Got a picky eater? Grab my free picky eating starter guide now! »

mama knows nutrition art and logo

How To Get Your Toddler to Try New Foods at Dinner

Are you sick to death of serving kid food for dinner? Worried about your kids getting enough nutrition? Do you feel like you’d rather get something waxed than prepare another hot dog with JUST ketchup on it? Well don’t worry mama, I’ve got you covered! These tips will help you break away from constantly rotating through chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and cheese pizza, so you can finally get your toddler to try new foods at dinnertime!

#1 Implement a Taking Turns Rule

We’re always teaching our kids about taking turns with toys, right? So why not do the same with food! Tell your kids that all foods get a turn, so that you don’t have to keep eating the same meal for days at a time (or even just for two days in a row). 

That said, if you’ve prepped a dish that you’re serving leftovers of, that’s totally fine. Meal prepping and leftovers are life savers, so they get a pass!

What to say:

“We ate mac and cheese yesterday, so our Taking Turns Rule says we won’t have it again today.”

#2 Serve Just One Food They Like

We’ve talked before about the importance of serving at least one food per meal that you’re sure they like. But remember, once you hit ONE thing at a meal, you’ve done your job! The rest can be new foods, unfamiliar foods, or foods they aren’t sure about right now.

You can achieve this by serving a “safe” component of the meal (like setting aside plain rice from your stir fry), or by adding something extra for them (like a banana) on those nights when there’s nothing from the regular meal that they typically like. 

The important part is to serve that food WITH the meal, NOT after, to prevent them skipping dinner to get a snack they like!

#3 Shift Your Mindset

I’m going to tell you something that I hope will set you free: you actually do NOT have to please your little one all of the time. You can make meals that you know they won’t be crazy about. And, you don’t have to feel bad about doing it. 

There’s a huge lesson for our kids in not always getting what they want. This is something we all deal with (like every. single. day), so it’s not a bad thing for them to experience. You’re actually teaching them to deal with a little disappointment and make the best of situations they can’t totally control, and who doesn’t want their kids to have those skills?

So remember, even on nights where they’re not super happy and excited about the dinner you made, you’re doing a great job!

#4 Try New Meals (That Are Just As Easy!)

The blessing and the curse of being in a food rut is that if all you ever serve is chicken nuggets, then all you ever have to make is, well, chicken nuggets!

Part of serving your kids a variety of foods is actually taking the time to plan out, shop for, and prepare a variety of foods, which can be daunting to any parent. And if you’re a working parent, a postpartum mom, or have multiple kids, you’re probably more concerned of serving something than serving the perfect thing. (Bring on that one-pot, 10-minute mac and cheese, amiright??)

If you’re stuck between wanting to serve more of a variety and feeling like you just do NOT have the capacity to take that on, I’ve got your back! I created my Dinnertime Survival Guide for this exact purpose: to help you get dinner on the table FAST with the same effort you’d put in to heating up some chicken nuggets. It includes 30 recipes that require ZERO prep (serious) and are on the table in 15 minutes. (15 minutes!!)

If anything can help you out of the rut and get some new ideas into the rotation, this is it!

#5 Try a Meal Planning Service

If meal planning is the last thing you want to do each week, make life easier on yourself and outsource it! I love not having to come up with ideas of things to make, and I always can find something to serve my picky eater, even if I just add some bread or bananas to the table.

My personal fav is Cook Smarts. Once you sign up, all the thinking is done for you. They make the weekly meal plan and create your grocery list, so that all you have to do is execute your customized plan! If you’ve been thinking about trying it out, you can use my affiliate link to get 30 days free.

#6 Let Yourself (And Them!) Off The Hook

Know that it’s totally okay if your kids don’t always eat at dinnertime. Sometimes they’re just not hungry at dinner time, and in that case it’s much better to teach them to listen to their hunger and fullness cues than it is to have them force something down. 

Plus, the alternative is that you get in the habit of serving the only few things that they will eat, and all that does in the end is limit them further. 

#7 Give Them Guided Choices

Asking “What do you want for dinner?” or “What would you like?” is too open-ended. Chances are they’re always going to have the same few responses for you. My daughter would ask for mac and cheese every single night if I asked her what she wanted! 

Instead, offer them two or three options from what you have available. Kids are usually really happy to have a say in the matter, and they don’t even realize that you’re providing limited choices for them!

What to say:

“Would you like peas or corn tonight?” 

Or, if you have some wiggle room in the meal plan, you can say, “Would you rather tacos or pasta tonight?” 

#8 Use Weekly Theme Nights

There’s a reason these are so popular! If there’s a certain food your little one is constantly asking you to make, consider making an official night for it. I know it’s not exactly new and revolutionary, but for a lot of kids, knowing that their favorites are coming will stop them from asking over and over again. A few ideas you could try:

  • Taco Tuesdays
  • Friday Pizza Nights
  • Mac and Cheese Mondays 

Stuck in a meal planning rut? I can help!

My Dinnertime Survival Guide and Meal Plan is a game changer! It’ll make trying new meals just as easy and thoughtless as falling back on your go-tos. In it, you’ll find 6-weeks worth of meals that are ready in 15 minutes or less– with NO prep! Use it as a meal plan or as a little mealtime inspo to help you shake things up. Grab your copy now!

Dinnertime Survival Guide


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Kacie Barnes holding an apple
Hi, I’m Kacie!

I’m a mom of two and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I offer e-guides and e-books (go to my Shop page), workshops, brand partnerships, and nutrition counseling. Check out my blog for nutrition and feeding tips for your little ones.


This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

More on the Blog

Search the Site