7 strategies to achieve variety and avoid a family food rut | Wholesome Child
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7 strategies to achieve variety and avoid a family food rut

It’s so easy to fall into repetitive eating, meals and a ‘food rut’ for the family. We’ve all been there, lacking inspiration, bored of our repertoire and falling back on safe options we know our family members will eat. Even though I am not immune to this by any means, I’m here to tell you that variety is worth striving for. Exposing our children to a variety of meals and snacks in their younger years is critical if we want to develop resilient eaters and also ensure our family receives a good dose of nutrition. The more colours, textures, wholegrains, proteins and healthy fat sources we include, the more vitamins, minerals, macro and micro nutrients we receive - and this is ultimately better for our immune health, gut health and overall vitality. 

I’ve dedicated my career to helping parents with the many challenges of feeding their families well, and variety is a key pillar of my philosophy. Rolling your eyes? I get it, this is way easier said than done when feeding kids and juggling so many other balls as a parent - especially in the middle of a pandemic when trips to the store are limited and we’re all doing the best we can with the resources, time and foods we have access to! 

Read on for some achievable, practical strategies to get more variety into your family’s diets because let’s face it, even if variety is not a big priority for you, what’s on the menu is one of the greatest sources of excitement and fun in our current lockdown life!


Read on for some achievable, practical strategies to get more variety into your family’s diets because let’s face it, even if variety is not a big priority for you, what’s on the menu is one of the greatest sources of excitement and fun in our current lockdown life!

7 Top tips to avoid a family food rut

  • Create a culture that celebrates trying new things 
  • In my family we have a rule, you don’t have to eat everything but I do like to encourage my children to TRY everything ( even if that’s a finger lick). I often tell my kids to eat with their tummies and not their eyes. And, it’s important when offering new foods to always have a safe food you know your child will eat on their plate. Try to maintain the role of parents deciding what’s for dinner and when we eat, and children deciding what they choose to eat. If your child rejects a new food, try not to despair or show them that it affects you. Freeze and try again in a few weeks. It can take children up to 16 tries before accepting a new food! Perseverance is worth it.

  • Meal planning
  • Being organised and planning out the week’s meals is the best way to ensure there’s sufficient variety and all the ingredients are on hand to execute on the plan (it’s really helping me with online shopping at the moment too!). I have a loose structure for my weekly meals where I try to include a chicken, fish, red meat, and two vegetarian meals weekly. I used to scribble this on paper but recently developed a customisable meal planner which you can access in My Wholesome Child to help. 

    In My Wholesome Child you’ll find a delicious sample 7-day meal plan based around the recipes that are freely available. Most of us do not have time to cook everything from scratch and although variety is KEY – finding practical meal prep time-saving hacks is essential. Therefore, the main meals included in this plan have been repeated to demonstrate how we can repurpose dinner meals and offer them for lunch the next day to save precious time. In reality, a weekly meal plan for families would most likely see more snacks and breakfasts repeated but I wanted to reveal the variety of scrumptious recipes available to you. 

    This customisable meal planner gives you the ability to swap ingredients for items you may already have in your pantry, change serving sizes and swap out meals for ones you know your family will love. Give it a go!

  • Seasonal produce and meal types
  • The best way to keep the family’s meals fresh is to incorporate seasonal ingredients, and change up the meals on rotation for different seasons. In winter you may enjoy more warm breakfasts like porridge and warm main meals such as soups, stews and roasts with cooked veggies. In spring most people start to crave and enjoy fresher flavours such as chia puddings, smoothies, salads, raw veggies and dips. In winter right now, I’m loving seasonal asian greens, green beans, cauliflower, broccolini, silverbeet, pumpkin and capsicum. We’re also loving all the juicy citrus fruits, crunchy apples and sweet kiwi fruit.

  • Rotating & Batch cooking
  • Think of your meals over a 10 day or 2 week period when planning, to ensure you’re rotating options over more days to help make things not feel repetitive. An easier way to achieve this is to cook once but to do so in batch, serve one portion and freeze the other to use in future!

  • Offering choice within a limited range of acceptable options
  • Giving kids control over some of their meal choices helps to empower and create positive meal time associations, especially for toddlers who are developmentally seeking a level of autonomy and control over their worlds. This may look like “would you like porridge or toast for breakfast today?”. Or we can have burgers or spaghetti bolognese tonight? Ultimately kids should know that parents provide the parameters and options, and they decide how much and what to eat.

  • Boosting what they will eat
  • If you’re working on variety but not having much luck with fussy eaters or kids in a fussy phase, I recommend boosting the foods your child agrees to eat to maximise nutrition while still trying to offer new foods and expand variety for the long term. Depending on your child’s textural preferences, steaming and pureeing cauliflower to add it to mashed potatoes can work, or boosting smoothies with chia seeds or hemp seeds for omega-3s and protein. Or you could recreate their favourite crumbed nuggets or fish fingers with Veggies+ in the crumbing mix if veggies are a struggle right now. My new Wholesome Child+ range was designed to help you boost every mouthful to ensure kids get the variety they need to thrive, while they’re still learning to accept diversity on their plates! For more detailed strategies on expanding your child’s repertoire, check out my Fussy Eating Strategies & Solutions course.

  • Recipe inspiration 
  • As an author of a cookbook, there’s nothing I love more than a tangible recipe book in my kitchen but I also love the incredible recipe inspiration you can get online from fellow parents, nutritionists and more. Inspiring my community with recipes is my number one goal, and all my subscribers have access to 150+ recipes in My Wholesome Child, as well as on my website and social media pages. 

    My favourite thing to do is take childhood staples and family favourites and wholesome-childify them! I also love seeking inspiration from the flavours and foods of various cultures and recreating them in a way that is palatable for children and tasty enough for grown ups! Check out my Easy Fish Curry or Black Bean Tortillas.  My recipes are developed with fussy eaters in mind and are designed to be enjoyed by the whole family, because who has the time to prep more than one meal!

    Thinking of everyone at this challenging time and hope we can find the silver linings of more time at home to find more time to share family meals and perhaps try a few new dishes in the family repertoire! Mandy x

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