When my oldest was a baby we went a much more traditional route with food introduction. Purees to pouches to table food. By the time my daughter came around almost nineteen months later it was table scraps. Or as it is much more eloquently called baby led weaning. Both approaches are working as my kids remain pretty good eaters to this day. My biggest tip would be to generally not make them separate food from whatever the grown ups are eating, but we all know that is not always possible. My husband works a lot of evening shifts so I don’t always cook big dinners those nights. Instead we do our family meal as lunch or even breakfast those days. We all know that toddlers are infamous for being picky eaters. I strive for #progressnotperfection when it comes to my own kids. When we do have a more toddler friendly meal, I am always looking for food hacks to make healthier choices and also to make my job easier.
Toast and Ramekin Omlet
This is a nearly daily staple in our house. My daughter especially loves eggs and with the bustle of getting everyone clothed and out the door (check out To the Mama Who Is Always Late), I don’t always want to scramble eggs in a pan for just her. The process is very simple: Grease a 6 inch ramekin with cooking spray, crack an egg into it, scramble slightly, and microwave for between 50 seconds and 1 min (depending on microwave). This also produces the perfect egg patty for egg sandwiches. The texture isn’t quite the same as stove top scrambling, but clean up and time constraints outweigh that in my book.
Peanut Butter and Fruit
My son is obsessed with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Like obsessed to the point that he could inhale them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We (real life confession here) have plenty of Uncrustables in the freezer for convenience, but the sugar content isn’t something I want to be a staple in his diet. When I got the idea for peanut butter and fruit sandwiches from @kidseatincolor on Instastgram I thought, Ben is going to love this! Yes, yes it would be healthier with wheat bread, which I do sometimes buy, but remember- progress, not perfection. We’re the real moms with fruit snacks, not kale chips (if you’re kid eats kale chips I am NOT dissing you- I’m just super impressed!)
Have you ever been at the mercy of a toddler who would NOT eat/drink/pee because the color of something was not right? No, me neither. My kids are perfect because I’m amazing. We didn’t have a ten minute standoff about an orange cup the other night or anything. This is something you can use to your advantage! Take a colorful plate and find food to match it. Orange is super big in our house right now. So we made a plate with all sorts of orange food. Add in some cookie cutters for cheese and you have a balanced snack that’s fun to eat with lots of healthy veggies and fruit.
Use Your Grater for More Than Cheese
A cheese grater is a mama’s best friend when it comes to incorporating healthy foods into her child’s diet. It’s great for shredding up harder veggies for younger toddlers. I also use it to add zucchini to my meatballs or grate onions so my husband can’t complain about them (tricky tricky). The bigger size creates good long strands for younger kids to hold onto to practice the pincer grasp. I don’t like to always hide veggies because I think it’s important for kids to learn to like foods from sight and taste, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Also shred up some delicious cheese for a post bedtime snack for yourself. Eating it shredded always makes me feel like I’ve had more!
Let Them Help
My son loves to help in the kitchen and my daughter loves to sample. If I am feeling particularly patient, which is not always let’s be clear, I will give him a soft item to chop with a blunt cheese knife while I prepare meals. He always sneaks bites of whatever I give him so I have to ensure it’s safe to eat, mushrooms, cheese, greens or deli meats are good options. Letting him help allows him to see what all goes into preparing meals for a family. It also gives me a chance to preferentially direct vegetables at him before the meal even begins. Give him a job and he won’t be asking me for a snack and might even eat a green bean along the way. Win win right?
I hope you enjoyed these easy tips on helping your toddler eat a variety of foods. As my pediatrician always recommends at our check ups, look at your child’s patterns over weeks not days. Kids will likely pick up on healthy choices if healthy things are offered. I believe the most important thing you can create around the table are family memories. What are some of the things you like to feed you little ones?
Of note, my children aren’t dealing with sensory issues surrounding food. If yours are that presents unique challenges best evaluated by a specialist!