5 Tips for Easing Mealtime Stress

by Sally on June 18, 2014

Tips for Managing Mealtime at Real Mom Nutrition

Whenever a new mom tells me what a great eater her one year old is, I smile politely and say something encouraging like, “Gee, that’s great!” But I’m actually thinking, “You don’t even know what’s coming!”

Feeding toddlers can be challenging–after all, their growth has slowed (which can lower appetite) and they’re testing out their newfound independence. But stay the course: Continue to offer your child an array of healthy foods because “research shows that when left to make their own choices children will, over time, eat in a way that is nutritionally balanced,” says Dr. Yvonne Gustafson, Ph.D., co-author of the new book Tools For The Toddler Years(You can enter to win a copy of the book in this giveaway that ends Friday.) 

She offers these reassuring pointers that ring true for kids of all ages:

1. Each meal does not have to be nutritionally “perfect.” It is what is eaten over the course of a day—some pediatricians suggest over the course of a week—that matters. So, if on Tuesday your toddler is on a cereal kick, remember that it can be balanced with other essential nutrients on Thursday.

2. Understanding portion size can help you resist the urge to “push” food. In general, a serving size is one measured tablespoon per age of child. How many chunks of green bean can actually fit in a measured tablespoon? Two, maybe three?  When your toddler eats four bites of green bean she has probably eaten an amount appropriate to her age and size. Further, you may find that when portions are kept small it is easier for the child to focus, rather than be distracted by the science of mixing and smearing all the food before them.

3. Understand that your child may have his own internal eating clock. He may love a big breakfast and lighter fare for dinner. Or, he may not be ready for very much food until mid-morning. Noticing and planning your offerings to match your child’s preferences can create a more positive relationship with food.

4. Expect fluctuations. When a child is in a growth spurt everything about serving size and interest in food can shift. Some days it may seem your child packs away more food than you! In the absence of power struggles over food, trust her body to eat what it needs to maintain the energy she needs.

5. Be aware of alternative sources of nutrition. For instance, for the child not yet ready to handle the textures of meat, try mashed up beans or cubes of tofu for protein.

For more parenting tips, check out Your Parenting Matters.

6 Tips for Managing Mealtime at Real Mom Nutrition

Illustration by Greg Bonnell


Food Revolution Day E-Cookbook

Today is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day, a global day of action to “get cooking, share your love of food and inspire others to get excited too”.

Since this year’s theme is “Let’s Get Kids Excited About Food,” Brianne DeRosa of the blog Red, Round, or Green pulled together a great group of moms to cook with their kids, document it, and share it all in this free e-cookbook. I’m thrilled to be a part of it!

Here’s the lineup:

Click below to access the cookbook.

But this wouldn’t be Real Mom Nutrition if I painted a totally rosy picture of cooking with kids, would it? Though I have some great moments with my boys in the kitchen, I know it’s not always easy. As proof, here’s an outtake from our cooking session together.

Food Revolution Day

That photo reminded me of another one taken a while ago. Is anyone else sensing a pattern?

Cooking With Kids

Cooking with kids–even cranky ones–is important. It teaches them a life skill that can help safeguard their health (and hopefully lighten your load too!). As Jamie Oliver puts it:

“We need every child to understand where food comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their body. This is about setting kids up with the knowledge they need to make better food choices for life.”

I hope this e-cookbook and Food Revolution Day will inspire you to cook with your own children–even if it’s not always picture-perfect.


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I was over the moon when Cooking Light asked me to write a cookbook for busy parents. I’m pretty darn proud of the finished product, Dinnertime Survival Guide, which officially launched this week. I set out to write a cookbook I’d want to read myself–one that was easy to scan, that had a line-up of recipes that […]

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A Peek Inside My New Cookbook!

April 15, 2014

Complete the following statement: Cooking dinner every night… A. Is really important and allows me to express my love for my family and communicate our food values. B. Can sometimes feel like chore at the end of a very long day. C. Makes me want to run screaming out the back door, jump into my […]

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From-Scratch Cooking Confession: I Can’t Keep Up!

March 3, 2014

I believe that a diet based around whole foods is the way to go. I believe we should know what’s in our food, that we should strive to eat food that isn’t laden with preservatives and artificial flavors. Over the years, my suspicion about ingredients like artificial colors has grown, and I’ve become increasingly annoyed with […]

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6 Ways to Add Fun to Family Dinner

January 15, 2014

  On a recent Sunday, my husband and I were cooking together, and the boys were pretending we were on a cooking show. It extended to dinner time, when they wanted to judge the dish (a new-to-them chili). So we asked them to rate the chili on a scale of 1-5 for various categories like […]

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“Help! My child eats hardly any dinner…then wants a snack 10 minutes later!” Sound familiar?

January 10, 2014

This week, I reached out to readers on my Real Mom Nutrition Facebook page asking for their most frustrating feeding dilemma when it came to their kids–and promised that feeding expert and parent educator Dr. Dina Rose would address one of them on this blog. Dr. Rose, who is full of effective strategies for diffusing […]

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