Dinner drama: 5 ways to improve toddler meal times

March 29, 2017
A Fit Mess

As most parents know, feeding toddlers can be challenging to say the least. I have to laugh when I think back to all the times when the girls happily ate the blended green beans and pea pudding I placed before them as babies. Matt and I used to get a kick out of how much they ate and the variety of foods they enjoyed (sardines were always a family favorite).


Now that my kids are older (the girls will be 4 this summer!) they have more defined preferences and tastes. As such, it can be difficult to get them to try new things and to incorporate the same kind of variety in their diets as when they were babies.


But as we all know: toddlers are completely independent, know exactly what’s best for them, and can make their own decisions. Period. Or as Madison likes to inform me, “No. I won’t listen to you, mommy!”


All joking aside, toddlers can be quite finicky when it comes to food, making their meals difficult at times. Over the last several months, we’ve incorporated a few things that have worked really well for our family and has made meal time easier and more enjoyable. I wanted to share these tips with you in case you, too, struggle with this as a parent.


I should probably premise this with stating that I am absolutely NOT an expert at parenting (far from it!) and some days these methods work and sometimes they don’t work at all. But we try to stay consistent with our practices and have found that they really help. As always, I would love your thoughts and suggestions. I want this blog to be a place where we can learn from one another (myself included!).

 A Fit Mess

1.  We sit together during our meal.

While this doesn’t always happen, we try to sit at the table for most of our meals. The girls and I have breakfast together almost every day (Matt leaves for work before any of us are awake), and they eat lunch at school most days. Dinners are spent eating together as a family. Some days Matt works late and will eat after us. Other times the girls are hungry as soon as I get home so I’ll prepare their dinner early and sit with them while they eat.

Why this is important to us: I don’t have many memories of eating around the table as a family when I was younger (mostly because my mom got sick when I was still little and my dad was trying to juggle everything). My dad cooked as often as he could, but we also had relatives make meals for us, various caregivers tended to us, and we ate a lot of prepared food. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I truly appreciated the act of sitting around a dinner table. Food connects a family in many ways. It’s a chance for us to come together and enjoy a meal. It allows us to talk and to share details of our day. It’s extremely important to me that we continue this tradition as a family so it’s definitely a priority in our house.

2.  Our kids eat what we eat.

For too long I was preparing items that I knew the girls would eat and got into the habit of making them “their” meal and then preparing something else for myself and Matt. I hated when I made them something and they wouldn’t eat it. I’d then run through the alternative items I could make them. The problem with this (other than the fact that I felt like a short-order cook) was that the girls weren’t being exposed to different tastes, textures, and smells. Not to mention all the vitamins and nutrients they missed. Sure, part of the issue was that I let them run the show. I worried they would go hungry so I tried to make them things I knew they’d actually eat. I eventually realized how crazy this was – my kids would NEVER go hungry and I needed to show a bit of tough love. Nowadays, the girls eat what we eat and I try to limit the items I prepare for them.  Sure, there are things that I make for them that I don’t often eat with my meals (buttered toast, popcorn, pasta) but for the most part they eat some version of what we are eating (protein, veggies, and starches).


3.  No toys or TV at the table.

Like a lot of toddlers, my kids can easily be distracted. While we try to limit their TV time in general, we definitely don’t let them watch TV during meals. And toys are to be kept away from the dinner table until they’re done eating. Meal time is not play time. This keeps the attention on the meal and the focus on your food. I’m trying to work on this as well since I often eat lunch at my desk and will inevitably skim emails and read while I eat.


4.  Keep portions small.

I used to load up the girls’ plates with a variety of food at once and I’ve recently transitioned to a different approach. Now I give them a little bit of food (protein, starch, and veggie) and I’ve noticed that they end up eating more than if I piled the food on their plates. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why this works so well, but I think having a smaller portion encourages the girls to eat. And if they finish something and want seconds then I will give them more. Having smaller portions is also helpful if I want them to try something new (a vegetable, a tiny bit of meat, or something I haven’t prepared in a while). Additionally, I think sometimes my kids can get overwhelmed with choices if there is too much on their plate. And limiting the amount of food is a good way to check whether they are actually full or just eating for the sake of eating.


5.  Save fruit for the end.

My kids are fruit fanatics. If given the choice, they would eat fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve started to wait until the girls have eaten their protein and sampled their veggies before offering fruit. This encourages them to fill up on the important foods before going for the fruit. I know some parents who recommend serving food in courses so that their kids will at least try certain items, but Matt and I don’t eat like that personally so it doesn’t really make sense for us to introduce that style in our home.


Additional notes:

  1. We are snackers. The girls really like to graze and I think this is typical toddler behavior. If the girls say they are hungry, I will always offer them food. I know some parents discourage snacking, but I don’t agree with this. Kids are extremely active, have fast metabolisms, and process food differently than adults. Their nutritional and caloric needs are not the same as ours.
  2. Some days my kids will have less or more of an appetite. This is something I try not to worry about. As I said above, my kids will never go hungry. I don’t force them to eat if they don’t want to and I don’t deny them extra servings (within reason).
  3. We talk a lot about what food does to/for your body. We really enjoy describing the benefits of the food we eat. For example, we’ll say that meat contains protein and makes you strong or sweet potatoes give you energy and vitamin C. Before eating something the girls will ask us, “Is this good for your body?” which always makes me smile.


I would love to know what your thoughts are on this. Have you made any changes to meal time that has helped?

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Last week’s workouts: back into running, at home workout, Orangetheory and CrossFit

March 27, 2017

Hello! Hope your week is off to a fabulous start! I’m trying to get things wrapped up here before we leave for our trip and it has me a bit scatter-brained at the moment. I plan on totally unplugging when we are in Mexico (besides checking in with the girls) so I’m trying to tie up all the loose ends at work before we head out. Here’s hoping the productivity gods shine down on me over the next few days.


Last night I got a bit sad when I started thinking about leaving the girls (I haven’t been away from them for more than a couple of days). I’m sure they will be fine (they are super excited about having time with grandma), but I am going to miss them like CRAZY! My whole world revolves around them so it’s going to feel really odd to be away from them. I’m sure I’ll be all out of sorts and crying like a baby when we leave {tear}.


But we really need some time away. Matt and I rarely have any time together just the two of us (we “talk” a lot through email and texts since when we’re home it’s usually all about the kids). I’ve convinced him to take a yoga class with me (!) and I’m sure we’ll put together some fun beach workouts to do. I’m definitely someone who likes to exercise while on vacation (I find I’m able to relax more when I include workouts) so I’m looking forward to mixing things up.


Speaking of exercise, last week I included a lot of different workouts. I’m definitely someone who does better with a variety of activities. I haven’t taken a run in several weeks and my body definitely took notice of this. Sometimes it’s easier to just take a class and get told what to do. I was finding it really hard to motivate myself to get out there for a run, but I was glad once I did. That internal talk can be so hard to tune out at times! But, honestly, I never, ever regret working out. I’m very thankful that I’m able to workout as much as I do and I’m so glad to have hobbies I enjoy. And I hope you do, too. Whatever activities you enjoy – whether it’s running, boxing, lifting, or hiking – I truly hope you continue to make time to do these things.


Here’s a look at what I did last week…


Last week’s workouts




  1. 2 back squats EMOM (every minute on the minute) for 10 minutes (I used 95# pounds for 20 reps)
  2. Every 3 minutes for 15 minutes (5 rounds) – go as fast as possible to earn as much rest time as you can:
    • 15 thrusters (I used 40#)
    • 10 bar facing burpees (it ends up being 20 burpees and jumps over the bar total)



At home – Total Medicine Ball Workout

I did everything the same, but instead of the figure eights I did jump squats. I also substituted the med ball slams for weighted sit ups (I couldn’t risk waking Ashlyn up from her nap).

A Fit Mess








3 Rounds:

  • 1 minute pull ups (my best was 7)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute plank
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute double unders
  • 30 seconds rest


3 Rounds:

  • 1 minute ME cal row (my best was 16)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute KB swings (I used a 26# kb)
  • 30 seconds rest
  • 1 minute wall balls (I used a 10# ball)
  • 30 seconds rest



5 mile run outside (I didn’t wear a watch, but I estimate this is how far I ran).






5 mile run outside (this is the crazy-happy face I make after a run when everything is right in the world again). PS – I have got to do a post about some of the affordable and cute workout clothing I have been getting from Forever 21! I bought 4 workout tops and the sports bra below for $50!


Enjoy your evening, friends!



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Weekend happenings: coffee, pancakes, and toddlers

March 27, 2017

Hello to you! How did your weekend go? We got out a bit with the girls on Saturday and Sunday, but spent a lot of time playing around the house. The pollen just dropped here so everything is covered with yellow dust. It’s pretty gross when it’s everywhere so we didn’t spend too much time outside. I can’t wait until it passes.


Here’s a quick recap of our weekend…


Saturday was spent the usual way: coffee (me), smoothies (girls), a workout (me), and errands (again, me). I’ve been enjoying my coffee with steamed almond milk, a small scoop of coconut oil, and cinnamon. So creamy and delicious!

Early morning workout at OTF. I did not participate in the Dri-Tri this time, but if any readers competed in the event I hope you crushed it! The treadmill portion of Saturday’s workout was really challenging, but I’ve been a bit disappointed in the strength work lately.

Matinee with the girls. The girls and I met a friend at the movies to see Beauty and the Beast. I thought it was pretty good, but really long. I’m a firm believer that movies shouldn’t last more than 1.5 hours. This one was well over 2 hours. We were all a bit restless at the end. Parents, I didn’t think the movie was too scary for my kids (they are 3 years old) and there were even younger kids in the audience. The only parts that were a little scary included the wolves.

Of course, there was popcorn and chocolate. #obviously

Sunday morning called for mini gluten-free buttermilk pancakes. Ohmygosh. So delicious!

And more coffee…

Sunday morning I headed out for a run. My legs felt like tree trunks from all the lower body work I’ve been doing lately. It has been out of control. I went easy on this run and stopped a few times to catch my breath and stretch.

Defy Gravity with the girls on Sunday afternoon. They had a ball.

Why, yes, Ashlyn is wearing the same outfit two days in a row. #chooseyourbattles

Outdoor play

We wrapped up our weekend with baked chicken wings, adult beverages, and Netflix.


How was your weekend? Tell me one thing you enjoyed!



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Friday faves 24 + Postmates giveaway!

March 25, 2017

Hey there. Happy weekend! I’m a bit late getting my Friday Favorites post to you (that seems to be the trend lately). I’m sipping on some coffee while the girls play and soon we are headed out to see Beauty and the Beast with my girlfriend. Hoping it’s not too dark and scary for them. Also hoping they share their popcorn with me. 🙂 Okay, let’s get into it!


Friday faves 24


Dermalogica total eye care – I have been using this eye cream for years and I loooovve it. It works really well to hide under eye circles and diminish fine lines. I wear it everyday and I can’t say enough about it. It’s a bit pricey, but you can usually find discounts if you shop around. Amazon carries it fairly cheap.

A Fit Mess

Trader Joe’s GF buttermilk pancake and waffle mix – I bought this the other day to make drop biscuits for the girls’ class. It worked really well and the biscuits turned out great. I haven’t tried to make pancakes or waffles with it yet, but I’m sure they’re delicious.

TJ’s single serving packages of guacamole – I love these! They are so easy to toss into your lunch bag or purse. They are the perfect portion size, too.

D3 Excellence by Poliquin Group – Vitamin D is essential for bone and immune health and blood sugar regulation. I take one soft gel daily (5,000 IU) during the colder months. It’s currently on sale ($21.50) through March 31!

This total medicine ball workout – I made a few modifications (I’m not coordinated enough to do figure eights with a ball), but kept the workout basically the same. It was quick and dirty and one I will definitely do again.

A Fit Mess

KT tape – One month into CrossFit and my body is feeling a bit banged up. My hands and wrists, in particular, are feeling sore and achy. I’ve started wrapping my hands a bit with KT tape and it has really improved my grip. I’m hoping that this will provide a bit more support through my workouts.

And now an awesome Postmates giveaway!

Here’s a BIG offer from Postmates for anyone looking to try the service. Use my code 9ktcg and get $100 in delivery fee credit to use on your first few orders! Limited time offer. 

Have a great weekend, friends!

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