Mealtime Solutions for Your baby, Toddler, and Preschooler

What to try
• Have some family rules about which foods are a no-go at breakfast time-like ice cream-and then stick to those rules.
• Encourage your preschooler to suggest healthy breakfast foods that he'd like you to purchase at the grocery store-e.g., his favorite brand of unsweetened cereal.
• Look for foods that have strong kid-appeal and yet that still deliver the goods nutritionally: e.g., fresh berries on cereal or whole grain waffles.

Problem
"My child complains that her lunch "tastes yucky" by the time lunchtime rolls around."

• Pack your child's lunch with a frozen food pack so that her lunch stays cool and fresh as long as possible.
• Choose foods that survive well in a lunch bag. Steer clear of fruits that are easily bruised and vegetables that wilt in a matter of minutes. Appearance is a big deal to most kids.
• Invest in a well-designed lunch bag that features a lot of padding and insulation.

Problem
"We end up eating takeout or convenience foods more often than we'd like, simply because we're too exhausted to cook."

What to try
• Know what you're making ahead of time. Sometimes the toughest part is coming up with the idea du jour-and ensuring that you have the right combinations of ingredients on hand.
• Load up on cookbooks that feature menus that can be whipped up quickly and easily, and that are both healthy and kid-friendly.
• Do some food preparation ahead of time or look for items in the grocery store that can save you time on the food preparation front (e.g., salad in a bag, mini-carrots, etc.).
• Make at least one extra meal on the weekends, either by cooking that meal all by itself and popping in the freezer, or by making "doubles" of one of your family's weekend meals (e.g., a double batch of spaghetti sauce or lasagna) so that you can have leftovers during the week.
• Look for ways to join forces with other families on the mealtime preparation front. Consider meal swaps, supper clubs, cooking coops, and other ways of cooking smarter and freeing up more time in your schedule so that you'll have more time for fun and relaxation.

Problem
"It's hard to find a dinner that the whole family likes."

What to try
• Instead of trying to play short-order cook, think about creating variations of the same meal. For example, if you're having spaghetti, you could serve the noodles, sauce, meat, and vegetables separately so that kids who only like certain parts of the meal (or who don't like the different parts of the meal to touch each other!) could come up with an acceptable meal alternative.
• Don't be too rigid -- but don't be too lax, too. Define your boundaries when it comes to making "alternative meals" (or allowing kids to make their own alternative meals), and then stick to them.
• If you allow the kids to make an alternative meal, require that they state their intention early. You may want to have a rule that there's no bailing from the dinner choice du jour once Mom or Dad has started making dinner. It's not fair to the cook!

Problem
"My child hates milk."

What to try
Consider one of these possible solutions (assuming your child isn't allergic to milk):
• Whip up a smoothie;
• Serve chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk;
• Serve other beverages that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D;
• Add milk to foods: soups, casseroles, mashed potatoes, on top of fruit, etc.

Problem
"My child is a picky eater. He hates everything."