4 Things NOT to Say When Speaking to Your Toddler About Food

When it comes to feeding toddlers, what you SAY can have just as much of an impact on how they eat as what you do or serve. Here’s a list of four things NOT to say when speaking to your toddler about food to set him or her up for success right now and in the future.

Title image for 4 Things NOT to Say to Your Toddler When Speaking About Food.

If you’re a parent, you know it. Feeding toddlers is tricky with a capital “T”. Chances are that at one point or another your toddler has wanted to eat the same three things over and over again, and/or has completely refused to eat anything of any nutritional value, and/or has liked something one second only to loudly exclaim “no like” the next. It’s a tough road to navigate, and it takes a lot of psychological manipulation to successfully do so.

That’s right, today I’m here telling you to psychologically manipulate your child. It sounds strange to flat out say it like that, but it’s the truth. What we say to our toddlers now when it comes to food and eating will lay the foundation for not only their current eating habits, but their relationship with food in the future. It’s just as important, if not more so, than HOW we feed them or WHAT we feed them.

Having studied psychology – and having gone through my own rocky relationship with food – I’ve made it my mission to raise my daughter to have the healthiest, most positive relationship with eating that she can. This means countless hours studying the research, perfecting my own relationship with food, and practicing all that I’ve learned with my little girl. Throughout everything, I’ve been able to glean what really works and what doesn’t when it comes to speaking to your toddler about food, and that’s what I’m here to share with you!

A toddler sitting on a kitchen counter eating blueberries with a quizzical look on her face.

Read on to learn the four things to watch out for when speaking about food with your littles, along with ways to rephrase what you say for optimal results:

Presenting things as “black and white”

One of the main things you want to watch out for when speaking to your toddler about food is presenting it as “healthy” or “unhealthy” or “good for you” or “bad for you.” This presents things as more “black and white” or “yes” or “no” to your child, where the real goal is to teach him or her balance and everything in moderation.

Rather than using these phrases, try focusing on other aspects of food and eating, like how the food tastes, how it makes our bodies feel, or how the food looks.

Some examples of this would be:

“Mmmm don’t these mashed sweet potatoes taste nice and creamy?”

“Doesn’t this broccoli make you feel strong?”

“How fun are all these colors on our plate? Are they making a rainbow?”

Your own negative self-talk

Toddlers are sponges, and they absorb more than we think. Be mindful of how you speak about your own body image or eating habits when you’re around your toddler, because it will most certainly rub off on him or her. Never make comments in front of them about needing to lose weight or not being able to eat something because it’s not on your diet, or saying you need to lose 10 pounds before you can wear a bikini. In a similar vein, be wary of your comments about THEIR size.

Here are some great POSITIVE examples of things you could say instead:

“I love eating lots of fruits and vegetables because they make me feel happy and energized.”

“Let’s put on our swimsuits and go swimming!”

“You’re so strong!”

A toddler and mom baking together at the kitchen counter.

Forcing

I talk about it a lot, but forcing your child to eat something will only lead to resentment and resistance and potentially set them up for disordered eating in the future. The secret is to continuously introduce new and different foods to your toddler, while allowing him or her the autonomy to choose what he or she will or won’t eat. If you offer enough healthy options, your little one will find SOMETHING he or she loves. Perhaps the greatest way to overcome the feeling of needing to force is to lead by example! If your child sees you eating healthy food on the regular, he or she will want to do the same (see my above note about toddlers being sponges).

Dwelling on the negative

Perhaps one of the biggest things we can avoid when communicating with our toddlers about food (and related to #4) is dwelling on the negative. Don’t focus on what they didn’t eat, or how little they ate. Instead, celebrate the wins and encourage positive behavior! If your child tastes something they’ve never tried before, let them know how proud you are of them. If they ate a well-rounded meal, exclaim to them how good they must feel. Kids love positive reinforcement, so dole that stuff out on the regular.

This is just my quick summary of what NOT to say or do when speaking to your toddler about food, but there’s a lot more where that came from! If you want to learn more about feeding your little one, click here for my free cheat sheet on dealing with picky eaters AND to get on the list to be notified when my next Feeding Toddlers: Unlocked! comprehensive course kicks off. I can’t wait to see you there!

A mama holding her toddler in the kitchen and giving her a big kiss.

5 Tips for Introducing New Foods to Your Toddler

Use these five tips to consistently introduce new foods to your toddler – in a way that will actually get them to eat them! These pointers and strategies will help expand your little one’s palate and turn him or her into a healthy, adventurous eater for life.

5 Tips for Introducing New Foods to Your Toddler Title Graphic

Ohhhh feeding toddlers. The never-ending challenge. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever met a mama who doesn’t have at least one thing she’d like to change about her toddler’s eating habits. You’re not alone! It happens to everyone. Heck, I’ve spent the better part of a year consuming all of the research and techniques under the sun for this and I STILL sometimes wish my toddler would just eat whatever I give her with no resistance or complaint.

But there are a lot of things I HAVE learned in all of my research that have made the adventure of feeding my toddler just a little bit easier, and I’m sharing my top five tips with you today! Read on to learn some of the best ways to introduce new foods to your little one.

And if you’re ready to start introducing new foods but feel you need some accountability partners, I’d love for you to sign up for my Three New Foods Challenge. In this challenge, I personally walk a small group through the entire process of introducing three new foods over the course of a few weeks via a private Facebook group. It’s so much fun and is a great way to stay accountable (and meet some other mamas in the process.) Click here to learn more!

Now, let’s get on with these tips

Tip #1: If at first you don’t succeed, keep trying

If you introduce a new food to your toddler and he or she refuses it, don’t give up! Toddlers are discovering their newfound autonomy and will often go through phases of refusing something “just because.” Continue to introduce a new food at least once a week – perhaps prepared a bit differently (see #2) – and you may find that your toddler eventually comes around. To put things into perspective, it can take 30-40 exposures to a certain food before a toddler will eat it!

Tip #2: Try the same food prepared a different way

If your toddler refuses a food once, try preparing it in a slightly different way the next time you serve it. For example, if your little one isn’t into mashed sweet potatoes, try serving them as fries with a “dip” the next time, or prepare the sweet potatoes with different spices. Toddlers are into novelty, so anything that’s “new” and “exciting” to them is more likely to be a hit. Flex your creativity muscles!

A toddler enjoying a healthy lunch.

Tip #3: Serve the new food with a food they already love

If you have a toddler, chances are he or she is obsessed with one food or another. Use this to your advantage and work a new food into the food he or she already loves! Ease into it slowly, baby steps are great. For example, if your child loves grilled cheese and you want to get him or her to eat carrots, try throwing a few grated carrots into the grilled cheese the next time you make it. Don’t go overboard, remember, baby steps! Once they eat the little bit of grated carrots in the grilled cheese, you can slowly increase the amount. When your child is into eating carrots this way, try next serving grated carrots on their own but covered with melty cheese. If this continues to be successful, slowly ease off of the cheese at each serving. Before you know it, your little one will likely be ready to eat grated carrots on their own.

Tip #4: Model the desired behavior

We all know it – kids at this age are little sponges! That’s why, if you’re trying to get your toddler to eat a wider variety of foods, it’s important that you lead by example. If you want your little one to eat broccoli, be sure they see you eating broccoli. If you want him or her to not think twice about eating a tomato, let them see you eating tomatoes. Your toddler will eventually want to mimic you!

Tip #5: Don’t react negatively if they don’t like something

If your toddler tastes something and doesn’t like it, or flat out refuses a new food, be sure not to have a negative reaction. Forcing a certain item or speaking negatively to your little one about food will only foster resentment and rebellion, and may also cause your child to grow up with a negative reaction (in general) to eating. The important thing is to continue introducing things and modeling the desired behavior, without worrying so much about your little one actually clearing his or her plate.

A mama and toddler giggling at each other after a delicious meal!

I know how challenging it can be to get your toddler to try new foods (speaking from experience), so I hope these tips were helpful to you and gave you the extra boost of confidence you need to get in the kitchen and whip up something new and exciting for your little one. If you’re stuck in a rut and need some ideas when it comes to new foods to introduce to your toddler, be sure to check out my favorites for 12- and 18-month olds, plus my post on Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas!

I’d love to hear how these strategies worked for you in the comments below, and don’t forget to click here to learn more about my Three New Foods Challenge if you’re looking for a little extra support and motivation! Xoxo

Your Ultimate Guide to Baby- and Toddler-Friendly Finger Food Recipes

This Ultimate Guide to Baby- and Toddler-Friendly Finger Food Recipes is your go-to resource when you’re looking for healthy recipes for your little one(s). It’s a comprehensive round-up that’s updated frequently, so you’ll never run out of ideas!

Title graphic for Your Ultimate Guide to Baby- and Toddler-Friendly Finger Food Recipes.

As a busy mom and entrepreneur, I know all too well the struggle to consistently have healthy meals and snacks on hand for our little ones. Heck, I even develop recipes for a living and still struggle with it! That’s why I’ve created this Ultimate Guide to Baby- and Toddler-Friendly Finger Food Recipes featuring creative, nutrient-packed recipes from some of my favorite mom bloggers.

This is a fantastic collection of both savory and sweet recipes that are easily portable and hand-held, because as moms I know we’re all about convenience. I will be updating this recipe collection regularly as I stumble across more great recipes, so be sure to keep checking back.

To start, I’ve broken the recipes down into two sections: Sweet and Savory. At this point, I hesitate to break them down further as I feel there are so many that can fit into multiple categories, but I’ll continue to break them down as I add more links if I feel it’s necessary.

If you like the looks of these and want more recipes ASAP, be sure to check out my e-book where I have 30 additional recipes that are all freezer-friendly.

Here’s my list so far!

SAVORY BABY- AND TODDLER-FRIENDLY FINGER FOOD RECIPES

Baked Butternut Squash Fritters with Parmesan
A stack of Butternut Squash Fritters on a plate. The perfect baby- and toddler-friendly snack!
by The Clever Meal
Breakfast Egg Muffins
Breakfast Egg Muffins are laid out on a table with a wholesome breakfast spread.
by Hungry Healthy Happy
Green Monster Crackers
Green Monster Crackers overflowing from a bowl. Another great snack for toddlers!
by Love in My Oven
Quinoa Frittata Muffins
A stack of Quinoa Frittata Muffins - a great baby-friendly finger food!
by My Kitchen Love
Mini Turkey Apple Meatloaf Muffins
A stack of three Turkey Apple Meatloaf Muffins - a great toddler-friendly snack!
by Haute & Healthy Living
No-Fry Crispy Quinoa Bites

by The Belly Rules the Mind

Cheesy Zucchini Tots
A plate of Cheesy Zucchini Tots with a side of dipping sauce is the perfect toddler-friendly finger food snack!
by Lemons and Zest
Baked Lentil Veggie Nuggets
A plate of Baked Lentil Veggie Nuggets - a healthy, baby-friendly finger food!
by This Healthy Kitchen

SWEET BABY- AND TODDLER-FRIENDLY FINGER FOOD RECIPES

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies
An overhead shot of a stack of Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Cookies on a wooden cutting board.
by CaliGirl Cooking
Mini Sweet Potato Muffins
A stack of Mini Sweet Potato Muffins next to a glass carafe of milk. A perfect finger food for babies or toddlers!
by Love in My Oven
Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins
These one-bowl Pumpkin Carrot Muffins are super simple to make, freezer-friendly and naturally sweetened. They're both adult and kid-friendly!
by CaliGirl Cooking
Banana Blueberry Fritters
Hands holding a plate of Banana and Blueberry Fritters - a great finger food for babies and toddlers!
by Healthy Little Foodies
Air Fryer Apple Chips
An overhead shot of a plate of Air Fryer Apple Chips - a fun snack for babies and toddlers!
by Recipes From a Pantry
Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes
Make a batch of these Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes the next time you do food prep and you'll have healthy kids' snacks for the rest of the week!
by CaliGirl Cooking

Do you have a favorite baby- and toddler-friendly finger food recipe?? Share it in the comments below and I may add it to this list!

Top 5 Favorite Foods for 12-Month-Olds

Here is a list of favorite foods for 12-month-olds, plus links to recipes!Egg cups are a great make-ahead meal or snack for 12-month-olds!

Continuing on with my lists of favorite foods by age, today I wanted to share some of the foods that my baby girl absolutely loved when she was around the one year mark. If your little one has surpassed this age and you want some more ideas, here are my Top 5 Favorite Foods for 18-Month-Olds!

To recap, we did baby-led weaning with Raia and have been incredibly happy with the results thus far. Even now at 18 months old, she’s an adventurous eater and, although she has her moments, she will usually give everything a try. We often find that, if we reintroduce something she previously refused just a few days later prepared a little differently, she gobbles it up.

Here are the top five foods we found Raia enjoyed most when she was 12 months old:

#1 EGG CUPS

If you can get your child to eat egg cups, they will become a go-to for busy mornings! We make a dozen egg cups at once, changing up the mix-ins each time. For example, one week we might include spinach and mushrooms, and the next batch might have tomatoes and basil (and cheese, oh yes, cheese.) You can freeze the cups and pop them out one at a time to microwave and serve at a moment’s notice. I have some great egg cup recipes in my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers.

#2 BEEF

Maybe it’s because she’s her father’s daughter, but my girl loved her beef at this age (and still does). She especially loves dad’s extra-tender tri-tip that’s been smoked on our Big Green Egg. While everything is good in moderation, don’t shy away from this excellent source of protein and iron. Some other beef items I’ve cooked on the Big Green Egg that have been hits are these Island Style Teriyaki Sliders (just go easy on the sauce because of the sodium) and these sirloin steak bites (minus the boozy sauce).

#3 FRUIT AND VEGGIE POPSICLES

Vegetable-packed popsicles nestled in a tray of ice are a great food for 12-month-olds.

Believe it or not, Raia didn’t get her first tooth until she was just over a year old. So no, we didn’t experience the early teething fits that many parents do, but she still loved chewing and gnawing. What better things to chew and gnaw on than nutrient-dense popsicles? Some fun flavor combos include Avocado Kiwi Spinach, Beet Berry Banana and Carrot Orange Ginger, and you can find all the recipes in my book!

#4 TURKEY AND AVOCADO SANDWICH ON MULTIGRAIN BREAD

This healthy lunch is so easy it doesn’t even need a formal recipe. We take our favorite bread for Raia – Dave’s Killer Bread – and spread avocado all over a slice, then top it with high-quality deli turkey. When looking for deli meats to serve your littles, be sure to look for a brand that has little to no antibiotics or additives and is as natural as possible. Trader Joe’s has some great options, and Applegate is also a trusted brand.

#5 HIDDEN VEGGIE PANCAKES

It took me a while to introduce Raia to pancakes, and I wish I’d done it sooner! They’re definitely one of the top favorite foods for 12-month-olds but, in all honesty, they’ll make most babies happy. They seem like a treat to the kids, so they’re a great way to sneak in some added nutrients, whether it’s from blending fresh spinach into the batter (what kid doesn’t want GREEN pancakes??) or making them taste like carrot cake.

These Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes are easy to make and perfect for baby-led weaning. They're freezer friendly and super healthy!

And there you have it! Some of the best foods for 12-month-olds, especially if they’ve been following baby-led weaning.

Now, it’s your turn! Tell me some of your favorite foods for your 12-month-old in the comments below!