Toddler Mealtime Struggles

When we first started solid foods I was sure I could make my child not be a picky eater. Matt and I will eat almost anything. I followed everyone's advice; I made my own baby food to control what was in it, started with the veggies, and didn't allow juices or many artificial sugars until after one. I was in full control of the situation and he ate everything I served him.

Then I got a job and had to send him to daycare. They all laughed at/with me because I would not allow sugary snacks and would pack something separate for him. I mean I wasn't totally unreasonable if there was a celebration or something, but I just figured if he couldn't ask for it why give it to him?

Soon after he turned one his "divaness" started and he would demand food right away and then spit it out all over his highchair. The funny thing is this food was nothing new...he loved it last week. It started with veggies and has progressed through the food pyramid to some of his favorite fruits.

A couple weeks ago the thought of mealtime would have me breaking down. I desperately started googling it and apparently it is quite common. He is just starting to assert himself and his independence {duh mom}. I have read so many articles that give great tips. One that I found particularly helpful was this one, by Dr. Sears. The best thing it did was help me to relax and realize that this is a phase.

I have started switching up where he eats and what he eats on/with. I also offer a few options on his plate {some I am not sure about and some he usually eats} so that he doesn't think I am catering to him, but can choose what he wants. Another HUGE trick that I am all about because it has worked so well is dips. One random Saturday morning he would not eat his blueberry waffle...a WAFFLE people! I thought **** if he won't eat a waffle I will never get him to eat anything today!! Enter strawberry yogurt as a dip and it became the most delicious meal in the world. Another great way to sneak some nutrition in him is smoothies. They are like gold around here. I have also become less of a food control freak. I mean I really really want him to eat healthy, but if one night he eats one bite of chicken and an entire bowl of mac-n-cheese I just have be thankful he ate and try again the next night.

This parenting thing is a learning curve...
What are some great tips you have for getting toddlers to eat a balanced meal...or even eat at all sometimes?