Meal Planning for Toddlers: 4 Ground Rules for Picky Eaters
Contributor Kale Samela, MS, RD, CSP, is a pediatric nutritionist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. She is the author of Give Peas a Chance: The Foolproof Guide to Feeding Your Picky Toddler.
Pulling together a balanced meal for your family can be challenging. Add a picky toddler to the mix, and it can quickly turn into a daunting task. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to deal with the dinner rush – let alone the complaining, coaxing, or bribing. So meal planning for toddlers is essential for a successful family dinner without the weeknight stress.
Here are some ground rules to get you started with meals the whole family--even the picky eaters--will be happy to see.
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Repeat new foods frequently.
It can take about 15 times for a child to see a new food before they accept it on a regular basis. If you ask your toddler what they want to eat for dinner, chances are he will tell you what is familiar to him: Kid Food. If he has never seen grilled salmon, he will never ask! When introducing a new ingredient, add it to the regular rotation over the next few weeks to make it one of the familiar foods.
Modify meals to help your toddler succeed.
Learn to make grown-up foods kid friendly, instead of relying on kid-friendly foods, by keeping elements separate. If you’re making Spicy Thai Chicken, set aside a piece of plain cooked chicken before adding heat or sauce to the whole dish. Dice it up into small pieces and then serve the same rice and veggies to model the same meal.
Make a plan – and stick to it.
It’s tempting to turn into a short-order cook, but don’t let it happen more than once a week. If pasta with broccoli is on the meal plan, then make it – and be done. You can always add a safety food if it will make everyone feel better about coming to the table. For example, if you know your tired toddler loves strawberry yogurt, then put it on her plate with the main meal you have planned.
Plan your portion sizes.
Whether you follow a strict diet for personal health reasons or to simply maintain your body weight, you can still make eating together a priority by following these simple macronutrient guidelines below.