Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

5 Tips for Getting Your Toddler to Eat a Balanced Meal

Toddlers have notorious reputations for being an incredibly stubborn age group, especially when it comes to eating dinner. Not only do toddlers tend to be incredibly picky about what foods they put into their tummies, but they are usually also pretty particular about various other aspects of mealtime. Common toddler peculiarities include (but are certainly not limited to) how the food gets from the plate to their mouths, what color the food is, what shape their food makes on the plate, and even what the food is called.

Needless to say, the combination of pickiness and infamous toddler stubbornness can often make eating with and cooking for a toddler a less than enjoyable experience, and many frustrated parents have experienced periods where they wonder if their children will ever eat a nutritious, balanced meal. Thankfully for parents, though, there are multiple strategies and tricks for creating healthy, balanced meals for toddlers that they will actually want to eat. Read through the following tips and tricks for a less stressful dinner experience:

1. Provide options

If you give your child one option at dinner, and he or she dislikes that option, then you’re probably out of luck in terms of getting them to eat a filling meal. Instead, provide them with a few different options on their plate at once; make sure that there are different colors and types of food for them to choose from, since you never know what will appeal to a toddler’s ever-changing mood. Dividing their food into different sections also makes it look like they have more of a variety to choose from.

2. Don’t eliminate sweets

Putting a dessert on your child’s plate will not immediately put them at risk for obesity. As long as you serve desserts in moderation and don’t use them as bribes, dessert does not have to be a dirty word in any household. Alternate between serving desserts like fruit, applesauce and cookies or brownies for special treats to introduce your child to a variety of sweets and flavors.

3. Allow messes

Toddlers love to play with their food, so don’t be afraid to give them meals that are bound to get messy. Let them smear, dip and spread foods on top of each other; they’ll enjoy what they are eating more and might even be too distracted by their creativity to even realize that they are eating certain healthy foods.

4. Let them help cook

Similarly, getting your toddler into the kitchen with you when you cook meals will help him or her be more receptive to trying new foods and sitting through dinner. Feeling like he or she contributed to the meal will make your child proud of what is being put on the table, meaning that he or she will also be more likely to eat what they helped create.

5. Don’t overwhelm them with food

Toddlers have small stomachs, so forcing them to clean their plates or eat adult-size portions will not be conducive to having them eat balanced meals. Serving them smaller portion sizes will help them to be less overwhelmed by what is in front of them and will make them more likely to consume a variety of different foods.

These ideas should help to not only eliminate some of the frustration that can accompany feeding toddlers, but will also help to get kids excited about eating their foods. Feeding toddlers is truly an art; if you find a way to balance nutrition with fun and excitement, dinnertime will hopefully be a much more enjoyable and less-stressful time of day.

Author Bio: This guest post was submitted by Meredith Kimelblatt, who writes on behalf of Kid Cuisine. Kid Cuisine offers kid friendly meals and snacks that are delicious and approved by toddlers and parents alike. To learn more about Kid Cuisine’s kid-friendly meals and easy snacks for kids, visit

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