A “food segue” is a great way to get your picky toddler used to foods and flavors that he or she won’t normally eat. Here’s your step-by-step guide for how to do it!
I hear it all the time from all you mamas out there, “I wish I could get my toddler to eat [fill in the blank]!” One- to three-year-olds are notoriously picky eaters, and getting them to eat certain foods can be a never-ending battle. After all, this is the age when they start to realize (and assert) their own independence, and testing the limits is a huge part of that. Luckily, there are certain things you can do to minimize the struggle and, yes, get your toddler to eat foods that he or she has turned his or her nose up at in the past.
If you’re curious about some of the other tips I’ve shared in regards to feeding toddlers, be sure to check out my past posts on the best ways to introduce NEW foods and things NOT to say, but today I’m going to tell you about one super-effective method for working those historically unfavored foods into your little one’s diet, and that’s with a food segue! Using this method, you’ll start with a food your toddler already really enjoys, and work just a little bit of whatever new food you want to get your toddler used to into it. Then, you’ll slowly increase the amount of the new food – using a couple of different meal preparations – until eventually your toddler is eating the new food on its own without batting an eye.
Don’t worry, I’m going to get to a couple of examples in just a minute, but before that, there are a few things you’ll want to remember.
Things to Remember with Food Segueing
It’s a slow process.
It’s not all going to happen overnight. It may take days, weeks, or months to get your toddler to eat the new food. The idea is to slowly work it in, and only move onto the next step once you’ve succeeded with whatever step you’re on.
You’re going to need to be creative.
Toddlers love novelty, so the more creative you get with your segue, the more successful you’ll be. You’ll need to put on your thinking cap to serve the new food in dishes that are not only already well-liked, but also lend themselves well to whatever the new food is. More on this in the examples, but if you’re ever stuck with how to segue something, feel free to drop me a line!
Consider any other factors at play – and don’t get frustrated!
When working on a food segue, it’s important to remember that other factors can play a part in your toddler’s eating success. If you’re introducing a food segue dish, it’s helpful to also observe things like how tired your toddler is, if they’re teething, perhaps not feeling well or having a bad day. If any of these factors are limiting your toddler’s success, try the same segue again another day.
How to Do a Food Segue
Let’s talk about how a food segue is done. I think the easiest way to show you how is with examples, so that’s what I’ve got for you. I’ve got two examples for you (only one example with photos) but I’m going to show them to you side-by-side so you get the idea of how you can segue with two very different foods. Because most mamas express trouble getting their toddlers to eat (1) vegetables or (2) protein, we’re going to talk about segueing into carrots and turkey, respectively.
Okay, so your goal is to get your toddler to eat carrots. First, you’ll want to think of something that he or she already loves that you could mix a small amount of carrots into that your little one will hardly be able to taste. Let’s say an orange-carrot smoothie. If your babe drinks the smoothie down no problem, you’re ready to move on to Step 2. If not, wait a few days and try again.
For turkey, let’s say your toddler already LOVES pasta with red sauce. A great first step here would be mixing a small amount of ground turkey into the red sauce.
For the next step in the segue, you’re going to want to make the same smoothie, just up the amount of carrots involved. This will impart more of the carrot-y taste on your toddler’s palate, but will be a bit easier on them since they’re already used to (and enjoying) the way you’re serving it. Just as in Step 1, if your little downs this without a problem, move on to Step 2. If not, try again in a few days.
For the turkey, you’ll want to once again serve the pasta with red sauce, but simply increase the amount of ground meat in the sauce.
Time to move onto a new preparation! Hopefully, by now your toddler has gotten a little more used to the taste of carrots. Since we blended carrots into a smoothie for the last two steps, let’s try mixing carrots into something in their more natural form. I know most toddlers love grilled cheese, so let’s make the next preparation a grilled cheese with some shredded carrots mixed into the shredded cheese. This is great because carrots and cheddar cheese are the same color. Also, the cheese and the carrots are prepared in the same way – shredded – which will make them more easily blend together. As always, keep trying this preparation every few days until you see some success. And feel free to mix in some Orange-Carrot Smoothies on the days in between!
With the turkey example, a great next step would be serving pasta with diced tomatoes and ground turkey (rather than the tomato and turkey mixed together in a sauce). This gets your toddler used to seeing the ground turkey on its own while still having all of the same flavors as the first two preparations.
Now that your kiddo is hooked on grilled cheese and carrot sandwiches, the next step would be to take the cheese and carrot combo OUT of the sandwich, and just serve grated carrots covered in melted cheese.
Enough with the ground turkey already, time to move onto sliced turkey breast. BUT we’re still going to keep some similar flavors and – instead of serving the turkey with pasta and red sauce – we’re going to serve it with ketchup to dip it in! Because what kid doesn’t like ketchup? Or dip?!
Okay, time to move on from the cheesy stuff. The next step would be to serve the grated carrots with an alternative dip or topping, like ranch dressing or hummus. Use your judgment as to what your kiddo will like best.
As far as the turkey goes, it’s time to see if your toddler is ready for the full segue and serve turkey breast on its own!
(OPTIONAL) STEP 6
Chances are, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably already pretty happy with the strides your toddler has taken in learning to like a new food. But if you want to take it even further with the carrots, the next step would be serving them as sticks with the same ranch dressing.
Most food segues won’t take more than five or six steps, but of course, there may be instances where you’ll be fine with fewer or need to add a few more – use your best judgment!
Perhaps most importantly, don’t forget about a food you’ve segued once you’ve gotten your child to eat it. Keep exposing him or her fairly regularly, so he or she doesn’t forget all of these new taste associations. And keep experimenting! Your child may surprise you with what they’ll eat if you keep exposing him or her to new things.
And if you’d like even more tips on how to deal with a toddler who’s a picky eater, be sure you grab my free download with sooooo many more tips and tricks!