Quick Disclaimer: I only have young children. How well these tips may apply to older children and teens, I’m not sure! All I know is that they helped me simplify mealtime with my young kiddos (2 and under when written) and they may be worth a shot!
How I’ve Simplifed My Own Mealtime
Chipotle sent me an email recently. They said I was in the top 10 percent of chipotle lovers.
That number is probably even lower now. It wouldn’t shock me if I was in the top 2%.
The addiction started when I was pregnant with my son.
It’s out of control.
Multiple times a week. I’m talking 4 times a week, yo. This was maybe once… usually only 1-2 times.
And shockingly, it’s good every time. Every once in a great while I’ll have a burrito bowl that’s not quite up to their normal quota but that is really rare.
Why am I ranting about Chipotle you ask?? You came here hoping to find some help with the little people who are somehow ALWAYS needing snacks yet don’t believe in dinner.
It brings us to our first tip.
Make Something then Make It Again Tomorrow
I know so many moms who feel bad that they’re making that quesadilla again. Or maybe it’s a PB&J. Chicken nuggets. You name it.
You’re making it for the third time this week.
But it’s OK!
Did they seem excited about it? They are!
You can probably think of a food that you would love to eat multiple times a week. Kids are no different. They love what they love so let’s harness that and let us simplify our mealtime!
Of course, it’s nice to have some different options but start with the easy ones that you know they love. Ask them what they want and when they say a quesadilla again that’s fine.
Enjoy how it simplifies mealtime and how it only needs one dish.
Taste Buds and Sensory
One of the reasons I love chipotle is because I also love cilantro. Like most things in my life, I either don’t care at all or I’m obsessed with it.
Cilantro is something that I’m obsessed with.
Did you know that there are people in the world that have a certain enzyme in their mouth that makes cilantro taste like dish soap to them?
True story. Check it out here.
This doesn’t mean that your kid gets out of eating everything, but things do taste different to everyone. I do not want to eat something that tastes like dish soap and I don’t think you would want to either.
Sensory is another thing that sometimes we don’t think about when eating.
Some of my friends can’t stand the texture of bananas. I personally hate the texture of shrimp.
I have a friend whose child will gag at the sight of certain foods. It’s a real thing to our kids.
Our children really aren’t trying to get out of eating good food because they’re trying to be bad. There’s most likely a reason they don’t like it.
Present the Food, Don’t Force the Food
One of the things my children did before I had them ate every single morsel of food I placed so graciously in front of them.
That does not happen.
It’s really funny to think that we could force-feed our children before we have them.
Now, I guess technically you could discipline them if they don’t eat something and I’m not saying you shouldn’t.
All I’m saying is I don’t want new foods to always be associated with a struggle.
The times I experience the most success with my daughter trying new foods is when I’m not looking. I don’t really understand that being that she’s two and I wouldn’t think that she knows I’m not looking, but somehow she does.
If she doesn’t eat it, I don’t even make a comment about it.
My goal is to put 2 to 3 different items on every lunch plate and always switch out something. Having a divided plate makes this really easy and somewhat fun.
Keep it cheap. I’m not trying to throw food directly into the trash. Believe me, it’s not in the budget. Try thinking of it as $.10-$.15 for a “new” item that shows up.
It’s as simple as cutting up a little piece of tomato and putting it in one of the dividers. Sometimes I’ll put a couple of nuts in one. A different type of fruit, a veggie, pickles, or whatever is in your fridge.
It’s good for them to see different colors, shapes, and textures on their plate.
Please know that I am not insinuating that waste is OK. We should try to never be wasteful and always be grateful for what we have because we are so blessed to have ample amounts of food on our tables.
When we simplify mealtime it sometimes means being okay with a little thrown out.
Don’t inhibit intuitive eating
Our bodies were made so intelligently. If our bodies need water, we get thirsty.
Have you ever thought about what thirst is? It’s a dry mouth but also it’s just a sense of dryness? I don’t know – this is getting weird – we should get back to the topic.
If you’re craving chips [this is me all the time by the way] you might need salt. If you’re craving chicken, maybe your body needs protein.
The little people in our houses also have cravings. If they want to eat a box of strawberries, I don’t fight it.
Do you want another hot dog? Go for it, chick. Do you want another apple even though you’ve had 17 today? Perfect. Here you go.
P.S. This does not apply to sugary foods or sweets.
This will also make you feel better when the strawberries don’t get thrown out because they have mold on them.
It may be really hard for us “clean plate crew” to let them not finish their food, but that is part of intuitive eating as well. If they say they’re full, believe them.
That is, of course, when they say they’re full then want a SNACK three minutes later, but that can be helped by having a specific snack and mealtimes.
If you think I have scheduled lunch and snack times, please stick around and know that is NOT me. Nothing in my life is scheduled except for work. Doesn’t it sound like a great theory, though?
Honestly, I just let my children snack – it just had to be something healthy like an apple or berries.
Baby-led Weaning to the Rescue
When it comes to feeding little children, I can’t recommend baby-led weaning enough. I don’t know what would be more the opposite of simplifying mealtime than not being able to feed your baby what you just made…
A lot of the things we talked about like different textures and colored foods, you can’t provide if everything is blended into a puree. They may be brightly colored, but it still is somehow different.
Also, you don’t have to physically feed them. It’s great. They feed themselves or eventually learn how to.
One time we were at a restaurant and the waitress was very kind and brought my daughter a cup of soup because she was a baby.
Man, I have never been so thankful for baby-led weaning. It took me like 20 minutes to feed this child a cup of soup. After that, I said here’s some chicken and fries and she went to town on them.
Seasoning and sauces
Don’t be afraid to season your children’s food and give them sauces.
They’re just like us and don’t love bland food. Sure, some kids will like more bland foods. But my daughter loves sauce. Ranch, ketchup, sour cream, barbeque sauce – she doesn’t discriminate.
This could be especially helpful if you struggle to get your child to eat meat. While I know chicken nuggets are not the healthiest thing in the world, my daughter wouldn’t even eat those until we gave her ranch with them.
You could try putting a new one on their plate every few days to try to change it up. If they ask for the “chechup” again, that’s totally fine – maybe they tried the other first and now you know that isn’t their favorite.
Try to Have Fun with It
One thing I’ve learned is that if I don’t like it or think something isn’t fun, I’m not going to do it. Divided plates? That’s almost more for me. It makes it fun to try to find something for each section.
Putting limes on the plate so you see a funny face? Totttalllllyyy great and acceptable!
If feeding your children seems stressful for you, try to pinpoint what exactly it is and just change that!
Hate cooking from scratch but want it to be healthy? Find someone to pay to make some meals for you.
Finding what to put on the plate stressful? Pull up a Pinterest list of children’s meals. No need to reinvent the wheel.
I hope you’ve found these tips to simplify mealtime in your home helpful! If so, please share with your friends on any of your favorite platforms – Insta, Facebook & Pinterest!