What I offer has varied depending on their stage/age. However, while even in the stroller, I do my best to follow the division of responsibility (created by Ellyn Satter, a dietitian, psychotherapist, and feeding expert with over 40 years of experience).
The division of responsibility defines what roles the parent and the child have in feeding. Basically, you as the parent determine the what, when, and where of feeding, and your child determines how much and whether or not to eat.
Your job: -Choose and prepare the food. -Provide regular meals and snacks. -Make eating times pleasant. -Step-by-step, show your child by example how to behave at family mealtime. -Be considerate of your child’s lack of food experience without catering to likes and dislikes. -Let your child grow into the body that is right for him.
Your child's job : -Eat the amount he/she needs. -Learn to eat the food you eat. -Grow predictably in the way that is right for him/her. -Learn to behave well at mealtime.
The intent and end result of this is a child that is a competent eater and that meals are a peacefull time that bring your family together.
As part of what I offer, I will include "forbidden foods" (what Satter calls them) or "fun foods" (what we call them). They are high-fat, high-sugar, relatively low-nutrient foods such as sweets, desserts, chips and sodas.
Now I know, some of you may be thinking.... Aren't we supposed to avoid those? Well, consider the following:
•You might be able to keep “forbidden food” away from your child when they are little, but not when they older out on their own.
•Allowing the foods at mealtimes or snacks helps your child to be familiar and experience all kinds of foods, and to learn to manage their intake of them.
•Research shows that children whose forbidden food intake is restricted eat more of them when they get the chance.
I have been feeding my kids this way for over 13 years. I haven't always gotten it right, but overall these principles have helped provide a strong foundation for them to build a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.