Problem: Here is a question I got from a reader recently: “My 2 and 4 year old kids love pb&j. I would like them to eat a balanced meal, so should I provide just one sandwich and allow them to pick and choose sides to fill up?”

Sticking to familiar and favorite foods is very common in children. In fact, when given opportunity, most kids start their meal with their favorite food and then move to other food on table. By depriving them of these foods or restricting portion sizes, we can make the situation only worse. But then how to make sure they eat a balanced diet?

Solution: Avoid micromanaging. If your kids love p&J and this is what you serve for dinner tonight, make a LOT of p&J.  If it is their favorite food right now they are not likely to get adventurous with other foods at the same meal. As their preferences change and they are out of this “food jag” you may see that they are happy with just one sandwich and are ready to move on to other foods you prepared for that meal. Right now, especially with smaller kids, it is very important to let them know there is plenty of food, so I would recommend making lots of sandwiches and serve them alongside some fruit/veggies, maybe milk, for a variety and balance, even all your children want right now is more P&J.

For example, my kids looove cheese ravioli, so when I plan cheese ravioli for dinner, I do not really expect them to eat a lot of other foods I serve alongside, like veggies or salad. So what do I do to keep their eating balanced? I do not serve these ravioli very frequently, maybe once every two weeks. I always round up the meal with vegetables and fruit to provide exposure and opportunities to eat these healthful  foods.

Solution: Look at a bigger picture. Do not worry if a meal your children eat today consists of just one food. Remember It is you as a parent who plans meals so while it is important to include kids’ favorites from time to time, you get to decide how often it will happen. This way, your children will feel like their preferences are taken into account and you feel relaxed about their eating even if all they choose to eat of what you prepared is their favorite food.

Tell me, what is your kids’ favorite food?