Fun With Food: Part 2… Toddler Edition

The following is Part 2 of our Fun With Food Series collaboration with Dabney Poorter, the authority on all things NUTRITION! Follow here for Part 1: Food Introduction.




Excuse me while I peak into your dining room at 5:30pm on a weeknight…

Monday: Chicken nuggets with ketchup

Tuesday: Corn dogs (the vegan kind, so they’re healthy right?)

Wednesday: Hot dogs

Thursday: Pizza


M/T/W/TH: One of the 4 above options on repeat.

Mac ‘n cheese holds court next to small bites of broccoli sitting on the absolute edge of your child’s plate without being pushed off entirely. Grapes or some mandarin orange slices might plead their case for a few 3 year-old nibbles, but only after negotiating with mom or dad (for sure dad) for the promised after dinner surprise. 7pm rolls around, and as we round the bases toward bath-time, your toddler is suddenly staarrvinnnngggg and only {insert junk of choice} will save him or her from a trip to the ER to be resuscitated.

Sound familiar?

What if it doesn’t have to be this way?! As we step into Part 2 of our Fun with Food Series featuring Dabney Poorter, the Certified Nutritionist of, we hope you’ll be encouraged to know it does NOT have to be this way… but not without some effort on your end 😉

Dabney, what are the best ways to introduce healthful foods if (when) met with resistance?

I always say, “I want my kids to eat healthy foods they enjoy.” But how do we get to this place of enjoyment? Taste testing is always fun! We incorporate this through CrossFit Kids, and it empowers children to make good choices by understanding why they like or don’t like something vs. immediate and adamant refusal to even take a bite.  What is the texture? The flavor? The aftertaste? These are engaging, thought-provoking questions – enjoy the process and they will too!

By being mindful of simply placing the healthier food on their plate without expectation, you take the pressure off of yourself and off of them. Resist the urge to get into the How many bites do I have to take? negotiation, and don’t give up! The name of the game here is familiarity, not force. Just like Melissa teaches us in how to approach napping in those early days, it’s our job to offer the healthy food (or nap); it’s their job to participate. Again, as it is with offering naps and bedtime routines, consistency is key in offering healthy foods.

This article reinforces many of our teaching philosophies in how to feed picky eaters, and we hope you’ll be encouraged by some of our favorite tips and tricks listed below:

– Offer a buffet-style meal where kids can pick what veggies, fruits and other healthy foods they put on their plate. They feel grown up. You feel like supermom.

– Smoothies. Probably a duh here for breakfast, but have you ever thought of offering a smoothie as a snack? One of our favorite kid-friendly smoothies here and a personal creation pictured below.

– Involve kids in meal planning and prep for the week by presenting the attached graphic of the rainbow of foods to your children before you go shopping.  If your littles aren’t reading yet, doing a quick Google search of food photos together is a fun and helpful way to involve them. Talk about the different colors, and let them choose 2 foods out of each color category. This will then give you a guideline for meal planning (win), and they’ll be more inclined to participate in prep and presentation when they’re who chose the foods (double-win)! Bonus: No matter your age, we encourage you to eat the rainbow! Starting them young is the perfect building block for this mentality.

–  While you’ve got them in on the grocery list, this is also a great time for you to research healthier versions of household staples like muffins, mac n’ cheese and chocolate milk together.

Speaking of milk…

If you’re just edging into toddler-hood and have begun the transition away from breast-milk or formula, we would like to take this opportunity to get super controversial and encourage you to do your research before you jump into cow’s milk 😉 Here is a great resource from Fox News, and we especially love this quote: “Kids don’t need milk after age 1… they need calcium, vitamins, energy and fat.” We quite prefer almond or coconut milk to processed and sugar-laden cow’s milk and recommend Malk, Elmhurst or New Barn brands. If the milk convo stresses you out completely, don’t be afraid to simply offer water.

Back to those picky eaters…

What if you’ve tried all of this or even the thought of it exhausts you? We get it. We all have different gifts, and while you might be the sleep whisperer for all 4 of your kiddos (likely thanks to NN ;), the McDonald’s Drive-thru seems to have crept in as a mainstay versus a rarity. At Dabney Poorter, we love working with families and strongly believe healthful habits must be encouraged by the whole unit to achieve lasting results. We would love to work with you and your child on how to take the stress out of making healthy choices to help you thrive!

Author: nightingales

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