Thank you to the parent who sent in the following request for an article topic asking do toddlers like one-pot meals. In her own words “…whether toddlers tend to like a bunch of different foods in one plate (e.g. lots of choice), or a couple of choices, or a "one-pot meal")” I can answer this in one phrase – all of the above.
OK, I’m just kidding. I guess my parents’ scolding for being a “smart-alek” didn’t stick, LOL ☺
Toddler Food Preferences
To be straightforward, toddlers’ food preferences are as varied as everything else when it comes to kids. Some toddlers will like having many different foods on one plate, some toddlers will like having a couple of choices, and some toddlers do like one-pot meals. Over time you’ll find out which your child prefers.
That being said, more often than not, toddlers will prefer the first option. It’s very developmentally normal for toddlers and preschoolers to not want foods to touch. The science literature doesn’t know why.
Also, equally perplexing is why so many kids who don’t like their foods to touch, enjoy dips. Doesn’t the act of dipping involve making two foods touch? It’s just another example of how logic doesn’t apply in toddlerhood/preschooler-hood. So don’t bother arguing with your child about how the chicken that has touched the pea is the same as the chicken that hasn’t touched any peas. It’s a lesson in futility and, more likely than not, will end in anger.
Toddlers and One-Pot Meals
Now, just because your child will likely have a preference for foods that don’t touch or a preference for one-pot meals, it doesn’t mean that this is all you ever present to them.
As the wise Ellyn Satter says, “the goal of feeding your child is to have your child join you at the family table, not for you to join them at the highchair.”
In other words, when feeding your child you are actually achieving several goals. Yes, you are providing nutrition. But, you are also teaching them essential life skills, such as how to deal with the fact that one cannot exist on our favourite foods alone. And, that they are one member of the family – the entire world doesn’t revolve around them.
To achieve these multiple goals, day-to-day, present a variety of different styles of meals – styles that your family wants to eat. Sometimes there will be many different foods on one plate (commonly known as leftover night or buffets), sometimes there will be a couple of choices (such as the classic meat, potato, and side vegetable), and sometimes there will be one-pot meals (e.g. lasagna).
Deconstructing the meal can be a helpful strategy for serving one-pot meals for kids who prefer foods that don’t touch. To deconstruct a meal, serve each element from the meal separately to your little one. And, include one tiny piece of the foods touching. Using the lasagna example, serve your child some plain lasagna noodles, some sauce on the side, some plain lasagna filling (ricotta/ ground meat/ roasted vegetables etc), some plain grated cheese, and one tiny bite of the lasagna. This way:
- You’re all eating the same dish,
- You’re not having to prepare separate foods,
- Your child has the opportunity to try the one-pot dish if they’re feeling brave enough today, and
- You’re sending the message that “in our family we eat XX, and you’re an important part of our family, so I’m serving you XX”.
Check out my picky eating book for more successful tips for successfully feeding toddlers.