My kids have always been strange eaters, and I say strange in the most loving of ways. I cannot get them to eat pasta to save my life. I’ve tried every type of noodle you can imagine and every sauce to boot. For a while they liked whole wheat sweet potato gnocchi’s, now they look at me like I have three heads when I put them on their dinner plate. The only thing that doesn’t garner this look at mealtime is chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, toast, bagels, pancakes and turkey sausage. All other food clearly is from an alien planet and should never be served to them. Sound familiar? Please tell me it does.
Now I know toddlers are picky, but there has to be something else that they want to eat, right? Maybe? I lucked out for a while and my kids would eat anything in a muffin shape, so I made meatloaf in muffin tins, corn dog muffins, pizza muffins, you name it, it was in a muffin.
I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Rachel Permuth-Levine and she said most children go through phases where they will only eat a few things. The important point about this is to do variations on that theme. Try the grilled cheese with different breads, nuggets with different coatings and sauces, you get the point. A great recipe I have found for chicken nuggets is from Catherine of Weelicious.com, you make them from a chicken breast and coat them in panko bread crumbs. They are so yummy and 10 times better than the frozen ones.
Even though you can try different variations of what you know they are willing to eat, you still want to try new foods with them. Let’s face it, this can be a difficult task that can sometimes garner the “you have got to be kidding me” look on your kids face. I received that look when I gave my kids asparagus for the first time. Dr. Rachel suggests that the best way to introduce a new food is in a very nonchalant way – such that you wouldn’t be upset if the child doesn’t like it. Also, a new food should be offered when others at the table are eating it as well – especially other children. You can pair a new food with one that you know your child loves to eat. For instance, drop a few raisins or blueberries in your child’s cereal (just a few), place some new vegetable in a colorful dish with your child’s favorite character on it. As far as how many times you should keep presenting the same food, Dr. Rachel suggests 3-5 times within a couple weeks span – then cut your losses, wait a few months, and try again. Don’t despair – remember back when you were a kid and didn’t eat much either. Hopefully you have expanded your own diet since reaching adulthood. Something that has worked for me is to make a big deal out of how much you enjoy eating that food, we did that with my daughter Jill and she ended up eating a bowl of spaghetti, it was amazing.
Another great tip I’ve heard, which came from Judy Bates of Bargainomics.com, is to switch up the eating utensil. Judy was babysitting her, as she calls them, “practice” grandchildren (the children of a dear friend of hers) and decided to let them eat with chopsticks. She said even the finickiest eater was gobbling up her food with the new utensils. I think this is a great fun way to get you kids to eat, don’t you?
Now when all else fails I sneak food in and laugh in my mad scientist laugh on the inside when I see them eating it. I have several methods and I love each and every one. I’ve poured over all of the Sneaky Chef books and got a lot of my ideas from Missy (the Sneaky Chef).
My favorites are her cinnamon sugar blend (cinnamon, sugar and flax seed) which I put on toast or waffles, her flour blend (white and wheat flour and wheat germ), and her rainbow sprinkle pancakes. Dr. Rachel is also a big believer in sneaking fruits and veggies into smoothies, jams, purees, etc. For instance, heavily steamed cauliflower with milk and good spices can replicate mashed potatoes. Smoothies are quite healthy and can be added to a lunch or dinner when you add in bananas and other frozen fruits. Carrot puree can be added to spaghetti sauce.
I think the best tip out of all of this is to just keep trying, granted it may take 20 something years for some (*ahem me*) or just 20 days. I want to thank Dr. Rachel and Judy of Bargainomics again for all of the great tips.
What tips do you have? Or, do you have any foolproof recipes you’d love to share?