Toddlers can be the pickiest eaters on the planet. I am constantly seeing pleas from moms in the various groups I am in asking how to get their toddler to eat anything other than (insert favorite food). This can be such a fight at meal times. I have often wondered how anyone can live off of hot dogs and French fries alone. It doesn’t seem possible, but here’s my child, going after a year. Here are some toddler approved food ideas that may help you get you tot eating a more varied diet.
Most kids have their own “staple” foods. Macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whatever it is, they know they like it, and tend to want to stick to it. So how do you get them to branch out and get a nice mix of the food pyramid into their bellies? This is where you need to get creative.
Getting Your Tot to Try New Things
Someone along my journey in motherhood told me about a method that we have actually had success with. I don’t do food battles in my house. My parents would force me to eat things that I hated (turns out I have an allergy or intolerance to half of them) as a child and I despised it. A lot of the time I felt sick after eating certain things, but being so young, I couldn’t properly communicate this, and my folks just assumed I was being a pain in their…well, you know. For that reason, I personally don’t force my child to eat things he doesn’t like.
However, nothing gets under my skin more than when he claims to not like something without even trying it. So upon discussing this frustration, I was introduced to the following method. The child is required to try at least a bite of whatever it is. If after trying it they do not like it, then they do not have to eat it. I have heard this referred to as “No Thank You Bites”, “Try It Bites”, or “Like it or Not Bites.”
This method has helped in our house. My son is still very picky, but he is now a lot more open to trying things. On occasion, he actually does end up liking what he has tried and (drumroll….) he eats!
Think Outside the Box
As busy as moms are, it is easy to fall into a habit of giving them what you know they will eat. I am super guilty of this myself. Before long that mom guilt sneaks in and starts eating you up. One thing I have found helps is to think outside the box. Sometimes I feel like I have this preconceived notion in my head of what my child will and wont like before I even offer it. I don’t know if its based on my own memories of what I did not like as a child, or just stereotypes of things kids hate (think broccoli).
I have tried to get myself into a habit of offering my child different things. Some of them I would assume he would hate no matter what. Fish, broccoli, lima beans, whatever you could think of, I will offer him. Sometimes not only will he surprise me by liking it, but he will end up loving it. Some examples in my home are: broccoli soup, tomato soup, and peas to name a few.
So try and come up with different food ideas for your child to try and just offer it. You might be surprised by the things they will enjoy.
Make Meal Time Fun
Some children fight meal times because they’d rather keep playing, and they don’t want to be dragged away from whatever they are doing. If you think this may sometimes be the case in your home, I suggest making meal times more fun and kid friendly.
Some fun food ideas might be things like “Ants on a log” for a snack. (A piece of celery with peanut butter and raisins on top.) You might make their eggs and bacon into a smiley face. Or make a smile on their pancakes with fresh fruit. Anything that can add that little aspect of fun into what they are eating could help.
Another thing I like to do in my home, usually for lunchtime, is make a picnic. Lunch is the hardest time to get my toddler to eat. So when he is really fighting hard, I will lay a blanket on the ground, and we will sit together and eat on the blanket. We invite some stuffed animal friends to join. It becomes like a game, but the important thing is he will eat.
Toddler Food Ideas
For whatever reason, my son loves to eat soup. He loves to use a spoon, or to dip crackers. Soups are great because there about a million varieties. This can help you get a variety of foods into your child. Some favorites in our home are Cream of Broccoli, Stuffed Pepper, Tomato, Vegetable Beef, and Chicken Noodle.
My son loves to eat fresh fruits. He will eat them as snacks or as a side with meals, or as a dessert with a small amount of whipped cream. With fruit, there is a variety to choose from and you can keep switching it up to get a variety of nutrients and vitamins in those little bellies.
Luckily, my son actually likes most veggies. However, despite his mouth full of teeth, I am always afraid of choking on fresh veggies. So I serve a lot of steamed veggies. Again, there are many to choose from so you can hopefully find something your child will approve of.
Another toddler approved food idea is yogurt. This is HUGE in my house. My son has been on a meat strike for a long time, and yogurt allows us to get some protein into him. There are tons of different varieties and flavors on the market. Yogurt tends to be a little sweet (or very, depending on brand and type) so your child will feel like they are getting a treat.
Again, this offers that slight aspect of fun and playing when the child is pulling apart the cheese. This is great because string cheese can easily be taken on-the-go and offers a lot more nutritional value than cookies or fruit snacks.
Peanut Butter and Crackers
So I mentioned that my son is on a meat strike. Did I also mention he has a phobia of bread? Yeah, sometimes I wonder if he is actually my child. So another food idea that’s been a lifesaver in my home is peanut butter and crackers. Peanut butter has protein. The crackers fill in for bread in this scenario. Now, if you are concerned about the amount of sugar in some store bought brands, you can even get adventurous and find recipes online to make your own peanut butter.
This one surprised me. My son eats virtually no meat other than whatever they put in hot dogs. So one day, I was making myself a sandwich and he asked me for a piece of salami. I never thought in a million years he’d actually eat it. I rolled a piece up into a tube and handed it to him. He toddled off munching away on it. A minute or so later, he came back and asked for more. I cant even explain how happy this made me. Lunches are hard with a kid who eats no meat and no bread. I’m always scrambling for food ideas that are different than our normal few options.
This food idea is more of a drink, but it is excellent for the pickier eaters. I have friends with children who wouldn’t touch a vegetable of any kind with a ten foot pole. The parents in turn sneak veggies into smoothies for the kids. The flavor is often concealed by other fruit, yogurt, juice, or whatever else is used to concoct the smoothie. There are tons of recipes to be found online. Honestly, the few I have tried have been pretty good too.
Don’t Give Up
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Just keep trying new things. Try things again if its been a while since the child has had them. This is a pretty common stage for toddlers. As my pediatrician explained to me, children around this age don’t have any control over their world. They try to take control where they can, and this is one of those areas. Remember that this too shall pass. As long as you keep offering a variety of foods, you are doing great.