Tips on Helping Kids To Eat + 15-Minute Lunchtime Soup

I’m not an expert on getting kids to eat. I’ve only been a parent for 2.75 years, but I have several tricks that work for my girls. What works for us, may not work for everyone. Generally speaking, I only have a few rules:

1. I don’t “dumb-down” dinner. I make dinner exactly as Steve and I would eat it — within reason. I try to accommodate my kids a little, but I do all that I can to get them to eat dinner as is and expose them to a wide variety of foods and flavors. I don’t take out seasonings or vegetables. Sometimes I add vegetables that I know they like or hide some if I know they’ll pick it out. Or chop them small enough so it won’t be worth it to them to fish them out.

2. I don’t feed them foods regularly that I don’t want them hooked on. I’ve heard people say, “Oh, my kids won’t eat anything but frozen pizza and corn dogs!!” Um. . . why do they like frozen pizza and corn dogs? They had to have eaten it enough times to develop a taste for it, and know that it’s always stocked in the fridge. Kids don’t just wake up one morning craving stuff like that. If you don’t want your kids hooked on “frozen fast food” then don’t have it in the freezer. Or at least limit it to a specific day of the week and hold fast to that rule.

3. I find a way to work in some kind of fruit or vegetable at every meal. My kids are pretty young (almost 3 and 15 mo.), but since they began eating solid foods, I’ve tried to abide by this rule. By starting young, my kids have grown accustomed to seeing things like minced baby spinach in a lot of their meals. I’m sure that won’t fly with all children, so you have to figure out what they’ll eat, while repeatedly exposing them to different types of vegetables.

Despite this, my kids will occasionally have dinners of leftover oatmeal from breakfast or a bowl of Cheerios and some fruit if they absolutely won’t eat what I make for dinner. And a lot of food ends up thrown on the floor, spit out, or shoved off the plate. Some foods they loved one day they’ll suddenly hate the next. Pleasing the toddler palate is an ever-changing challenge. Keep trying!


Yes, she’s standing within arm’s reach of the stove and an extremely sharp knife. I was standing right next to her the whole time. And yes, that’s our water heater, and yes, my cutting board is on top of the dryer, next to the stove. Oh, how I long to move out of this little ghetto apartment!
During breakfast and lunch is when I try to really accommodate my kids. See my two-year-old up there? That’s Sophie. She’s very sweet. And very opinionated. She absolutely has to pick out her clothes, how (or if) I do her hair, what plates and utensils she uses, and what she has for lunch. If I make these choices for her, I’m just asking for a meltdown. Life is really dramatic right now, but I love her spunk. And her commentary.

Sophie loves to help me in the kitchen (whether I need help or not). I find that when she helps me make lunch, she tends to eat it more enthusiastically. On this particular day she helped me make a simple tomato-vegetable soup that literally only took 15 minutes. With minimal chopping.

I use this frozen vegetable mixture a lot because my kids like it.
Yep, she’s spitting frozen peas back into the cup. Sometimes I wonder where this girl came from. This is one of the many reasons why she doesn’t help me when we have company over for dinner.
And now for the taste test. . . (a few goldfish crackers always helps things along)

Success!! And the best part . . . it’s tasty enough to feed grown-ups. I liked it, too.

Cheesy Tomato-Vegetable Soup (for everyone)

Total Time: about 15 minutes

Ingredients:

1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz can of low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup whole wheat elbow pasta (or other small pasta)
1 cup frozen vegetable mix
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spinach (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
a handful of grated cheese
1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy cream (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the tomato sauce and chicken broth to boil. Add the pasta and simmer for about 3-4 minutes or until pasta begins to soften, but not cooked through. Add the vegetables, spinach, and Italian seasoning. Simmer for 5 more minutes until the pasta is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Stir in cheese and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes about 4-6 toddler servings.

from Perry’s Plate (Natalie) and her lovely little assistant