When it comes to food, your child will probably begin to show real likes and dislikes between the ages of 2 and 3. But his sudden finicky habits aren't necessarily a sign of disobedience. They are more likely a reflection of his growing independence. Your toddler is beginning to discover more about himself and what makes him different from other people and he's excited about expressing these differences.
By now, he can communicate effectively and is learning how his reactions can, to some extent, control what happens around him. He's also beginning to discover that he has preferences, from clothing to books to green vegetables. Follow these suggestions and you'll not only give your child the opportunity to explore his tastes, you'll give him a solid foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating:
Avoid arguing over food. If your child says she's full, allow her to leave the table or to join in family conversation until everyone else is finished. Appetites do fluctuate from day to day; just because your toddler cleaned her plate after one hard day's play doesn't mean she'll do the same the next day. If you require clean plates before your children can leave the table, be sure to fill your toddler's plate with small, manageable portions.
Stay one step ahead of your toddler's appetite. Say no to sugary snacks within two hours of meals. If your child says he's hungry, offer healthy alternatives: baby carrots, applesauce, cheese slices, or yogurt. Don't prepare special meals for your child if you already have something else planned for the rest of the family. While it's good to acknowledge her preferences, it's important that she learn to try new things. If she refuses to eat, don't make an issue of it. Simply tell her that this is her meal and allow her to decide if she'd rather try it or be hungry.1