Everyday Nutrition: Dealing with Picky Toddlers


Help! Our toddler only wants to eat bread and bananas. How can we get her to eat a wider variety of veggie foods?

Food jags, the term used to describe when a child consumes only a select few foods for several days or a few weeks, are not uncommon. For most toddlers, this is a way to test the waters of independence. For parents, it can be a test of patience.

Given that a toddler’s nutritional needs are high in order to support rapid growth and development, it is crucial for your child to have a nutrient-dense diet built upon variety. When bread and bananas are the only foods your child is eating, it can certainly be a stressful time as a concerned parent. Yet, it is important to remember that children will not starve themselves. When hungry, they will eventually eat.

First, keep serving bread and bananas to your daughter in addition to whatever you are preparing for everyone else at meal time. When paired with her food jag preference du jour, the other food being offered has a higher chance of being consumed, or at least tried, by your daughter. I am not a fan of the “This is what I am cooking, so take it or leave it” stance for young children. The “Okay, here are your bread and banana, but I am also going to put a spoonful of sweet potatoes on the plate” approach is a better way to go.

Keep portions of new foods small, and keep offering a wide variety of foods. If she doesn’t eat broccoli the first time, no biggie. Offer it again in a week or two and continue to offer other choices in the meantime. Variety is key—as well as the visual presentation. Color and shapes can appeal to toddlers, so consider chopping those red, yellow, and green fruit and vegetables in interesting ways. And don’t forget to try different cooking methods. Your kiddo may not be keen on steamed cauliflower, but maybe trying it roasted will tantalize the taste buds? Additionally, I think it is very important to teach your children where food comes from. If you have the ability to shop at a farmers’ market or have a small garden, it opens up the opportunity to establish a healthy relationship with food.

As mentioned, these trying food jag times shall pass—usually in a few weeks. However, if you notice this being a persistent issue, it is important to bring it up with your pediatrician. Sometimes longer bouts of food jags are indicative of a more severe aversion and may warrant the assistance of a feeding specialist.

Have a nutrition question for Anya? Email her.

Disclaimer: Although Anya Todd, R.D. and Kara Rienzo, R.D.N. are registered dietitians, the nutrition content provided on is for educational and informational purposes only. Any or all changes to your diet and lifestyle should always first be discussed with your professional healthcare providers. assumes no responsibility or liability for any consequences resulting directly or indirectly from any action or inaction you take based on the information found on or material linked to on this website.

Posted in Advice Columns, Everyday Nutrition

Anya is a registered, licensed dietitian with more than a decade of experience in clinical settings, research, education, and community outreach. Currently, Anya is pursuing a graduate degree in Sustainable Food Systems. When not working or studying, she runs the Mid-Ohio Animal Welfare League, a volunteer-operated nonprofit that provides foster care to medically needy companion animals and brings low-cost vet services to under-served areas. Read more about Anya.