Mazzy is not a very good eater. We try. Really we do. But most of time, Mazzy will eat a few bites, scream “I’m done!” and then demand television and sweets.

Unless, of course, ketchup is involved. Then she might sit still for a second or two. Not that ketchup means Mazzy actually eats her meal…

My daughter prefers to think of food as a vehicle for ketchup. Rarely is a bite taken. Just a lick of ketchup off a chicken tender and then a re-dip.

Screen shot 2012-06-05 at 10.22.33 PMSometimes, Mazzy even discards the chicken tender entirely and goes straight to the source. Fork to ketchup.

Dinner is a battle we lose nightly.

My friend, Brandy (aka Mannly Mama) seems to have a much better handle on how to get her picky eater to eat. She posts a series called Toddler Dinners on her blog every Monday.

What I like about Brandy’s dinners is that they aren’t fancy or complicated. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart with a food processor and a melon baller to pull them off. The photos of her suggested meals look almost too simple to be effective.


But don’t let looks fool you. A lot of trial and error has gone into each meal.

Today Brandy is sharing what she’s learned since she started her “Toddler Dinners” series. I’m hoping her success will rub off and maybe someday soon, my child will eat something other than condiments from Heinz.


Every little kid is different but I think we ALL struggle with how to get them to eat. Toddlers are fickle beings. They love broccoli one day and the next it might as well be shit on a plate.

I made all of my son’s food as an infant. I chopped tiny pieces of chicken breast. I boiled eggplant. Black beans, bananas and quinoa? Down the hatch. Cooked spinach and pears? MORE PLEASE!

Clearly I was going to rock that “Mother of the Year” application.

Then Landon learned the word “no” and realized the power behind it. And all my hard work went out the window.

But soon, I realized it wasn’t a picky palette, it was a control mechanism. If he was tricked into eating something, he never mentioned that it tasted bad. Presentation and strategy were big deals.



1. Offer a known quantity. If you know they love one food (let’s say bananas), put a small amount of bananas on the plate with the new food. They will eat the bananas first (duh) but once they are gone, tell them they have to finish/try other bites before they can have more bananas. The key is to not give so much that they can fill up on that one food.

2. Offer a special treat. Otherwise known as: bribery.  At our house, if you eat good bites (90-100% of the meal) you get a special treat. This may just be a hershey kiss. A small cookie. Yogurt raisins. Doesn’t have to be much but it gives them a sense of control. They choose their fate. Plus, it is always nice to have something to take away in case they are being little assholes at the table.

3. Novelty. Presentation means A LOT to toddlers. Even basic things like cutting carrots into strips one day vs. semi circles the next can make a huge impact. Try cookie cutter sandwiches, things stabbed with pretzel sticks and special silverware. And be sure to switch it up.

4. Have dinner as a family. Dinner is much more interesting for a toddler when he’s sitting alongside Mom and Dad, chowing down just like everybody else. Even if your kid’s dinner time is really early, try to readjust your schedule so you can join him when possible. He’s got way more incentive to stay at the table that way.

5. Offer salad. I know this seems a little specific but I can’t tell you how many people have been surprised by their toddler’s love of raw greens. I was surprised too. I assumed Landon would hate the texture but then one day he wanted to try mine. Now its a go-to for us. Kid eats spinach leaves plain. Strange, I know.


6. Don’t be afraid of soup. I was afraid until some of my readers urged me on. Then I learned to make chunkier soups with pasta included and it worked out just fine. Learn from my mistakes!

7. Variety. I keep leftovers of everything. Then I can whip together meals really quick that always surprise Landon at dinner time. He is always trying new things and we don’t make a big show about it. Daycare also helps here. Kid eats more curry than either of us!

8. Give choices. This goes back to a toddler’s need for control. Letting them choose things is a big deal… and you can still control the choices. “Would you like broccoli or green beans?” “Can you choose your plate from the cabinet?” “Strawberries or bananas?” Simple choices always curb tantrums in our house. .

9. Be a role model. If you or your partner are a picky eater, it’s time to take one for the team. If you turn your nose up at something, your child sees this. If you try something new, they may try something new. My husband has tried a lot of new things in the spirit of toddler dinners…and some things he has really liked!

10. DIPS! Pretty simple. Kids love to dip their food. Even if it is gross to you, a condiment may make all the difference in the world. And don’t just stick with ketchup and ranch. Try hummus, yogurt, honey, fruit puree. Some of these dips even have some protein involved. Better yet? Let them choose!


Check out seven examples of Brandy’s toddler-tested dinners over on Babble today.