Feeding Toddlers – 5 Tips to Manage Picky Eaters

Picky eater on your hands? Good news! You are not alone! In fact, this is one of the biggest challenges in raising children.  As parents, we simply want our kids to grow, receive proper nourishment, and gain the nutrition important for a healthy development. However, kids have an alternative agenda, and they make it known! Read along to learn registered dietitian and pediatric nutrition expert, Lara Field’s FIVE TIPS for successful eaters.

Click here to watch the complete WGN-TV – Minute With Mommies segment

1 –  The parents’ job is to provide the food, the kids’ job is to eat it. There is only so much encouraging that we can do without being damaging to their future eating behaviors. Do you ask your kids when they want to go to bed? NO! Never ask your kid what they want at mealtime. Have a plan and stick to it!

2 – Get them hungry! Frequent snacking/milk drinking in between meals will only fill them up and make meals less productive! In order to make a positive eating experience for your toddler, aim for about 2-3 hrs between meals.

3 – Try to have food ready to go, so when mealtime comes around, your kids can get started. Longer time waiting in the highchair may increase frustration and meals may not be as successful. Try to plan ahead, and prepare some “make ahead” options such as meatballs (see our recipe below!), whole-grain pasta, pancakes. A little meal prep when you have some time will make for a more pleasant eating occasion.

4 – Throwing food? Rather than yell and scream, keep your floors clean and calmly pick up the food and put it back on their plate. Throwing can be an attention seeking activity for toddlers. Without making it known that you are irritated, simply suggest that throwing food is not okay. If your child continues to throw food, end the meal, and wait to feed them until the next eating occasion.

5 – Be an active participant! Sit down with them at the table, role modeling is a powerful feeding technique. If they see you eating it, they will more likely try it as well. Kids’ mealtime too early for your schedule? Rather than analyzing every morsel of food they are putting in their mouth, try to create a distraction for yourself. Join your kids at the table and snack on some vegetables for your first course — good for your body, too!

Check out this simple make-ahead recipe aimed to please the pickiest toddler palate. 

Hidden Veggie Meatballs


1 lb Ground Beef (90% Lean), Turkey or Chicken (Breast Meat)
1 cup Baby Spinach, Finely Chopped or Zucchini, Shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, Grated
1/4 cup Dry Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs or Lightly Crushed Gluten-Free Rolled Oats
1 Large Egg
1 Clove Garlic, Minced
1/2 tsp Salt


  1. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place wire rack on top of prepared baking sheet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Combine ground meat of your choice and remaining ingredients. Shape mixture into 2-inch rounds. Place on prepared rack.
  3. Bake at 425˚ for 12 to 15 minutes or until internal temperature of meatballs is 160˚F.
  4. Serve with whole wheat pasta or spiralized veggies.

Lara Field MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Specialist in Pediatrics with over a decade of clinical and client experience. When she’s not actively working to keep her clients healthy, she’s a busy mother of two active boys and loves testing new recipes in her kitchen. Follow her on Instagram to see her recipe ideas, product suggestions, and see how she manages a healthy lifestyle @larafield.