young boy eating a bowl of spaghetti bolognese

How to stop offering your child the same dinner every night

Are you stuck offering the same foods to your child over and over again? 
Would you like your child to eat more variety at mealtimes?

Being stuck in a rut

When you have a fussy eater, it is very common to get stuck offering the same foods over and over again. Parents all over, have got to the stage where their child eats the same handful of foods. Nuggets 5 nights out of 7 is a familiar situation that I see a LOT.

As a paediatric dietitian and feeding specialist working with a lot of parents, they often say to me, “I always make sure there’s something that my child will eat on the table”, and that is brilliant. That’s absolutely what we should be doing. But we don’t want to go overboard with accepted foods – we should meet our children in the middle. After all, if we never offer anything outside of the comfort zone, your child never has the opportunity to learn to like new things. 

Only offering loved foods

First, and most importantly, there should always be something that your child will eat when food is made available. However, you don’t need to make sure that every single component of the meal is something that your child will eat. When we do that, it makes it much harder to break out of that rut and break out of that routine. 

Remember: One or two safe/accepted foods is fine; it doesn’t need to make up a full meal every single time. 

Try to let go

When it comes to nutrition, we don’t need to eat every food group at every meal or snack. Tyy to let go of thinking ‘my child needs to eat some rice/meat/vegetables’ (or whatever it is you’re worrying about!) at every mealtime. The chances are that something from that food group was eaten at a different point during the day. The damage we do by encouraging and pressuring far outweighs the benefit we get nutritionally from ‘one more bite’. 

When parents offer meals, they often offer the foods that they know are ALWAYS going to be eaten. This is totally understandable and definitely human nature and feels like good parenting. Loved foods are offered to reduce conflict and anxiety, it also ensures that children get some food into them. However, to reduce fussy eating we need to try to break away from this behaviour. We’ll never move forward towards eating new foods if we only offer favourites at every single meal. 

Plus when we offer favourite foods all the time without breaks, children get bored and drop them. This creates an even worse situation as we end up with an even less foods that can be offered! 

So, we need to think a little bit wider than just the foods your child will always eat. 

Recognising accepted foods 

There’s normally some foods that your child might not love, but they would eat them sometimes. Even if a food isn’t always eaten, it can still be thought of as a safe or accepted food to be offered regularly. 

There are 3 ways of working out whether a food is an accepted food or not: 

  1. Is it a food that your child would eat if you weren’t pressuring or encouraging them? If yes, even if not all the time, this is an accepted food. This has to be a food that even if it’s not eaten every time, your child willingly takes it on occasion. 
  1. Is it a food that your child would eat if they were particularly hungry? If your child will eat it when they’re a bit more hungry and other foods are not on offer. If so, you have an accepted food. 
  1. Is it a food that they have eaten on more than a couple of occasions, willingly, without anxiety, without you having to put too much pressure on? If so, you have an accepted food. 

Remember, there should be at least one food that every single person eating that meal would eat willingly.

Always offering a full meal of accepted foods is how you end up stuck with just a couple of meals. Why? Realistically there’s just not that many meals, even in non-fussy households, where every single person in the family will eat them. So it takes a little bit of thought and planning. 

How to move forward

Write down a list of all your child’s accepted foods. It should include both the always accepted and the sometimes accepted food and start to offer them at meal and snack times. This will help to start increasing variety in your child’s diet without even addressing new foods! 

By taking these steps and being patient, you can pave the way for a more varied and enjoyable mealtime experience without even thinking about adding totally new foods in! With fussy eating – slow and steady wins the race.

Have you found this helpful? If so, please let me know at hello@theearlyyearsdietitian.co.uk and if you aren’t already follow me over on social media https://www.instagram.com/theearlyyearsdietitian. If you have a topic you’d like me to write about or if you need input from a dietitian on a particular topic such as growth, food allergies, constipation, fussy eating, vegetarian or vegan diets, reflux or anything else feeding related please get in contact!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Vicky

    Very helpful and definitely makes breaking repetitive behaviour easier to break

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