“I wrote this to help other new parents who, like me, find the whole stuff element overwhelming. Shopping lists like this also have the bonus of being excellent gift guides. So go, shop and gift generously!” -Hillary Dixler Canavan
So much of life with kids is feeding them. If you can make the meal time experience positive—for everyone involved—you’re looking at a much easier life.
So let’s talk meals: They’re something I think about a lot—personally and professionally. As Eater’s restaurant editor, I’m forever focused on the who, what, why, how, and hell-yes of dining out. I’ve even authored a cookbook dedicated to bringing all the tips, tricks, and recipes from the restaurant world into the home kitchen. Yes, even home kitchens inhabited by picky toddlers, ravenous teenagers, and exhausted parents desperate for just one nice meal, please. I knew when I had my daughter that I wanted her to experience the wonder that food holds. I also wanted to be intentional about my efforts to model and nurture a healthy relationship to food as it relates to her body. Food is nourishment, comfort, and culture—which brings a lot of joy, but also a lot of questions.
How do we avoid bringing diet culture to the table? How can we use food as a starting point in a conversation about identities and histories? How do we deal with only wanting mac and cheese? And wait—what is a weighted straw cup and do I need to get one for my baby? The collection below offers insight and strategies I’ve relied on as a food-loving parent who wants to prioritize making meal times in my own home as delicious, as enriching, and as affirming as possible.
Image by Halfpoint / Getty Images
HDC: “Is there anything more delightful than a fifth grader explaining why Takis are the ultimate cool kid snack? No. There isn’t.”
HDC: Yes, I’m plugging the cookbook (out in September!) but also including this link for the sneak peek of the halo-halo recipe from Kamayan in Atlanta. Dessert can be a fun entry point for kids to become more adventurous with tastes and textures—especially when Fruity Pebbles are involved.”
HDC: “The work of feeding your kids doesn’t stop when they become tweens and teens. I’m already reading ahead and pieces like this one that frame the job in terms of building peaceful relationships to our bodies are especially helpful.”
HDC: “Discovering the Solid Starts food database changed the game for my family when we were introducing solids to our baby. The database outlines the nutritional profiles of each food, plus how to cut and serve it safely based on the age of your baby. Seriously, game changer.”
HDC: “Author/journalist Virginia Sole-Smith’s Substack is a guiding light for me as a parent who is eager to protect my child from the long-lasting damage diet culture and anti-fatness can have on her (and my!!) physical and mental health. I love how Sole-Smith so clearly synthesizes complex research topics while also offering concrete, actionable advice to parents in the trenches.”
HDC: “What if we didn’t wage wars on bodies? What if we didn’t shame children at the doctor? These questions, asked by influential writer Aubrey Gordon aren’t just hypotheticals; as a child in a large body, she faced the very real effects of the ‘war on obesity’ and her experiences should make anyone reconsider our ongoing ‘battle.’ You might know Gordon from her viral anonymous essays penned under her pseudonym Your Fat Friend, or from her hit podcast Maintenance Phase, or her two books: You Just Need to Lose Weight and What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Being Fat.”
HDC: “We can’t talk about feeding our kids without acknowledging that too many children struggle with hunger. This piece is a great starting place to understanding the how’s and why’s of food banks and the importance of supporting them.”
HDC: “My toddler LOVES this show, and I do too: The rice episode is a great invitation for kids to think about food as it relates to culture and history. Culinary historian Michael Twitty’s discussion of the history of rice—including a clear explanation of what enslavement was—is a particularly compelling example of just how well this show tackles the hard truths that food can reveal about our history in a kid-friendly way.”
HDC: “Take it from a real chef—in this case, Momofuku founder David Chang—mac and cheese, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets are just part of kid life. There are so many smart feed-your-kid-fast strategies in this video: from the best way to slice a hot dog to quickly cook it, to assessing when frozen veggies are better than fresh, to planning ahead for leftovers.”
Hillary Dixler Canavan
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). She worked her way up through the New York City restaurant scene before landing at Eater in 2013. As part of the publication’s award-winning editorial team, she defines the scope of Eater’s national restaurant coverage and leads major initiatives like its annual Best New Restaurants list. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter and you can connect with her on Instagram.