3. Nutrition

Winning the Food Fights

​Why do they want to cover everything with ketchup? Why do they insist they hate something they’ve never even tried? If you’ve ever tried to get your child to eat without all the success you’d hoped for, this new book may be just what you need.

As the mother of a 22-month-old boy who has discovered the power of stating his dining opinions firmly, I couldn’t have received more timely support than that of my latest read, Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed with Insights, Humor, and a Bottle of Ketchup, by Laura A. Jana, M.D., FAAP, and Jennifer Shu, M.D., FAAP, and published by the AAP.

Readers are likely to have the same sentiment regardless of their child’s age. After all, feeding one’s children is an ongoing responsibility of parenthood that often becomes complicated by stage-specific needs — and that in addition to a mountain of well-intentioned advice and government recommendations.

A quick search on “child nutrition” at Books finds more than 4,700 results. Pediatricians Jana and Shu know that despite being exposed to all that information, we are still left with questions. Fortunately, they have practical, reality-based answers.

A Tough Challenge

“It is impossible to ignore the fact that food-related battles rank right at the top of the daily list of parental challenges,” write the co-authors. They let you know right away that they mean business, but they do it with the kind of encouragement that you hope to gain from bonding with fellow parents.

Barely into the first chapter of Food Fights, one sure statement is enough to convince you:

“With some basic insights along with some palatable peacekeeping strategies, you can win the nutritional challenges of parenthood and play a defining role in shaping your child’s lifelong eating habits.”

Thank goodness I resisted the urge to skip the practical advice for the newborn period in lieu of heading straight for more curious matters — such as why “everything tastes better with ketchup.” With plenty of comic relief, Drs. Jana and Shu draw on research, anecdotes, their experiences as pediatricians and mothers, and best practices.

“Reviewing the underlying principles of what you do and what you do for your kids can serve as a powerful way to relate to them. Sometimes people can see it for themselves but not their kids,” says Dr. Jana.

Weighty Decisions

Before delving into the book’s main subject matter, Drs. Jana and Shu present two facts that can often be traced to poor nutritional habits:

  1. Children with obese parents are 80 percent more likely to become obese themselves
  2. 30 percent of American adults over the age of 20 are considered obese

Once the idea is introduced, it seems obvious enough that a child wants whatever his or her parents eat. But it’s a great reminder for those of us who become parents believing we’ll become more health-conscious as our baby develops more astute observation skills.

If that’s the case, it is one of the first ways parents are vulnerable to “slippery slopes,” or routines that “ease themselves into existence while we’re too busy going about our parenting business to notice,” as the authors describe it.

“While we had every intention of focusing our attention on the questions parents typically ask that are specific to their kids, we constantly found ourselves discussing eating habits in general,” write the authors. “After all, if we as parents can’t get our own eating habits and waistlines under control, how is it that we think we will be able to teach our children to do so?”

Strategizing and Peacekeeping

“Parents often get themselves into a pattern and don’t know what’s coming or how to make the next transition. We’re giving people a heads-up before they turn what was a good thing into a bad habit,” says Shu. She points out that once these habits are formed, we often admit that if someone had told us ahead of time, we might have done things differently.

Consider some common examples, such as:

  • Middle-of-the-night feedings
  • Battles over the bottle
  • The cure-all status of a sippy-cup

Food Fights introduces 10 “palatable peacekeeping strategies” to keep in mind. Meant as techniques to solve or prevent food-related struggles, the ideas surface throughout the book and illustrate the power of being proactive, rather than reactive. They also provide comfort for parents, who shouldn’t feel that they’re facing this battle alone.  

“A lot of principles are the same from age to age,” says Dr. Jana. “Once you extract all the fundamental principles, you can basically apply them to just about any food fight that arises.”

Patience Pays

There is a message embedded throughout the book that parents need to hear over and over: Be patient with yourself, be patient with your children. One of the peacekeeping strategies is emphatic on this point: “If at first you don’t succeed … try, try again.” Along with that, another point reminds you “the food pyramid wasn’t built in a day.”

Another solution involves some patience, as well: the “no thank-you” bite, a tried-and-true source of compromise. Studies show that it can take between 10 and 15 tastes of one type of food before a child accepts it or likes it. Offering your child one taste before allowing him or her to refuse a dish adds up toward the desired result.

“Don’t take ‘no’ as a rejection,” says Dr. Jana. “You’re making progress by just exposing your child to new foods and flavors.”

Away from Home

Aside from its focus on the habits of daily eating in addition to the other body functions associated with it, a large section of Food Fights is dedicated to the challenges of eating away from home. This can entail dining with family and friends, at restaurants, and even on a plane.

“If you set the tone with consistency and expectations, children will be more likely to know that you expect them to act that way at somebody else’s house or a restaurant,” says Dr. Shu. “You always have to look at the next step.”

Indeed, Food Fights helps give you the confidence to look ahead to that next step. You don’t need to be daunted by the prospect of reading through every “childhood nutrition” book on the market. An outline of children’s tales recommended in the chapter called “Read All About It!”, however, seems like a much better idea.

Just remember: Your food fights are a battle your entire family can win one bite at a time. Having this timely battle plan in your hands is a great place to start.

3. Nutrition

Serving Sizes for Toddlers

A toddler’s daily energy requirements are not very large. After tripling their birth weight by their first babies, a child’s growth slows down. So, the amount they eat does not need to be huge.

A general guide for feeding your toddler

  • Each day, a child between ages 1 and 3 years needs about 40 calories for every inch of height. This means that a toddler who measures 32 inches in height, for example, should be taking in an average of about 1,300 calories a day. However, the amount varies with each child’s build and activity level.
  • The child’s serving size should be approximately one-quarter of an adult’s.

Example of an average toddler-sized meal

  • One ounce of meat, or 2 to 3 tablespoons of beans
  • One to 2 tablespoons of vegetables
  • One to 2 tablespoons of fruit
  • One-quarter slice of bread

Your toddler will get enough calories along with all the protein, vitamins, and minerals they need from an average daily intake similar to the chart below.

Average Daily Intake for a Toddler
Food GroupServings Per DayNumber of Calories Per DayOne Serving Equals
Grains6250Bread – 1/4 to 1/2 sliceCereal, rice, pasta (cooked) – 4 tbspsCereal (dry) – 1/4 cupCrackers – 1 to 2
Vegetables2 to 375Vegetables (cooked) – 1 tbsp. for each year of age
Fruits2 to 375Fruit (cooked or canned) – 1/4 cupFruit (fresh) – 1/2 pieceJuice – 1/4 to 1/2 cup (2-4 oz.)
Dairy2 to 3300-450Milk – 1/2 cupCheese – 1/2 oz. (1-inch cube)Yogurt – 1/3 cup
Protein (meat, fish, poultry, tofu)22001 oz. (equal to two 1-inch cubes of solid meat or 2 tbsps. of ground meat)Egg – 1/2 any size, yolk and white
Legumes2200Soaked and cooked – 2 tbsps. (1/8 cup)
Peanut butter (smooth only)95
Spread thin on bread toast or cracker – 1 tbsp.
3. Nutrition


At twelve months, your baby was just getting used to drinking from a cup and feeding himself with a spoon and his fingers. By fifteen months, he’ll be much more in control, getting food into his mouth with relative ease when he wants to and flinging it about the room when that seems like more fun. He’ll be able to fill his spoon and get it to his mouth consistently, although occasionally it will tip the wrong way and spill at the last second.

Unbreakable dishes, cups, and glasses are essential, since they, too, may go flying when he’s bored with their contents. Such behavior should be discouraged by a firm reprimand and replacement of the utensils in the proper location. If these behaviors persist, consider taking him out of the high chair and waiting until the next meal.

By eighteen months, your toddler can use a spoon, fork, and unbreakable glass or cup when he wants to, but he may not always want to. There will be times when he’d rather finger paint with his pudding or turn his plate into a soaring airplane.

Some children get over this chaotic eating behavior by their second birthday, at which time they actually may become upset when they spill or get even a little smudge of food on their hands. Others, however, will remain very messy eaters well into their third year.

3. Nutrition

Selecting Healthy Snacks for Toddlers

toddler eating fun healthy veggies

Toddlers use a lot of energy to grow and play, and their little stomachs can’t hold enough food to keep them from getting hungry between meals. Many young children need both a morning and an afternoon snack. These should be timed so they will still be hungry for lunch and dinner.

Snacks should include a balance of healthy foods. Children often come to think of a “snack” as a time to eat highly processed foods. You can help avoid this trap by serving a variety of freshly prepared foods to your children—even at snack time.

Healthy snack options for toddlers

Fresh fruits

  • Apples, bananas, peaches, nectarines, pears (thinly sliced for safety)
  • Cherries, grapes, plums (sliced or smushed and pitted)
  • Orange or grapefruit sections (cut into pieces)
  • Strawberries

Dried fruits

  • Apples, apricots, peaches, pears (cut up)
  • Dates, prunes (pitted, cut up)
  • Raisins or cranberries


  • Carrots, green beans (well cooked, diced)
  • Steamed cauliflower, broccoli
  • Yams or sweet potatoes (cooked and diced)
  • Peas (mashed for safety; a child can inhale whole peas)
  • Steamed, pureed spinach or greens
  • Avocado slices or small cubes

Dairy products

  • Cheese (grated or diced)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Yogurt, fresh or frozen
  • Milk, including non-dairy milk alternatives

Breads and cereals

  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain tortilla, pita, or bagels cut into small pieces
  • Crackers (graham, whole grain)
  • Whole grain dry cereals

Lean proteins

  • Fish (canned tuna, salmon, sardines, whitefish)
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters (smooth, spread thinly on whole grain bread or crackers)
  • Edamame beans or chickpeas (steamed or mashed) or hummus spreads
  • Cooked tofu cubes or tofu dip
  • Hard boiled eggs

Snacks toddlers should avoid

Big chunks of any food are dangerous for children under than age 4 and pose serious choking hazards. For this reason, raw veggies and some fruits such as carrots, apples, whole cherry tomatoes, whole green beans, and celery should be cut into small pieces and/or cooked to minimize the choking risk. Nuts, peanuts, popcorn, and large amounts of sticky foods like peanut butter are also choking hazards.

Heavily processed foods should also be avoided; they tend to be low in nutritional value and high in salt and added sugar.

3. Nutrition

Sample Menu for a Two-Year-Old

By age two, your child should be eating three healthy meals a day, plus one or two snacks. He or she can eat the same food as the rest of the family. Do not fixate on amounts and do not make mealtimes a battle. Whenever possible, offer your child finger foods instead of soft ones that require a fork or spoon to eat. See the following sample menu ideas for a two-year-old.

Note: This menu is planned for a two-year-old child who weighs approximately 27 pounds (12.5 kg).

1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons (15 mL)

1 tablespoon = 1⁄2 ounce (15 mL)

1 ounce = 30 mL

1 cup = 8 ounces (240 mL)


  • ½ cup nonfat or low- fat milk
  • ½ cup iron- fortified cereal or 1 egg
  • 1⁄3 cup fruit (for example, banana, cantaloupe, or strawberries)
  • ½ slice whole wheat toast
  • ½ teaspoon margarine or butter or 1 teaspoon jelly


  • 4 crackers with cheese or hummus or ½ cup cut-up fruit or berries
  • ½ cup water


  • ½ cup low- fat or nonfat milk
  • ½ sandwich—1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 ounce meat, slice of cheese, veggie (avocado, lettuce, or tomato)
  • 2–3 carrot sticks (cut up) or 2 tablespoons other dark- yellow or dark-green vegetable
  • ½ cup berries or 1 small (½ ounce) low-fat oatmeal cookie


  • ½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
  • ½ apple (sliced), 3 prunes, 1⁄3 cup grapes (cut up), or ½ orange


  • ½ cup nonfat or low-fat milk
  • 2 ounces meat
  • 1⁄3 cup pasta, rice, or potato
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable
3. Nutrition

Feeding and Nutrition Tips: Your 3-Year-Old

​It’s important to help your children develop a healthy attitude toward eating at an early age. By age three, children are less likely to use eating—or not eating—to be defiant. Generally, (although almost certainly not always), they will learn to better interact, participate, and enjoy family meals.  

5 Tips for Parents:

  • Accept strong preferences about foods. Your three-year-old may be enthusiastic about eating, but he or she may have very specific food preferences. Some preferences may vary from day to day. For example, your child may gobble down a particular food one day, and then push away the same food the next day. She may ask for a certain food for several days in a row, and then insist that she doesn’t like it anymore. As irritating as this behavior can feel, it is very typical for a three-year-old. It is best not to make an issue of it. Instead, continue to offer a variety of healthy foods, and let your child choose which of them and how much he or she will eat.
  • Encourage, but don’t force trying new foods. Offer very small amounts of a new food for your child to taste (an “adventure bite”), along with other foods he or she already likes. Do not expect your child to eat a full portion of an unfamiliar food.
  • Offer nutritious food choices at every meal. As a parent, your job is to make sure that your three-year-old has nutritious food choices at every meal. After offering healthy options at the table, let him or her make the decision of how much to eat. If your child shows picky eating preferences—resisting vegetables, for example—don’t get discouraged or frustrated. Keep offering a variety of healthy foods, even if your child did not like them before. Developing a taste for foods can require up to 15-20 repeated exposures. This is also an important time to establish healthy snacking and meal habits.
  • Meals can be simple and nutritious. Remember, meals at this age don’t need to be fancy. In fact, most three-year-olds prefer simpler preparation. If you only a few minutes to prepare a meal, try simple meals that include a protein source, whole grain, fruit, vegetable, and dairy. For example, a turkey or peanut butter sandwich, a serving of carrots, an apple, and a glass of milk. A simple lunch like this takes less time to prepare than driving through a fast-food restaurant—and it is much healthier!
  • Turn off the TV—especially at mealtimes. Television advertising can be a big challenge to your three-year-old’s good nutrition. Young children are easily influenced by ads for unhealthy foods like sugary cereals, fast food, and sweets. The best way to avoid this is put in place a “media curfew” at mealtime and bedtime, putting all devices away or plugging them into a charging station for the night.
3. Nutrition

Feeding and Nutrition Tips: Your 2-Year-Old

​​Your two-year-old should be eating three healthy meals a day, plus one or two snacks. He or she can eat the same food as the rest of the family. With his or her improved language and social skills, your child can become an active participant at mealtimes if given the chance to eat with everyone else.

  • Do not fixate on amounts.
  • Do not make mealtimes a battle.
  • Do pay attention to adopting healthy eating habits—including sitting as a family at mealtime.
  • Do make healthy food choices as a family.  

Unsafe Foods for Toddlers

At age two, your child should be able to use a spoon, drink from a cup with just one hand, and feed him or herself a wide variety of finger foods. However, he or she is still learning to chew and swallow efficiently and may gulp food down when in a hurry to get on with playing. For that reason, the risk of choking is high. See Table below.

Unsafe Foods for Toddlers - Table

Healthy Eating Basics & Picky Eaters

Make sure your child eats from each of the basic four food groups each day:

  • Meat, fish, poultry, eggs
  • Milk, cheese, and other dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Cereals, potatoes, rice, flour products

Don’t be alarmed if your child he doesn’t always meet this ideal. Many toddlers resist eating certain foods—or insist on eating only one or two favorite foods. The more you struggle with your child over his or her eating preferences, the more determined he or she will be to defy you.

Offering a variety of foods and leaving the choices up to your child will eventually allow him or her to eat a balanced diet on his or her own. Toddlers also like to feed themselves, so whenever possible, offer your child finger foods instead of cooked ones that require a fork or spoon to eat.

Supplementation for Some Children

Vitamin supplements are rarely necessary for toddlers who eat a varied diet. However, supplemental iron may be needed if your child eats very little meat, iron-fortified cereal, or vegetables rich in iron. Large quantities of milk (more than 32 ounces [960 mL] per day) also may interfere with the proper absorption of iron, thus increasing the risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Your child should drink 16 ounces (480 mL) of low-fat or nonfat milk each day. This will provide most of the calcium he or she needs for bone growth and still not interfere with his or her appetite for other foods—particularly those that provide iron.

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children stay on whole milk until they are two years of age—unless there is a reason to switch a baby to low-fat milk sooner. Whole milk contains approximately 4% milk fat. It may help to gradually switch your child from whole milk to a lower-fat milk. Therefore, many pediatricians recommend that children get reduced fat (2%) milk for a few weeks before switching them to low fat (1%) or no fat (skim) milk.

According the AAP clinical report, Optimizing Bone Health in Children and Adolescents, infants under 12 months require 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per day and older children and adolescents require 600 IU per day. This amount of vitamin D can prevent rickets—a condition characterized by the softening and weakening of bones. If your child is not regularly exposed to sunlight or is consuming enough vitamin D in his or her diet, talk to your pediatrician about a vitamin D supplement.

3. Nutrition

Feeding and Nutrition Tips: Your 1-Year-Old

​​After your child’s first birthday, you’ll probably notice a sharp drop in his or her appetite. Maybe your child is suddenly turning his or her head away after just a few bites and/or is resisting coming to the table at mealtimes. Despite this behavior and increased activity, there’s a good reason for the change. Your child’s growth rate has slowed; he or she really doesn’t require as much food now.

Tips for Parents:

  • One year olds need about 1,000 calories divided among three meals and two snacks per day to meet their needs for growth, energy, and good nutrition. Don’t count on your child always eating it that way though—the eating habits of toddlers are erratic and unpredictable from one day to the next! For example, your child may:
    • Eat everything in sight at breakfast and almost nothing else for the rest of the day.
    • Eat only the same food for three days in a row—and then reject it entirely.
    • Eat 1,000 calories one day, but then eat noticeably more or less over the next day or two.
  • Encourage, but don’t pressure or force your child to eat at a particular time. Hard as it may be to believe, your child’s diet will balance out over several days if you make a range of wholesome foods available.
  • One year olds need foods from the same basic nutrition groups that you do. If you provide your child with selections from each of the basic food groups and let him or her experiment with a wide variety of tastes, colors, and textures, he or she should be eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins. 
  • Don’t restrict fats from your one-year-old’s menu. Babies and young toddlers should get about half of their calories from fat. Cholesterol and other fats are also very important for their growth and development at this age. Once your child has reached age two, you can gradually decrease fat consumption (lowering it to about one-third of daily calories by ages four to five).
  • Be sure the food is cool enough to prevent mouth burns. Test the temperature yourself, because he or she will dig in without considering the heat.
  • Don’t give foods that are heavily spiced, salted, buttered, or sweetened. These additions prevent your child from experiencing the natural taste of foods, and they may be harmful to long-term good health.
  • Your little one can still choke on chunks of food. Children don’t learn to chew with a grinding motion until they’re about four years old. Make sure anything you give your child is mashed or cut into small, easily chewable pieces.
    • Never offer peanuts, whole grapes, cherry tomatoes (unless they’re cut in quarters), whole carrots, seeds (i.e., processed pumpkin or sunflower seeds), whole or large sections of hot dogs, meat sticks, or hard candies (including jelly beans or gummy bears), or chunks of peanut butter (it’s fine to thinly spread peanut butter on a cracker or bread).
    • Hot dogs and carrots— in particular—should be quartered lengthwise and then sliced into small pieces.
  • Make sure your child eats only while seated and while supervised by an adult. Although your one-year-old may want to do everything at once, “eating on the run” or while talking increases the risk of choking. Teach your child as early as possible to finish a mouthful prior to speaking.
3. Nutrition

Dietary Supplements for Toddlers

​​If you provide your child with selections from each of the basic food groups and let your child experiment with a wide variety of tastes, colors, and textures, he or she should be eating a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins. Some vitamins, such as the fat-soluble vitamins (A and D), may even pose risks; they’re stored in the tissues when consumed in excess, and at very high levels could make your child sick. High doses of minerals such as zinc and iron taken over an extended time can have negative effects, as well.

Supplementation for Some Children

For some children, however, supplementation may be important. Your child may need some vitamin and/or mineral supplementation if your family’s dietary practices limit the food groups available to him or her. For example, if your household is vegan—a type of strict vegetarian diet including no animal products such as eggs or dairy foods—the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that your child only be on this diet after consultation with your pediatrician or health care provider. It is possible to have a child on a safe vegan diet, but it should be done carefully. There are critical vitamins and minerals which can be deficient in a vegan diet, particularly vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, vitamin A, calcium, zinc, and riboflavin. 

Childhood is a critical time for growth and brain development, so particular vitamins and supplements may be recommended. Rickets, for example, is a disease in which the bones soften, and it is associated with inadequate vitamin D intake and decreased exposure to sunlight; although uncommon in the United States, it continues to be reported—especially in children with darker-pigmented skin. Consult your pediatrician about which supplements are needed and the amounts.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency does occur among some young children and can lead to anemia—a condition that limits the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. In some cases, the problem is dietary. Toddlers need to receive at least 15 milligrams of iron a day in their food, but many fail to do so. 

Drinking large quantities of milk may lead to iron deficiency anemia, as the child will be less interested in other foods, some of which are potential sources of iron.

Too Much Milk?

If your child is drinking 24 to 32 ounces (720–960 mL) of milk or less each day, there’s little cause for concern. If he or she drinks much more than that and you can’t get her to eat more iron-rich foods, consult your pediatrician about adding an iron supplement to his or her diet. In the meantime, continue to give vitamin D drops (600 IU per day after age one) if taking less than 32 ounces of milk per day, and keep offering a wide variety of iron-rich foods so that, eventually, supplementation won’t be necessary.

3. Nutrition

10 Tips for Parents of Picky Eaters

Toddler boy feeding himself

Picky eating is often the norm for toddlers. After the rapid growth of infancy, when babies usually triple in weight, a toddler’s growth rate – and appetite – tends to slow down.

Toddlers also are beginning to develop food preferences, a fickle process. A toddler’s favorite food one day may hit the floor the next, or a snubbed food might suddenly become the one he or she can’t get enough of. For weeks, they may eat 1 or 2 preferred foods – and nothing else.

Try not to get frustrated by this typical toddler behavior. Just make healthy food choices available and know that, with time, your child’s appetite and eating behaviors will level out. In the meantime, here are some tips that can help you get through the picky eater stage.

1. Family style. Share a meal together as a family as often as you can. This means no media distractions like TV or cell phones at mealtime. Use this time to model healthy eating. Serve one meal for the whole family and resist the urge to make another meal if your child refuses what you’ve served. This only encourages picky eating. Try to include at least one food your child likes with each meal and continue to provide a balanced meal, whether she eats it or not.

2. Food fights. If your toddler refuses a meal, avoid fussing over it. It’s good for children to learn to listen to their bodies and use hunger as a guide. If they ate a big breakfast or lunch, for example, they may not be interested in eating much the rest of the day. It’s a parent’s responsibility to provide food, and the child’s decision to eat it. Pressuring kids to eat, or punishing them if they don’t, can make them actively dislike foods they may otherwise like.

3. Break from bribes. Tempting as it may be, try not to bribe your children with treats for eating other foods. This can make the “prize” food even more exciting, and the food you want them to try an unpleasant chore. It also can lead to nightly battles at the dinner table.

4. Try, try again. Just because a child refuses a food once, don’t give up. Keep offering new foods and those your child didn’t like before. It can take as many as 10 or more times tasting a food before a toddler’s taste buds accept it. Scheduled meals and limiting snacks can help ensure your child is hungry when a new food is introduced.

5. Variety: the spice. Offer a variety of healthy foods, especially vegetables and fruits, and include higher protein foods like meat and deboned fish at least 2 times per week. Help your child explore new flavors and textures in food. Try adding different herbs and spices to simple meals to make them tastier. To minimize waste, offer new foods in small amounts and wait at least a week or two before reintroducing the same food.

6. Make food fun. Toddlers are especially open to trying foods arranged in eye-catching, creative ways. Make foods look irresistible by arranging them in fun, colorful shapes kids can recognize. Kids this age also tend to enjoy any food involving a dip. Finger foods are also usually a hit with toddlers. Cut solid foods into bite size pieces they can easily eat themselves, making sure the pieces are small enough to avoid the risk of choking.

7. Involve kids in meal planning. Put your toddler’s growing interest in exercising control to good use. Let you child pick which fruit and vegetable to make for dinner or during visits to the grocery store or farmer’s market. Read kid-friendly cookbooks together and let your child pick out new recipes to try.

8. Tiny chefs. Some cooking tasks are perfect for toddlers (with lots of supervision, of course): sifting, stirring, counting ingredients, picking fresh herbs from a garden or windowsill, and “painting” on cooking oil with a pastry brush, to name a few.

9. Crossing bridges.  Once a food is accepted, use what nutritionists call “food bridges” to introduce others with similar color, flavor and texture to help expand variety in what your child will eat. If your child likes pumpkin pie, for example, try mashed sweet potatoes and then mashed carrots. 

10. A fine pair. Try serving unfamiliar foods, or flavors young children tend to dislike at first (sour and bitter), with familiar foods toddlers naturally prefer (sweet and salty). Pairing broccoli (bitter) with grated cheese (salty), for example, is a great combination for toddler taste buds. 


If you are concerned about your child’s diet, talk with your pediatrician, who can help troubleshoot and make sure your child is getting all the necessary nutrients to grow and develop. Also keep in mind that picky eating usually is a normal developmental stage for toddlers. Do your best to patiently guide them on their path toward healthy eating.