Raising a budding foodie isn’t as tricky as it seems. Even if you didn’t totally ace making your own baby food, all is not lost. As it turns out, bringing up an adventurous eater is 100% attitude and 0% manipulative effort. All it takes is a little variety and a bit of meal planning on your end.

toddler girl eating jello

Step 1: Plan Your Meals Ahead of Time

Every house approaches meal times differently. Some families plan Instagram-ready meals, while others play it a little loose. And there are families that slide somewhere in between those two categories — where meal planning inspiration hits every now and then, but take out happens more often than you care to admit. Wherever you were on the spectrum before you had a toddler, meal times can change quickly once the doctor gives the go-ahead to switch to milk and table foods only.

Gone are the days of making bottles and spoon feeding mushy peas while you ate adult meals late at night. It’s time to get real about what you’re making for each meal, because someone else is watching how that happens. The best way to model good and adventurous eating is by being a good and adventurous eater yourself. This doesn’t mean no more take out, but it does mean to increase the variety of foods that you choose for yourself and your child.

The first step is to purposefully plan your meals ahead of time. This way, you’ll (mostly) avoid last ditch efforts of chicken nuggets and tater tots for dinner. Those nights will happen, and they can be fine on a busy day, but if you plan ahead, they won’t be the norm.

Step 2: Offer Variety and Connection

This doesn’t mean signing up to become a short-order cook. Instead, offer your kiddo a little of something from as many food groups as you can handle for the meal. By providing a variety of choices for your little foodie, you’re letting them explore different tastes and options. You can also make dinner a conversational part of the day when the family connects. Talk to your partner or child about the meal, the day or whatever topic is hot at the moment. The whole experience of eating a meal is just as much about trying new things as it is about being present.

If your little one isn’t super thrilled about something on their plate, let it go and offer it again in other meal. By offering a variety of options to choose from, your child should be getting enough to eat otherwise.

Photo of a young happy family having breakfast

Step 3: Avoid the Showdown

When your kid isn’t into something, leave it be and try later on another day. Allow your child to explore flavors, smells and textures without judgement or swift interference (like offering something that you know will be a home run, such as graham crackers). In this great article by Psychology Today, it’s discussed how habits translate nutrition into behavior. Bargaining with your child to take two more bites or to “just try” something turns the mealtime into a bartering event instead of an exploratory experience. The biggest foodie gift you can give your child is to connect with what you’re eating and why you’re eating it. Toddlers especially have a tendency to completely reject something once, and then love it more than anything else the next time it’s offered, be it food, a toy or a person.

Is your little one a foodie in the making? Tweet us your best tips @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)