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5 Simple Tips to Minimize Food Waste with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Avoid Food Wastage with Toddlers

Anyone who manages a home on a budget and tries to be green and eco-friendly will join me in agreeing that controlling food wastage can make a big difference to both the planet and your pocket. As grown-ups, we can do this easily enough; however for toddlers and preschoolers, especially finicky ones, the concept is a little tough to grasp. Here are some simple tips to minimize food waste when you have a toddler at the table.

 1. Serve Small

 Serving a toddler a large portion-size of anything, even a favorite food, can result in a wrinkled up nose and an obstinate “I don’t want this”. I serve small, bite-sized portions. If she wants more, she asks for it. Also, I usually serve three or more foods in her plate – rice/bread, veggies/chicken and lentils. Bite-sized portions of all three are great for a complete meal and add variety to her plate as well.

 2. Serve Smart

 While my toddler, fortunately for me, is not fussy or picky, she does enjoy food that is shaped differently and a fun mealtime. So, sandwich stars or rice towers win favor and she laps them all up easily. Also, she’s incredibly possessive about her plate. It’s a sweet, little sectioned plate by Super Healthy Kids (see my review here) and it makes serving her three different things super-easy. So, investing in a separate, small toddler-sized plate can not only help reduce portion size but also, add a dash of independence and individuality to mealtimes.

 3. Serve Later

 Sometimes, a toddler just ain’t hungry. I learnt this when my daughter refused her favorite pasta dish at dinnertime, followed by a vehement “No” when I continued to offer it to her. So, step back, just cover the dish and put it into the refrigerator. Offer it later. Odds are they’re just not in the mood for food.

 4. Don’t Bulk-Buy Toddler Favorites

 Is a certain breakfast cereal a favorite with your toddler? Buy that, but not in bulk. It is super-easy for a toddler to change favorites and if you’ve bought four cartons of a favorite cereal, chances are you’ll be stuck eating it till it gets over.

 5. Deal with Food Waste

 So, say you try all of this and you still have food and produce that gets wasted. Deal with it. Overripe fruit? Turn it into cake, muffins or smoothies. Leftover cooked food? Reinvent it. Cooked veggies can be turned into cutlets or kebobs.  Biggie at Lunch in a Box has some good ideas on dealing with food scraps along with some great recipes with leftovers.

How do you deal with food waste with your preschooler? What do you do to prevent throwing away uneaten food?

Photo Credit: Emran Kassim


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  1. My uncle taught me that parents get to eat “Finnish cuisine”–that’s the food your kid didn’t finish! :-) You can serve yourself a smaller first portion, and then if the kid eats everything, you get seconds.

    Often, though, I can get my son to eat the rest of his serving at a later meal. We like to serve his food in Pyrex bowls that have plastic lids so that if he doesn’t finish, we can just pop on the lid and stick it in the fridge. Those bowls are microwave-safe, too.

    He went through a stage of taking just a few bites of a fruit but then being very possessive of it and not wanting anyone else to eat it, so I came up with this recipe for using up half-eaten old fruit!

  2. I agree with serving fun food to avoid wastage. I bought several cookie cutters and use them on my son’s sandwiches. He kept asking for the butterfly peanut butter sandwich once.

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