I have shared this strategy with quite a few people and a number of times those same people have come back to me to tell me how much they appreciated the idea. So, it must be blog worthy. Right?
Our kids are now 3 ½ and 5 ½. So we have now twice been through the transition where your infant/young toddler goes from eating everything you offer them to eating a diet of 5-6 items. It is incredibly frustrating and the more you try to force and fight your kid to eat, the more they will refuse.
At least this is the case when you have children of the stubborn variety. I hear tales of kids who always eat everything that they are offered and regularly try new foods…but I believe that they are either myths or outliers.
You can’t control what a toddler eats. You can offer, you can make mealtime pleasant, you can involve them in shopping, gardening and cooking. But you can’t make a toddler or pre-schooler eat. Not going to happen.
(Caveat – we know families that have certain rules about trying a bite of everything or finishing certain things before getting seconds, etc. That’s fabulous if it works for your family and we’ll try it again when our kids are older. Rules like that result in huge tantrums and aren’t a good fit for our family right now.)
One book that I read had a lot of good suggestions concerning meals and young kids. One was to offer bread at every meal. This way if your child liked nothing else that you cooked, you wouldn’t feel the need to be a short order cook and cater to their whims. They could just have bread for dinner. We also had a rule for a while that if the kids tried a little of everything (or most things) and didn’t like them, they could have yogurt. Similar to the bread, it was zero effort for me.
Eventually, I came around to the idea of serving fruit with dinner every night. Both kids like fruit. They may occasionally decide that they don’t like a particular fruit on a particular day (that happens with everything), but if they are hungry, they will eat fruit. So I know that at least one item in the meal will be eaten and I stop worrying about what else they do or don’t eat.
And bonus, the fruit is good for the adults, too. We don’t always do a great job eating all of the fruits and veggies that we should, so this makes it easy. Also, it helps satisfy us at the end of the meal with something sweet, so sometimes we are less inclined to have dessert.
Here is the rotation of fruit that I serve with dinner:
Apples (lots and lots of apples)
Oranges – Navel or Clementine
Grapes – all colors
When we run low on fresh fruit or I want to sneak some spinach into their diet, we mix things up with a fruit smoothie.