No, Your Toddler Doesn’t Need To Finish Everything On Their Plate

Photo by David Goehring on


Back in the old days, parents used to think they were “helping” children by forcing them to sit at the table until they finished all the food on their plate.

Thankfully, this practice is no longer encouraged – and is actually deemed harmful for a child’s development.

Wondering why your toddler doesn’t need to finish all the food on their plate?

Here are a few reasons why. 

They’re Not Hungry 

To start – think about how you feel when you’re full.

Do you want someone hovering over you forcing you to finish every last bite?

Of course not.

But by forcing kids to finish all their food (even when they’re full) – you’re essentially teaching them their own bodies don’t matter – and you’re setting them up with food struggles later in life.

Toddlers eat when they’re hungry – and they don’t when they’re not.

It’s not as complicated as we make it out to be.

They Don’t Like What You Offered 

Do you like eating food you dislike?

Of course not!

Well, your little one is no different.

Toddlers go through phases where they prefer to eat one thing (all the time) and despise another item and refuse to eat it.

To help them get the nutrients they need, offer a variety of healthy food options on their plate – and then let them choose what they want.

You can also get creative and help them get their veggies by adding them to omelets at breakfast or homemade meatballs for dinner.

Scary Mommy had a few additional creative ideas:

If you’re trying to introduce your toddler to new foods, it’s a good idea to make it fun for them. Try using cookie cutters to create interesting shapes, or compromise and go with a twist on a food that you know they like. For example, maybe you want your kid to eat broccoli but know they love mashed potatoes. The solution? Mash some broccoli into the mashed potatoes.”

Future Obesity 

When children grow up knowing they can’t leave the table until they finish their food – it sets them up to battle with food for the rest of their life.

They will train themselves to always have this mentality and overeat later in life.

Or, they’ll learn to hurry and inhale their food so they can get up and play – not fully paying attention to what they’re eating – or how much.

Instead, by letting them stop when they’re full, they’ll learn better portion control and eating habits.

So, mamas – next time you are encountering a perceived power struggle – take a step back and reflect. 

Maybe your toddler just isn’t hungry. 

Or perhaps they don’t like what you presented to them and try something else. 

And if you are struggling during this season – take heart! 

Many mamas go through this period, so please know you aren’t alone.

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