Welcome to YTF Community, a place to safely share in the challenges and joys of feeding our families. If you’re looking for recipes, feel free to go right to the home page of yummytoddlerfood.com.

The other day I saw a video that showed a chaotic scene of a mom with kids and said something like, “There are no parenting hacks, this is your life now.” And I a little bit feel that way about feeding kids—it’s hard!—while also taking issue with the black and white nature of messages like this. (And the fact that those videos always just show mom…)

(Pausing to say that if you need kids lunch containers, head to this page. And my best tips for all things kids lunch, from daycare on up, are right here.)

Mom getting food out of oven with child in background.

Dinner has is a meal that comes with a lot of pressure. We hear stats on the benefits of eating together as a family, we know it can be a time to talk about our day, it’s often the place where kids see more variety (and vegetables). But it’s logistically hard to pull this meal off simply due to where it falls in the day and the reality that everyone, us included, are usually tired.

And so there are some tips to make it a little easier that I want to share, but I want to preface it by saying: I don’t know your unique context. And some of these may not work for you or they may need to be significantly adjusted to work for you. Which is completely, 100% okay—and is in fact my point. What’s “easy” for one person may feel downright impossible for another. That doesn’t make either person wrong, it just points to how much nuance classic feeding advice misses.

(Preorder my cookbook Dinnertime SOS for all of my feeding tips in one place, plus 100 doable recipes for your everyday.)

  1. Simplify before you get to the table to reduce your own load. For me this means relying on some strategic shortcuts from the store that may include things like salad kits, jars of sauce, frozen chicken nuggets, dinners I’ve made ahead, or dinners that are just less involved like sandwiches, fast pizzas, a favorite pasta, or a hummus and pita tray with sliced veggies. Cutting down on my load before I start cooking helps me get to the table in a better mood, which helps the kids.
  2. Focus more on being with each other than bites of food. Even if you are concerned about nutrition, try to remember that meals are also about connecting. And they are simply more fun when we pay more attention to the people we’re with, rather than the number of bites of broccoli they may or may not be taking. (If this feels too hard, try putting on some favorite music which can set a different tone than usual.)
  3. Eating in shifts is a perfectly great option. It may not work to eat all together right now for any reason at all and that’s fine. Maybe you need to feed the baby first and then the toddler, then feed yourself once they’re in bed. Maybe a child need to eat on the way to soccer and you prefer not to eat in the car. Maybe you have some other reason. It’s fine. Do what works!
  4. Consider putting the food onto the table family style. Yes, serving meals family style can help kids feel more empowered since they can see what’s on offer and help themselves, but it’s also the best way I know to reduce the number of times a parent has to get up from the table.
  5. Remember that you can always shift your approach. With the perspective of having slightly older kids, I can tell you things are forever shifting. We can make changes. You can do what works now and something else later. None of this is set in stone.

(Also Virginia wrote about diet culture showing up at kids activities this week, which is a read for all of us with kids.)

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