How To Convince Your 3 Years Old Child To Eat Food

How do people get to fly to the Moon? Can you count all the starts in the sky? What is the formula for the speed of light? All of these are easy questions, that you could find an answer to, if you really wanted. But one of the biggest questions of the world, that is still unanswered is this: How do you convince your 3 years old daughter (or son) to eat dinner? If there would be an universal answer, a magical trick that one could do, that would apply to all kids, that will be amazing. But it is not. Parenthood is not easy. It’s amazing, but not easy.

My daughter refuses to eat almost anything. If it is not candy or McDonalds/Burger King, she will not touch it. That is the extent of the cooked food she will eat: chicken nuggets from McDonalds, or from Burger King. And french fries. If the french fries are homemade, nope, that is a big mistake. She will not even look at them. How did she come to eating junk food you might ask? Well, her father kind of gives in, when he sees that she refuses food. She lives one week with him, and one week with me, so the fact that she doesn’t have consistency it is not helping.

So, I needed a plan. First, I made a list of the things she does eat. Fruits, vegetables (not cooked though), milk, pancakes, and fast-food of course. Here is my strategy for all the meals throughout the day. I am not saying that those tips will work for your child entirely, but hopefully some of them will do.


  1. Start with something that your kids likes to eat, and add-on to it. For example, my daughter liked pancakes. I started by adding butter to the pancakes. She refused it in the beginning. She want to kindergarten without eating breakfast for a couple of days. Day 3 she started to eat the pancakes with butter on top. After few weeks, I added cheese to the pancakes. Same routine, she needed few days until she gave in and started to eat the cheese as well.
  2. Substitute the unhealthy/undesired food with a healthier option. In my case, I substituted the pancakes with white plain bread. After a while, the white bread was replaced by the wholegrain bread.
  3. Don’t give too many options. Set the table with the things your kids are supposed to eat for breakfast, and that’s it. Our breakfast now consists of fruits, milk and bread with butter and cheese. Oh, and be careful on the milk. It shouldn’t be more than 1 glass. Most of the toddler are so used to drinking milk, that they replace the other meals with it. So, if you want your child to be hungry, make sure he doesn’t drink too much milk.


Lunch for us happens in kindergarten, but when the kids are home with me, I apply the same rules.

  • Not too many options
  • water instead of milk
  • no snacks between meals
  • I always have at least one think that I know they like/eat on the table. But not too much of it so that they could get full.


Dinner is the most challenging part of the day for us. This is the time they get to eat homemade cooked food. My daughter would not even want to try. She looks at it, and instantly says that she doens’t like it. No, no, I am wrong. Sometimes she doesn’t even look at it and she already decides she will not eat. She will ask me :”Mammy, what do we have for dinner?” and I would go “It’s rice with … ” , “Nope, I don’t like it”. “Chicken with … ” , “Nope, it’s yacky”. “Chicken nuggets …” , ” From McDonalds?” , “No,…” , and you know already the rest.

So, here is the things that I have tried so far:

  1. No food before dinner. We need to make sure they are really hungry.
  2. I also start with something that I know she likes, and try to add on to it. Now, that I convinced her to eat bread, it was an easy transition to pasta. Of course, I had to make it fresh from scratch the first time, to get her to try it out. She liked it. Now she eats pasta with butter, cheese, cucumber, tomatoes and corn. Not so bad.
  3. Make the kids responsible for one day of the week where they get to choose what is for dinner, and help you make it. Of course, here you need some rules. My rule is that they have to choose a dinner that contains at least 2 vegetables, or “2 healthy things”.
  4. Make sure they know that they don’t have access to food once they get off the table until evening snack – kvelds mat what we call it here in Norway. That is the last meal of the day, before they go to bed.

Dinner is usually served between 4 and 5 PM, and it is followed by an evening snack – some bread with ham or choose around 7 PM. The kids are in bed and sleeping by 8:30 PM.

What are your challenges with getting your kids to eat homecooked meals? I would like to hear from your experiences as well.

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