew what he wanted to eat and no matter how much persuasion on Susie’s part, James would keep his lips seal shut.

Susie was frustrated, deflated and tired of wasting time serving James good food.

Sound familiar?

All the best plans can go out the window when babies grow into toddlers with a mind of their own.

The picky eater stage, although can be a stage can last for a lot longer than needed if it’s not addressed.

The first part of addressing when your child refuses to eat is identifying if there is an underlying cause to your picky toddler.

Why is my Toddler refusing to Eat?

The Underlying causes

Toddlers can refuse to eat for a variety of reasons.

If your toddler was eating yesterday but is not today, then they may be coming down with a sickness. Concentrate on keeping your little one hydrated and if they are still not eating in a day or so, see a doctor.


If your toddler is eating, but nothing that you consider healthy then there may be a few reasons behind their refusal.

1. Strong-willed Child

Imagine having an adult child who stood up to the bully, who was driven and didn’t take no for an answer, who changed the world…

How proud would you be as a parent?

The qualities we can for our children to have as adults are also the very qualities that frustrate the heck out of us as parents.

Imagine what it would be like to be told, what to wear, where to go, when to go to sleep, when to go to the toilet and what to eat.

That is a child’s world.

And the strong-willed toddlers of this world will rally against that in anyway they can. What food passes their lips is one way they can try control their world.

Start with the expectation that your child will eat but let go of the outcome.

Involve your strong-willed child into meal times. Provide them with boundaries but give them a choice. Cook with them. Garden with them. Let them choose the vegetables at the supermarket.

Work with their strong-will rather than fighting against it.


2. Slow digestion (Gastroparesis)

Does your child prefer smaller meals? Maybe even liquid meals such as smoothies.

Does your toddler refuse foods that are higher fat or higher fibre foods?

If you answered yes to two of the above questions, your child may have a slower digestion rate. Meaning the food takes longer to travel through your little one’s digestive system. This can be super uncomfortable for your little one, so no wonder they are refusing to eat.

There are a number of things you can do to help your toddler through this from providing small, softer meals to having their main meal earlier on in the day (so it doesn’t affect their sleep). If you want a personalised plan then make sure you check out my Picky Eater Reboot one on one – We can get really specific to help your toddler get the best nutrition while making it easier on their digestive system.

Want to raise an Adventurous Eaters?

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    3. Hypersensitive or Sensory Toddlers

    Does your child struggle with some textures? Possibly gagging at first bite or even sight?

    A toddler who is picky because they’re sensory will also have other cues in their life such as being annoyed at the seams in their socks and particular about what type of clothes they wear.

    It requires work to help your hypersensitive toddler to eat healthily. But it can be done. Taste and texture can be changed to suit your toddler with the aim of gradually introducing different textures.

    Slowly and gradually is the way forward here, with the aim of desensitizing your child to the textures they find troublesome.

    After having a sensory toddler myself I have developed a few tricks to changing foods textures and mitigating strong tastes. Learn more with the Picky Eater Reboot.

    4. Oral Development

    Did you baby have a tongue tie?

    Did your child skip the put-everything-in-the-mouth stage?

    Was your toddler eating puree foods as most of the past 10 months of age?

    When your toddler was a baby, did they have lots of baby-food pouches?

    A baby first learns to suck, then swallow, then they learn to chew.

    Skip any one of these steps and when your toddler tries to move foods like a chicken around in their mouth, they will find it difficult. So the food is spat out or gagged on.

    If this sounds like your child then you will want to start exercising your toddler’s mouth muscles by using a straw to drink of out (get rid of the sippy cup if your toddler still has one), humming, using a vibrating toothbrush or blowing bubbles. Here are some more fun exercises from this blog.


    5. Childhood nutritional deficiencies

    Is your child tired all the time?

    Do they have a poor appetite or do they have brittle hair, nails (often with white spots or ridged)?

    Nutritional deficiencies could be the cause of your child refusing to eat. This is a difficult one to get around because they have a low appetite they will not want to eat much – so the things they do eat need to be of high quality. But that can be easier said than done in toddlers.

    So what to do? 

    The first thing is to make each meal they have as high quality as possible… if your toddler is eating oatmeal at breakfast, mix some ground flaxseed or pumpkin seeds into it. Try Smoothies but add in extra nutrients such as a pre-biotic powder, ground seeds or even a little spinach. If this is not working for you and your child see a doctor or nutritionist about getting a multi-vitamin to boost them in the meantime while working on boosting their nutrition via whole-foods.

    If this is your child, be mindful that the more typical ‘child-food’ is not a good source of nutrients… so even though they will be getting more food… it is not going to help them gain more energy.

    6. Toddlers Gut Health

    Has you’re child recently had antibiotics and now refuses to eat?

    Did or does your toddler suffer from eczema?

    Does your toddler only like bland foods?

    If so, your toddler’s gut microbiome may be the reason they refuse to eat anything.

    Your toddler’s gut microbiome was seeded at birth and there is a number of things that can impact if from antibiotics to their diet.

    Changes in your toddlers gut health can affect what they choose to eat. There are plenty of things you can do as a parent to help their gut health, from baking with gut-friendly ingredients like these healthy chocolate chip cookies, to training taste buds to eat fermented foods like sauerkraut to making sure their Vitamin D is optimal.

    Optimizing kids gut health is one of my passions in life. A bit geeky, I know. But the gift that a healthy gut offers a person is life-changing.

    7. Sweetened Taste Buds

    The more you have the more you want. Taste buds are trained. And if your toddler is mainly eating sweetened foods, that is not only what they will crave. And, your toddler will have desensitization to sweet food as well as a sensitive palate to sour and bitter foods.

    That broccoli will taste horrendously yuck to them.

    So if your toddler is refusing all things veggie and will only eat refined, sweeter foods – their taste buds need a reboot.

    There are lots of ways to train your kids taste-buds, but you will need to put in the effort.

    Changing up breakfast is a game-changer for some parents as to when we start the day on sweet foods, we will likely crave that food all day. So simply changing breakfast can set your toddler up for less sweet cravings during the day.

    Check out my Picky-Eater Reboot for more ways to train your kids taste-buds.

    The overview of Why your Toddler is refusing to eat

    The picky eater stage, although can be a stage can last for a lot longer than needed if it’s not addressed.  If your child is refusing to eat anything then check to see if they have any of these underlying reasons.


    1. The Strong-willed Child
    2. Slow digestion (gastroparesis)
    3. Hypersensitive or sensory child
    4. Oral development
    5. Nutritional deficiencies
    6. Gut Health
    7. Sweetened taste buds

    Then make a plan going forward. And little by little your picky eater will be eating trying new vegetables like sauerkraut and Sweet Potato before they are even asked to.

    Want to raise an Adventurous Eaters?

    Get 10 bite-sized easy to digest emails and discover the foundations to Adventurous Eaters.

      7 Reasons Your Child Refuses To Eat Anything

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