stress-free mealtime

Feeding kids seems to be a part of parenting that is stressful for most parents, nearly from birth. First it's breast milk or formula, then it's wondering whether your baby is getting enough milk. After that, you have to figure out how to introduce solids, then there's the picky toddler phase. And, of course, there's always the stress about nutritional content, appropriate portion sizes, and those dreaded food recalls. There's literally always something to worry about when it comes to food and kids.

More from MamásLatinas: 40 Latin-inspired meals kids will love

Whether your concerns have to do with picky eaters, nutrition, a shortage of time to prepare meals at home, lack of inspiration, young children who simply can't seem to sit still through an entire meal, or some combination of them all, if you routinely feel like getting your kids to eat is like pulling teeth, you're not alone.

For some families, mealtimes can be quite stressful, but if you're willing to think outside the box and try doing things a bit differently, you may be able to avoid daily dinnertime battles and meltdowns. It can take some time and quite a bit of patience, but it's definitely possible for mealtimes with your kids to be peaceful and even enjoyable. Check out our favorite products and tips for making mealtimes stress-free for moms.

Include one food you know your child will eat at every meal. 1

Include one food you know your child will eat at every meal.


One of our top tips for making sure your child leaves the table happy and satiated is to make sure that you offer a food that you know your child will eat readily and enjoy at every meal. So whether that's bread or noodles or bananas or chicken, at least your child can fill up on what he likes without a fight.


Avoid forcing your child to eat a particular food. 2

Avoid forcing your child to eat a particular food.


Your job as a parent is not to force feed your child any particular food, your job is to regularly offer your child a variety of nutritious foods. Forcing a child to eat something will usually backfire and cause a meltdown and potential cause your child to carry food aversion into adulthood. Without any pressure whatsoever, you should continue to offer foods that your child refuses and gently encourage her to try just a taste, but avoid making it a negative experience. Most children will eventually try and even like foods they've refused in the past as long as you don't make a big deal about it.


Start with small portions. 3

Start with small portions.


In many cultures, we have conditioned our bodies to consume oversized portions, and we often assume that the quantities our children naturally eat are too small. In fact, children typically consume exactly the number of calories their bodies need if we don't force them to eat more. To avoid battles, always start with small portions and add more if your child requests it.

Use appropriate dishes. 4

The right dishware can help you figure out appropriate portions for your child and can also make eating a fun experience. Plates like this adorable sectioned construction-themed plate turn mealtime into an interactive and interesting experience for kids.

Buy this construction plate from Uncommon Goods for $14.95.


Kids of any age can use simple portion plates. 5

Kids of any age can use simple portion plates.

If your child is too old to enjoy playful plates, simple portion plates with individual sections for each food group will help you to serve -- and your child to eat -- the right amount of each food group.

Buy portion plates from Amazon for $8.95.


Do some simple meal prep. 6

Do some simple meal prep.


If a lack of time causes you a lot of stress at meal times, try doing some simple meal prep during the weekend or even throughout the week on nights you have a bit more time. For instance, if you make a dinner on Monday that uses half an onion or bell pepper, chop the whole thing at once and refrigerate or freeze what you don't use. Or, when you're home for a few hours on the weekend, throw a few pounds of chicken breasts in the slow cooker, shred it, and portion it out to freeze and use in a couple of meals throughout the week.


Try a meal kit delivery service designed for families. 7

Meal kit delivery services are an awesome option for people who can benefit from something that takes the guesswork out of dinnertime, but let's be honest ... a lot of them feature meals that are too expensive or too complicated for families with children. Instead, consider a meal kit delivery service like Yumble that designs its meals with kids in mind.

Learn more about Yumble.

Get your kids involved. 8

Get your kids involved.


Even kids who are fussy eaters are more likely to try a meal that they've helped prepare. Cooking with kids can be a fun bonding experience that encourages your children to eat better, but even if the actual cooking proves to be too stressful with littles ones at your side, there are other ways to get them involved.


Grocery shop with your kids. 9

Grocery shop with your kids.


While most parents probably relish the opportunity to peruse the grocery store sans kids, a great way to get your kids involved in the meal prep process and engaged at mealtimes is to embrace the experience of shopping for food with them. A great tip is to allow picky eaters to choose one new fruit and/or vegetables to try every time you visit the market. It will get them to try new things and hopefully expand their palates so you can expand your mealtime repertoire.


Grow a garden. 10

Grow a garden.


Another way to get kids to embrace new foods and be more adventurous during mealtimes is to plant a garden -- or even just a few potted veggies -- with them. Kids love playing outside and in the dirt and will enjoy watching the fruits of their labor develop and eventually become food. They're usually excited about the process and eager to taste what they've grown!



Meal plan together. 11

Meal plan together.


A lot of families rely on weekly meal planning to help mealtimes go more smoothly. It definitely helps minimize the dinnertime rush. You can also ask each of your kids to pick a dinner every week to take some of the onus off of yourself and give your children something to look forward to.


Make cooking and eating a family activity. 12

Raddish Kids is a kids cooking/subscription club that helps get kids interested in food and the entire cooking and meal-planning process. Once you subscribe, a box is delivered to your home each month complete with a themed culinary lesson, shopping list, and recipes, all of which eliminate some of the mealtime prep for parents while helping kids learn how to cook and of course, try lots of new foods.

Learn more about Raddish Kids.



Make fun food. 13

Make fun food.


Kids love pretty much anything that is fun and novel. So get creative with meals that you prepare at home and they are likely to give you a lot less trouble when it's time to sit down and eat. Even small tweaks to everyday meals, like using cookie cutters to create fun shapes, can make a difference in your child's mood.

Have fun with themed meals. 14

Have fun with themed meals.


Planning themed meals once or twice a week can make the planning process easier for you and make eating more fun for your kids. It can be as simple as Taco Tuesday and Spaghetti Wednesday every week or you can make it even more interesting and kid-friendly by, say, choosing a color scheme or basing meals around a favorite movie, book, or even season.


Offer the same foods in different ways. 15

Oftentimes, children will eat foods they have previously been averse to if you simply offer them in a different form (or they don't realize their eating it). Sometimes something as simple as cutting carrots into discs instead of sticks will do the trick, but you can also use something like these silicone popsicle molds to freeze healthy green smoothies into an icy treat that your kids will love or grate carrots into pancakes to make "carrot cake" for breakfast.

Buy silicone popsicle molds on Amazon for $12.95.