Eat Your Veggies! Ideas for Feeding Your Kids–with Less Stress


It’s not hard to get stressed out what we feed our kids. We feel it’s important that they eat healthy, well-balanced meals. They need to avoid too much sugar and preservatives and develop healthy eating habits as they grow. And all of these things are important.

I know lots of parents who harbor great anxiety around the topic of what their kids will or won’t eat.

Mealtimes can be fraught with disagreement, tension, and unhappiness. There’s asking, cajoling, and eventually begging or bribing our kids to eat “just one more piece of that broccoli.” I feel this anxiety too, and I want my kids to have perfectly healthy diets. But you know what? I don’t eat a perfectly healthy diet myself. It’s much more important that eating and food are pleasant and happy topics. Getting my kids to eat perfectly will not result in pleasant and happy feelings about food–I tried that and it failed miserably.

Most of these ideas relate to respecting our kids’ desire for autonomy–something that I believe all humans have. And I’d argue that the desire for autonomy outweighs what kids agree to eat.


  • If you have a baby, try baby-led weaning. This method encourages your baby to eat when she is hungry and also allows her to eat what and how much she wants. When babies have control over their meals, they will learn what it feels like to be hungry. This helps them be more likely to develop healthy eating habits later.
  • Let your toddlers and older kids decide what, when, and how much to eat. It can be hard to trust our kids to make good decisions about food–but they eventually will if we let them try. We teach kids to ignore their hunger signals when we try to get them to eat on our schedule, or encourage them to finish everything on their plate. Some tips we’ve tried:
    • Stock our home with foods we’re comfortable having our kids eat, and let them eat it on their own schedule.
    • Continue to prepare meals we want to eat and offer them to our kids, but there are no strings attached.
    • You might even consider setting up a spot in the fridge and a cabinet with easy foods for your kids to grab when they’re hungry. If you don’t want to provide processed snacks, take a little time each week to prepare easy to grab foods ahead of time. We like cut veggies, fruit, energy balls, nuts, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Make mealtimes fun and pleasant. Try to serve at least one dish at each meal that you know each of your kids will like. Let them choose to eat whatever they’d like from the options you provide.
    • Things we do to make mealtimes fun: read-alouds, telling jokes, and playing 20 questions during meals.
    • If you want to get really radical, don’t require your kids to come to the table at mealtime. Let them have a choice. When we started doing this with our kids, they initially opted out all the time and ate later. But now that they’ve been free to come as they please, they choose to join us quite often. We’re happy when they do and we enjoy our own conversation when they don’t.
  • Cut yourself some slack! Whether you work at home, work out of the home, or stay at home with your kids, you’re likely doing so many things to care for your little people. Be gentle and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. I really believe that if your kids can feel you relax about food, they’ll relax too, and you might even see them start trying some things you thought they’d never try.

If you don’t love these family feeding ideas or if they seem like a bit much, but you know you need a change, try just one.

It took a while for me to eschew our old habits and try something new. But I felt stress melt away when I stopped telling my kids “no” to snacks while I was cooking dinner. When I put myself in their shoes, I realized that I would be so upset if I couldn’t have food when I felt hungry. So now I put out a plate of wholesome finger foods while I cook (think carrots, cucumbers, nuts, cheese slices, fruit, beans, etc.) And if they don’t eat dinner, I know they’re full and have had lots of good stuff anyway.

What do you think? Would you try any of these ideas?  Do you have anything else that works well in your home in regards to feeding your kids?

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Hello, I’m Taylor! I am Mama to three beautiful kids, ages five and three, and a brand new little guy who is snuggling me as I write this. Parenting with my amazing partner James has sent us on a quest to craft the very best life we can imagine for our family. To us, that means that each of us (kids included) can pursue our passions while spending as much time as possible together as a family unit. Since 2011, we have moved three times and both changed careers multiple times. We’re now happily settled in the Seacoast, a truly special place that we think will be our forever home. We both work from home, trading time spent working and time spent with our kids. We are passionate about our homeschooled children taking the lead in their own learning and our days are spent supporting them and their interests. I am a birth and postpartum doula and co-founder of New Mama Project, a site filled with resources and support to help new mothers navigate the postpartum transition and the profound identity shift of becoming a mom. I love exploring the Seacoast, dreaming about traveling, learning to knit, and reading and talking about homeschooling and unschooling.