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This is the One Thing to Keep in Mind When Feeding a Toddler

July 24, 2015

In Kids' Lunch, take a look into what people in the food world and the world at large pack their children (and occasionally their significant others and maybe even their pets) for lunch. 

Today, Elise Joy, who shares crafts, DIY projects, and business advice on her blog Enjoy It, learns that patience is the most important part of successfully feeding her two-year-old daughter.

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My daughter Ellerie just turned two, and I've learned that feeding a toddler is a lesson in patience more than anything else. I often find myself thinking, "Just eat something. Anything. Please."

We have hit on a few foods that work well(ish), though, and a quesadilla—called a "dee-ya" in our house—is pretty popular. I can almost always guarantee fruit will be a hit (for this lunch, I had already cut up some strawberries when Ellerie brought over a clementine, so they both made the plate). 

The snap peas are hit or miss (she would probably prefer I just gave her the Trader Joe's crunchy baked peas), but sometimes she eats them so I continue to offer. I heard somewhere that as a parent, all you can do is provide the healthy options—you can't force your kid to eat them (or anything else). I try to keep that on my mind and the whole process—meal prep and meals—goes more smoothly.

What foods do your little ones enjoy most? Share with us in the comments below!

Photos by Elise Joy

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Selina
  • Blair Lauer
    Blair Lauer
  • Sylvia Ruiter
    Sylvia Ruiter
  • Noolie Teabaggins
    Noolie Teabaggins
  • Justin Holmes
    Justin Holmes

Written by: elisejoy


Selina July 27, 2015
Olives. When he was 1 1/2, we told my son he could pick anything he wanted from the grocery store, so he picked a pack of olives. He ate half the pack when we got home, and he can still go through a bowl full without taking a breath now, one year later.
Blair L. July 26, 2015
Green beans and scrambled eggs for my 1yo.
Sylvia R. July 26, 2015
You could check the cookbook ' easy peasy' by Claire & Vera - Great tips & recipes
Noolie T. July 26, 2015
Prepare for idiosyncrasies. Something that's gobbled up one day might not be touched the next. Another thing I've discovered is not to assume too much about "toddler preferences". Turns out my two-year-old loves pickled vegetables and dijon mustard. First time she ever actually swallowed a piece of carrot and asked for more was when I offered a piece of do chua (vietnamese pickled carrot/daikon mix).

Other favorites are pasta drowning in butter or olive oil and Parmesan, hot dogs, any cured meats really, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit (almost any kind), roasted seaweed, popcorn, cheese and if she could choose, an endless supply of butter and ketchup.
Justin H. July 26, 2015
That said, two go tos have been
Cherry tomatoes and rinsed black beans. My daughter would eat an entire can if black beans if you have her the chance
Justin H. July 26, 2015
My kids, knock on wood, have been really good eaters. Basically, once they switched to solid food, they just eat what we are having. Lat night, I asked what they wanted for dinner and the 2 year old said Tacos, the almost 4 year old said biscuits.
FoodFanaticToo July 26, 2015
My career involves child development and working with families, and this is a common refrain from parents!
In my own home, our now adult children were encouraged to try "just a tiny bite" of something new, or something previously rejected; the caveat (and power for them) was that they could choose to *politely and discreetly* spit it into their napkin if they couldn't swallow it. That option did wonders in our home.
Another thing we had success with was having the kids choose their serving size themselves.
There is a LOT to be said for teaching little ones to listen to their bodies ☺️. We purchase and provide the food, offer it in positive ways at the times we set, and they control what actually goes in.
Cinnamin July 24, 2015
My son is four and he actually likes cut fruit and vegetable sticks in his snack box everyday. I make him eat a pretty full breakfast before getting on the schoolbus, and his snack box is usually sliced fruit, vegetable sticks, nuts and a cookie.
cbforesman July 24, 2015
Can I just say? My 5 yr old chooses one fruit and one veggie every week for his lunchbox. We go to the store or the farmer's market and he picks it out for himself.
I put the fruit and the veggie in his lunchbox every day, and he brings them home uneaten. Every. Single. Day. So I see all these food blog stories about how people's toddlers just LOVE to eat fresh raw vegetables and I have to assume that they are aspirational more than actual, else my head might explode a little bit.
Jenn July 26, 2015
It's ok! Keep trying. You're doing the right thing. Maybe he needs a sauce or dip to encourage it?

Our son loves hummus but there are days he won't touch it. I think he runs out of time. He's out little Adkins Diet kid anyway, preferring proteins and fruit to all else.
Kerry July 24, 2015
I trust the method of putting one thing my 2 year old daughter loves on the plate, and maybe (just maybe) she'll try something else. We are very lucky that she isn't picky, but toddlers are toddlers! Sometimes she won't sit at the table, so we will let her play until she's hungry, and surprisingly, she'll sit back down and eat more when she's ready to! I think bite-size fruits/veggies are great - I swear she eats peas because they are fun to put in her mouth!
Noolie T. July 26, 2015
I agree with you on the peas. The only thing my kid loves more than eating peas is putting a pea inside the hole in a tortellini and eating that!