Make a schedule. Children need to eat every three to four hours: three meals, two snacks, and lots of fluids. If you plan for these, your child’s diet will be much more balanced and he’ll be less cranky, because he won’t be famished. I put a cooler in the car when I’m out with my kids and keep it stocked with carrots, pretzels, yogurt, and water so we don’t have to rely on fast food.
Plan dinners. If thinking about a weekly menu is too daunting, start with two or three days at a time. A good dinner doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be balanced: whole-grain bread, rice, or pasta; a fruit or a vegetable; and a protein source like lean meat, cheese, or beans. I often make simple entree soups or Mexican chili ahead of time and then freeze it; at dinnertime, I heat it up and add whole-grain bread and a bowl of cut-up apples or melon to round out the meal.
Don’t become a short-order cook. A few years ago, I got into a bad habit. I’d make two suppers—one that I knew the kids would like and one for my husband and me. It was exhausting. Now I prepare one meal for everybody and serve it family-style so the kids can pick and choose what they want. Children often mimic their parents’ behavior, so one of these days, they’ll eat most of the food I serve them.