Toddler Eating Habits

” You decide what and when. They decide IF and how much.”

Great advice is often soooo hard to follow, right? This phrase has been my mantra, and by far the best way to keep my sanity while raising not-too-picky eaters. I thought of this because I was talking to a mom who often cooks 3 different things for her family at dinner time, and she is hesitant to continue to offer foods that they don’t like.  If you are ok with this, then more power to you…if you are ready to make a change, read on!

There are many times when my kids don’t clean their plates or eat a piece of each thing offered, and it makes me second guess this tactic! What if he only eats crackers all day? No fruits or veggies?!? Gasp! Which brings me to…

Tip #1:

Look at what your child eats over the course of a week rather than a day. If he eats all carbs and dairy today, make sure to offer extra protein tomorrow. If they skipped their veggies at lunch then incorporate extra ones at dinner for a day or two.

What if my son is on a meat or veggie strike?

Tip #2:

Use non-meat proteins, such as peanut butter (always consult with your pediatrician first), eggs, and beans. Remember dairy products such as cheese and yogurt have some protein, too. The American Academy  recommends an average of 13 g of protein per day for toddlers, which is probably less than you thought they needed! Again, try to look at this over the course of a longer period than a day. If it evens out, you’re probably safe 😉

Add fruits and veggies to your meal, such as spinach or grated carrots in your spaghetti sauce, zucchini and squash cubes to your chili, kale to yummy soups like this White Bean and Pumpkin soup, and tons of peppers and carrots to your Slow Cooker Carne con Papa

Luckily, my kids eat what I consider to be a wide variety of foods. Here they were chowing down on a crunchy taco with shredded chicken, tomatoes, corn and black beans.Click here for the recipe – it’s a slow cooker one that you’ll LOVE!  We added some cheese and sour cream and they were happy campers.


Tip # 3: Provide choices when appropriate.

When it comes to snacks or quick lunches, give a choice within the food group that you are planning to serve.  If they say “No!”, then you choose and serve it anyway (practice the mantra above!).  For the picture below, for example, I would ask if they prefer

a)blueberries or strawberries

b) cheese or yogurt

c) crackers or pretzels


They feel like they are in control, but you still served a balanced meal. Ta-da!

Tip #4: Change the presentation

When Andy decided he wasn’t crazy about sandwiches, I gave him ham and cheese pinwheels in a soft tortilla, or PB&J on thin apple slices!  When Lily told me she “hated” zucchini and squash, I served it in noodle form using the Veggetti. And although I’m not planning to jump on the artsy Bento box lunch craze that some do so well, I have no problem using cookie cutters to shape some sandwich bread or thick cheese slices. Get creative!

If you have a picky eater OR any other tips, comment below!