A Parent’s Guide to Offering a Variety of Foods

May 4, 2022 General /Family

Beyond French Fries:

A Parent’s Guide to Offering a Variety of Foods

As a parent, you may have heard the advice to offer a variety of foods, but you might be wondering why it matters and how it’s done.

For good health, the human body needs more than 30 vitamins and minerals. The body can’t make these nutrients on its own, so it must get them from food. Since different foods contain different nutrients, eating a wide range of foods is what it takes to get a wide range of nutrients. The more variety of food that parents serve, the better chance kids will have of meeting their nutritional needs.

A study of the diets of infants and toddlers in the U.S. found that, of all vegetables, French fries were eaten most often. If a person eats too many French fries—or too much of any one food—they’re less likely to get the nutrients they need.

To offer a variety of foods, try these tips:

Tip
#1
Tip
#1

Choose foods from several of the 5 food groups at each meal and snack.

FOR MEALS (3 or more food groups):

grilled cheese sandwich

tomato soup

FOR SNACKS (2 or more food groups):

graham crackers

milk

Tip
#2

Choose different foods from each food group over several days. Instead of serving carrots with lunch and dinner for 3 days in a row, offer:

Tip
#2

Lunch

Dinner

Day 1:

mixed-green salad

mixed-greens

cooked carrots

cooked-carrots

Day 1:

Lunch

mixed-green salad

mixed-greens

Dinner

cooked carrots

cooked-carrots

Day 2:

broccoli

broccoli

corn

Day 2:

Lunch

broccoli

broccoli

Dinner

corn

Day 3:

green peppers

green-pepper

sweet potatoes

sweet-potato

Day 3:

Lunch

green peppers

green-pepper

Dinner

sweet potatoes

sweet-potato
Star
It’s not always practical to offer different foods every single day. For example, if pears are on sale and they’re ripe, it’s fine to serve pears for snacks a few days in a row.
Eating a variety of foods can help kids get the many nutrients they need for growth and health.

How to make variety happen in your home

Getting a variety of food on the table takes some planning. Food guides with recommended numbers of servings provide a good goal. However, if we try to make children eat a certain way and push them to finish a vegetable they don’t want, it usually makes kids eat less veggies, not more.

Plan a week of meals with input from your kids, making sure each meal has at least one item that your kids are likely to eat. Include their favorite foods on a regular basis—but not at every meal. Children can make a choice between two foods. For example, if cereal and milk is on the menu, ask your child if they would like banana slices or strawberry slices on top.

Patience is key. You may offer spinach salad for a year before your children learns to like it. Children are learning about food the same way they learn to read and write. The process takes exposure and lots of practice. No one expects their three-year-old to read, so parents need to be realistic about eating, too.

The stress-free way to offer variety:

Questions & Answers

Question:

What if I don’t eat a variety of foods?

Answer:

Ask yourself why. Were your food choices limited as a child? Were you taught how to cook? Once you figure out why you don’t enjoy a variety of foods, you may decide to do something about it - such as learn to cook or try small amounts of new foods.

Question:

Should you offer the foods you don’t like to your children?

Answer:

Sure! Your child may love the food that you hate. Your attitude about food affects your kid’s feelings towards it, so remember to serve up those foods without negative comments. Another opportunity for kids to try these foods is at a friend’s, while at preschool, or when samples are given out at grocery stores. Also, maybe it’s time you tried your least favorite food again—you might like it!

Side-Lying Hold

  1. For the right breast, lie on your right side with your baby facing you.
  2. Pull your baby close. Your baby’s mouth should be level with your nipple.
  3. In this position, you can cradle your baby’s back with your left arm and support yourself with your right arm and/or pillows.
  4. Keep loose clothing and bedding away from your baby.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, use your left arm to hold your baby’s head at your right breast and baby’s body toward your left side. A pillow across your lap can help support your left arm.
  2. Gently place your left hand behind your baby’s ears and neck, with your thumb and index finger behind each ear and your palm between baby’s shoulder blades. Turn your baby’s body toward yours so your tummies are touching.
  3. Hold your breast as if you are squeezing a sandwich. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  4. As your baby’s mouth opens, push gently with your left palm on baby’s head to help them latch on. Make sure you keep your fingers out of the way.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Clutch or “Football” Hold

  1. For the right breast, hold your baby level, facing up, at your right side.
  2. Put your baby’s head near your right nipple and support their back and legs under your right arm.
  3. Hold the base of your baby’s head with your right palm. A pillow underneath your right arm can help support your baby’s weight.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Bring baby to you instead.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Cradle Hold

  1. For the right breast, cradle your baby with your right arm. Your baby will be on their left side across your lap, facing you at nipple level.
  2. Your baby’s head will rest on your right forearm with your baby’s back along your inner arm and palm.
  3. Turn your baby’s tummy toward your tummy. Your left hand is free to support your breast, if needed. Pillows can help support your arm and elbow.
  4. To protect your back, avoid leaning down to your baby. Instead, bring your baby to you.
  5. Reverse for the left breast.

This hold is useful when:

Laid-Back Hold

  1. Lean back on a pillow with your baby’s tummy touching yours and their head at breast level. Some moms find that sitting up nearly straight works well. Others prefer to lean back and lie almost flat.
  2. You can place your baby’s cheek near your breast, or you may want to use one hand to hold your breast near your baby. It’s up to you and what you think feels best.
  3. Your baby will naturally find your nipple, latch, and begin to suckle.

This hold is useful when: