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Every parent has been there. You come home after a busy day at work, spend an hour cooking a perfectly lovely, nutritious meal for your family – and then your toddler throws it on the floor and demands dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. But don’t worry, brave parents, the years of the temperamental, picky eater will pass. And luckily, there are many tricks to help you survive the journey.
So, let’s check out some tasty recipes and helpful tips to help you avoid the mealtime battle and get your child to learn to love the exploration of new tastes, smells and foods.
Whether you’ve got a three-year-old who won’t eat anything other than grape popsicles and white bread or an adventurous two-year-old who’s been downing pho and smoked salmon since he could chew, Yummy Spoonfuls offers a wide variety of healthy, nutritious and delicious toddler food that you and your little one can feel good about. Here are a few Yummy Spoonfuls meal ideas that come together quickly and are pleasing to both your toddler’s tummy and his taste buds.
When veggies are cut into bite-sized pieces, seasoned with a delicious blend of herbs and spices, and tossed in with comfortable toddler fare like chicken and sweet potatoes, even the pickiest of eaters will dare to give it a taste. This Yummy Spoonfuls bowl is a full meal in itself, but treat your toddler to a healthy side of baked apples sprinkled with cinnamon and brown sugar to round it out.
With grass-fed beef, potatoes and fresh veggies simmered in olive oil and herbs, this bowl has all of the flavor of a hamburger and french fries but with far more nutritional value and none of the saturated fats. On the side, try toasting up some fresh French bread and letting your little one dip it in olive oil.
Yummy Spoonfuls Turkey Spinach Bites are a great main dish or toddler finger food. Pop them in the oven and serve with a side of roasted green beans and macaroni and cheese for a quick dinner. Or, serve them as an afternoon snack with a side of carrots and hummus.
First of all, it’s important to remember that toddlers are learning new things about their little worlds every day. It can be hard for them to slow down and enjoy new foods. When your little one looks at her plate, she’s looking for something familiar. If she knows what a food is going to taste like, then she can eat it quickly and get back to exploring. However, teaching your child to explore new foods that look and smell differently than the PB&J’s and hot dogs that she’s used to, can be a bit more challenging. Here are a few ways to up your toddler food game and expand your kiddo’s picky palate.
Kids are more likely to enjoy foods that they had a part in creating. Try letting your child choose what he has for dinner. For instance, give him a couple of choices for a main course – like a Yummy Spoonfuls Mac and Chicken Sausage Bowl or Turkey Spinach Bites. Then, let him help you prepare a side dish, such as drizzling olive oil on roasted broccoli or sprinkling cinnamon on baked peaches. When your child gets to take part in the preparation of his food, he’ll be more excited to try what you’ve made.
Don’t get set in the idea that certain foods are for breakfast and other foods are for dinner. Kids and adults alike love the novelty of having waffles for dinner or cold pizza for breakfast. So, while blueberry pancakes make an excellent supper, Yummy Spoonfuls Bites are great for a quick and nutritious breakfast. Heat up a few Chicken Sweet Potato Bites with a side of mixed berries and toast for a yummy breakfast that you and your kiddo will love.
Take a dip or sauce you know they love- like cream cheese- and pair it with a new favorite- like ciabatta bread. Your little one will be more likely to try something new when they see it paired with a food they know and love. Another tactic- pair the sour and bitter foods that toddlers are iffy about with sweet and salty favorites. Pairing bitter greens with a shake of salty parmesan cheese may make the nutrient loaded foods more palatable for your little one’s taste buds.
It’s important to model positive eating behaviors for your child. Whenever possible, sit down at the table to eat with her and enjoy some of the same foods that she’s eating. For instance, if the adults are having veggie quinoa bowls for dinner that your toddler is likely to turn her nose up at, serve her a Yummy Spoonfuls Pasta & Veggie Bowl. It’s food she knows and loves (everyone loves pasta!), in the same format as your meal, and packed with plenty of nutrients that you can feel good about serving her. Or, cook a few Yummy Spoonfuls Chicken Broccoli Bites with a side salad and roasted sweet potatoes for an easy and delicious meal. It’s elevated toddler food that the whole family will enjoy.
Try not to give in to the temptation to beg your child to take “just one bite” of a particular food. This teaches your child that they can’t trust their own hunger and appetite signals. Instead, describe the food without assigning value. For example, instead of saying “this cheese is yummy, and the eggs makes you grow,” say “this cheese is salty, and the eggs are soft and yellow.” This helps to pique your child’s curiosity, rather than teaching them that choosing to eat is good and choosing not to eat is bad. If your child still chooses not to eat the food, that’s ok.
Don’t be afraid to put your child’s dinner on the same plate as his dessert. This teaches kids that they can enjoy all of their food and that one food is not simply a reward for another. Yummy Spoonfuls Bowls are a complete meal in one, so try giving your toddler a plate with a Pinto Beans, Brown Rice, and Turkey Bowl with a brownie on the side. Most parents find that when they try this method, kids don’t usually go for dessert first anyway.
New foods can look or smell unusual to kids. It may take some time for them to get used to something strange looking on their plate. Exposure is key. As a parent, it can be tough to put a food on the plate when you’re pretty sure it’s going into the trash can. Make exposures super small to avoid food waste. If your child is iffy about apples, put a single matchstick sized slice on the plate. If the try it, great, if not, no big deal.
While it’s natural to stress out about your toddler’s picky eating habits, remember that this is a normal phase for most kids. If you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, it’s a good idea to mention it to your pediatrician, who may refer you to an expert for help. Like so many things in the parenting world, it’s very likely that this too shall pass.