My Toddler Won’t Eat Meat!

Last updated May 2, 2023
By Renae D'Andrea

Meat is a common staple in many people’s diet, and something that meals are often built around. It can provide a lot of important nutrients for toddlers, including iron. But what happens when your toddler won’t eat meat?

Do Toddlers Need Meat to Be Healthy?

First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way. Toddlers do not need to eat meat to have their nutritional needs met. Really, that goes for people in general. There are many people and cultures that are vegetarians that are completely healthy!

If your standard diet is one that is fairly meat heavy, that can be hard to contemplate. But it is definitely possible for your toddler to meet their needs without meat, we just need to help them get those nutrients in other ways.

Meat Is A Hard Flavor For Many Kids

kid refusing to eat meat

If you have been eating meat your whole life, it can be a hard flavor to identify. But meat often has a rather umami flavor to it. Many kids, especially those that are sensitive to strong flavors, have to learn to like it.

If your toddler doesn’t like meat, know that it doesn’t mean they never will. If it is a large part of your diet, you can continue to offer it to them. More often than not they will eventually learn to like it if you eat it frequently.

What Nutrients Does Meat Contain?

If your toddler isn’t eating meat, I recommend ensuring that there are other sources of important nutrients at their meals. The main nutrients to be concerned with are iron and zinc.

For a list of iron sources, head here. There are many vegetarian sources of iron, like lentils and beans! Many iron sources also contain zinc in them.

When your child is not eating entire food groups, like meat, I recommend becoming familiar with the important nutrients your child needs in their overall diet, and all the different foods outside of that food group that will meet their needs. For help with this, grab the Grow Baby Grow ebook. You’ll get a detailed walk through of important nutrients for different ages, as well as common foods to meet those needs.

How Often Should Meat Be Eaten?

I am often asked what a good goal is for including meat in your diet. Keep in mind, there is no amount of meat that is actually necessary for good health. But if meat is a part of your family’s diet, how often do I recommend eating it?

It all depends!

When it comes to what your family eats, we are all going to be different. If you have a pattern of eating meat every day, hearing that you should only serve meat a few times a week isn’t going to be helpful.

Everyone is going to have their different thresholds for the amount of meat they will serve within their cultural preferences and habits.

What I do want to encourage, though, is a diet full of variety. Especially if your child is resistant to eating meat! If the main iron source you are serving throughout the week is meat, and your child doesn’t like to eat it, it might be worth exploring some non-meat options more frequently.

There are many different things to consider when it comes to eating meat. Things like its health impact, environmental impact, cost, and many more. At the end of the day red meat is just one type of food out of many that you might want to expose your child too.

I recommend instead of focusing on what to limit, though, that instead you focus on including a variety of other foods in your child’s diet. By focusing on things to include, instead of exclude, you will naturally start to see more variety and nutrient density in your diet!

Grow Baby Grow | New Ways Nutrition

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The ebook designed to help you feed your child a nutrient-rich, varied diet! You'll learn all the nutrients that are important in the first two years of your child's life, what the best foods are to get those nutrients in, and how you can serve a varied diet to ensure you are meeting all of their needs!

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