I am no expert in feeding toddlers, but every time I post a photo of Ainsley’s lunches using the #EasyBabyEats hashtag on Instagram, I get a lot of questions on how the heck I get her to eat everything that I make.
The short answer? I don’t!
I never want to deceive you into thinking that Ainsley is the world’s best eater, because for a few months we’ve had some challenges with pickiness/feeding the dogs her food/only wanting to eat carbs. But I’ve been learning a few things along the way that I think other moms might find helpful.
1. Keep Introducing New Foods
Your toddler needs to see foods multiple times before they get familiar with them. Ainsley frequently rejects foods the first 5 to 7 times I feed them to her, but I just keep trying! It can be frustrating to make really nice meals for your toddler only to see them feed the dog with their food, but just keep at it. Eventually they will come around!
2. Feed Carbs Last
If your kiddos are anything like mine, the carbs are the first thing they reach for at dinnertime. I strategically feed Ainsley carbs last. I start by feeding her the meat/protein option + veggies. Then, when she is starting to get bored or done with those items, I’ll introduce fruit and carbs. If I start with bread or crackers or rice she will fill up and not want any of the healthier options.
3. Sauces and Finger Food Help
When we were really struggling to get Ainsley to eat her meat (she was a little low in iron at her 1-year) we decided to try adding ketchup or barbecue sauce to her meat and it helped quite a bit! I make sloppy joe meat frequently, which is always a hit, and also find that drizzling her chopped chicken with a little ketchup makes it more appealing to her.
When possible, I try to make her food finger-friendly so she can feed herself. Most toddlers are extremely independent and want to do it all themselves, so let them! It’s a lot messier, but if she has a full tummy then I’m fine with it!
4. Sneak In Protein
I’m not a huge fan of sneaking veggies into foods, but I’m all for finding more ways to add protein to meal-time. Healthy whole wheat French toast, slathered with peanut butter, is one of our family favorites for breakfast. I also make fried rice a lot with plenty of egg mixed in with brown rice and veggies. Smoothies packed with Greek yogurt are a great option, too! I find that when Ainsley eats plenty of protein, her sleep is better and the need for snacks decreases.
5. Don’t Be Perfect
I feel like I need to put this one in there, because I see a lot of snobbery on the internet when it comes to feeding kids. I was one of those parents when Ainsley was very little, but I quickly realized that sometimes it’s better for your kid to eat something than nothing. Things like teething and sickness can really zap your kiddo’s appetite, so during those weeks Ainsley eats a lot of yogurt + pouches + crackers. It’s life! I want Ainsley to grow up eating healthy food, but I don’t ever want to deprive her of some of my childhood favorites, like Goldfish crackers or ice cream.
I make Ainsley’s colorful, fun lunches because I like to cook and it’s always been a way to show people I care about them. It’s my passion and gift, so it doesn’t feel like a chore, but don’t be daunted by seeing what others do. Use the ideas as inspiration and make it work for your family and kids!