We all worry that our little ones aren’t eating enough vegetables. Or that they’re eating too much sugar. Or not enough protein. And while I like to remind you how in many cases, you actually don’t need to worry so much, there is one trick that I’ve found that drastically improves the way that I feel about the foods my entire family is eating.
Buy the food you want your family to eat.
It’s so simple when I just put it out there like that, but I’ve found that remembering that when shopping for groceries can make a giant difference in my mood during meals and snacks. Because if I buy the foods that help me feel like I’m feeding my family wholesome, yummy foods, then I can feel good about our meals—no matter what L decides to eat from what I offer. So if we have potato nachos made topped with black beans and salsa and L decides just to eat the potatoes, I am okay with it. Or if we have stir fry with broccoli, rice, and tofu and L just eats the broccoli (it’s happened!), I too am okay with that. Or if we have cheese and fruit for a snack and L chooses just the cheese, that’s fine.
By eliminating meal and snack time reliance on foods that make me frustrated when my daughters eats them, I’m both freeing her from my emotions about that specific food and I’m giving her the opportunity to fill up on nutritious foods she might not choose on her own. This might be helpful to consider if you dislike that your child only seems to want fruit snacks, crackers, or Veggie Sticks at snack time. Or mac and cheese or chicken nuggets for dinner.
I’ve mentioned this before, but when L was around 18 months and I was bothered by the volume of snacky foods she was eating at daycare, I changed the types of foods that I kept in the house for snack time. Instead of cheese crackers, puffs, and packaged snack bars, I started focusing on fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, and nut butter. And I started thinking of snacks as mini meals because I’ve found that that simple perspective change helps me to use them as a chance to get in smaller bursts of nutrition.
Overall, this trick has vastly improved how I feel about what we eat during the day, and it’s helped me to relax when we eat out in the world—so we can enjoy those other foods when we encounter them. It’s not about calling one food bad or demonizing it, it’s simply prioritizing foods that are better for us and help us grow. We still enjoy ice cream and cheddar bunny crackers and cookies, but they are less frequent special event foods now.
I know that it can be so hard to change the food that you buy since our little ones (and bigger ones!) have such big opinions. But I promise that if you make some changes, and stick with them long enough that they become the new normal, everyone will move on and be fine. Maybe to start, the next time you run out of a favorite snack food, don’t buy another box at the store. Go a week without it in the house and see what happens. Just be sure to have some other yummy alternatives on hand!
P.S> And just so that you know that we’re not crazy people living on vegetables alone, we always (ALWAYS) have chocolate and tortilla chips in the house. They bring us joy and that, too, is part of a healthy diet.