Research shows children usually start refusing new foods around 2 years old. From an evolutionary perspective, neophobia = avoiding potential toxins. While the foods we offer are safe, a child’s instincts to refuse them are the same ones that would’ve protected them 1000s of years ago. Not only might your toddler refuse new foods, but also foods they used to eat happily. Whilst confusing & challenging for parents, this behaviour is very common, very normal & usually temporary.
Nature also protects children by making toxic foods unpalatable. From birth, babies prefer sweet/savoury tastes & dislike sour/bitter flavours. This is because poisonous substances tend to be bitter. Despite many bitter foods (e.g. broccoli) being safe, our genes have taken a “better safe than sorry” approach. The TAS2R28 gene governs our sensitivity to bitter tastes & 1/4 of humans are extra sensitive to these bitter compounds, making it incredibly difficult for some children to simply “eat their greens”. But with experience (& delicious marinades to mask the taste) children often outgrow this aversion.
Parents control almost everything in a child’s life. Things they can’t control: sleeping, eating, toileting. Common things parents struggle with: sleeping, eating, toileting. We often forget that when raising a child, we are raising a person. A person we want to grow into an independent individual, yet we admonish our children when they demonstrate these traits. It's important to give back control (or the illusion of it!) where we can. Maybe dinner becomes a picnic? Your child only eats sausages? Present a plate full of vegetable purees ‘sauces' to dip them in. It's important to get curious & find creative solutions to picky eating where you can.
If you have serious medical concerns, talk to your GP. But remember, try to relax. Your child will not let themselves starve, and cornflakes for dinner will not end their future career as an investment banker. All you can do is try to patiently guide them on a path toward healthy eating.
References: Rissio et al 2016; Walton et al 2006; Dovey et al 2007