Posts Tagged ‘toddler’

I continue to refer to my toddler as a picky eater, but in reality I can honestly say I think most toddlers are picky.  As babies they happily ate up most anything you put in front of them.  As babies, everything is new, some new exciting texture, taste, and smell.  As toddlers, they realize they have their own personalities, their own likes and dislikes.  Anyone with a toddler will tell you they are hardheaded, strong willed.  My toddler would personally live off graham crackers and milk all day every day if I gave him the ability to choose. 

 

I find myself often times frustrated at his lack of desire to try different things.  Toddlers like routine, and change is a hard concept.  For some it’s harder than others.  “They” say that toddlers take up to 3-4 times of seeing something new on their plate to try it.  Who is “they” anyways?  And “they” clearly haven’t tried feeding my picky eater.  So, being the creative mama I am I watched my sons eating habits, focused on things he liked and didn’t like.  He prefers to drink his food; he loves “shakey’s” also known as milk with some sort of protein powder.  He loves his milk, and prefers to drink his food rather than eat.  Who can really blame him, drinking takes less time than sitting down to eat, and his little busy mind has things to do and places to see!

I was worried he wasn’t in taking enough healthy calories because of his inability to try new things.  Some days it seemed like he would only eat a bite of bread and maybe 4 goldfish and call it a day.  I talked to his pediatrician who said he was thriving, and growing so to try not to worry, and continue to offer him healthy meals.  Out of desperation and frustration I started making him smoothies and shakes.  The options are really endless, with different fruits, juices, milk, almond milk, you name it.  He also is at the age where he loves to help.  Mixing and pouring can keep him busy for hours, so I put him to work helping to pour different fruits, milk, and juices into the blender.

I purchase a sugar free vanilla, or chocolate protein powder to add some healthy calories into his smoothies and shakes.  There are so many different options but I’d like to share a few of our favorite recipes below. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (or sugar-free carnation instant breakfast)

1 tbsp peanut butter (if your child is allergic you of course would want to skip this)

½ banana

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Another staple smoothie in our house is:

Berry Smoothie

1 cup milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or vanilla carnation instant breakfast)

½ cup mixed berries

¼ fresh spinach

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Like I mentioned above, options are really endless.  You can use mango, strawberries, add a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Experiment, and let your children experiment with you as well.  And most importantly enjoy these special moments with your children, they go much to fast!

Let’s say for a moment that its just about 7:30. You’ve got thirty minutes to get yourself dressed, packed for work, makeup on, and take the kids to school. Your little one is sitting at the breakfast counter, waiting hungrily for his or her breakfast, and  there is absolutely no way you are going to be able to get a full bacon and eggs breakfast on the table in less than fifteen minutes. You hate the thought of shipping them off with a handful of cash to fend for themselves at the school cafeteria, since you know how much those sugary snack machines profit every year, but what can you do?

The simplest way to solve this problem is create an emergency meal kit. This can be a drawer, a cabinet, or even an entire minifridge dedicated to meals that your kids can make themselves. Even the most uncoordinated three year old can spread peanut butter on a piece of bread with the back of a spoon, and with some simple coaching and a “let’s make it fun” attitude, your kids can feed themselves for breakfast, lunch, or the occasional after school snack.

Stocking Your Kitchen With “Short People” In Mind:

First we will tackle the fridge. Do you really need two veggie drawers? Come on, we all know that anything that gets put in the bottom drawer gets buried under the lettuce and forgotten about until it resembles a slimy greenish brown ooze. So stop wasting your produce and give the bottom drawer and bottom door shelf to your kids. It’ll save you lots of “MOM! I can’t reach the mayonnaise! Can you get it for me?” when you are trying to apply eyeliner quickly without ending up in the ER. You can store items that need to be refrigerated, like juice boxes, pudding snack cups, and veggie dip, in the bottom drawer, and kiddie sized condiments in the shelf. Please note that Ziploc bags are your FRIEND, and come in a variety of sizes, including very small snack sizes that hold perfect portion sizes of grapes, snack foods, and cereal. If your kid can open the fridge, he or she can easily reach into the drawer, grab a healthy snack, and be on their way in no time.

Speaking of condiments, the easiest way to make things like peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and mayo easily accessible to your kids is to either buy them in, or transfer them to, a squeeze bottle. Most restaraunt supply stores and a variety of websites sell those red and yellow squeeze bottles that mom and pop restaurants use for ketchup. Fill them with your arrangement of condiments, and label each one, or see if you can find a white bottle for mayo, yellow for mustard, red for jelly, etc, if your kids cant read yet. If you have trouble squeezing peanut butter out of the container, cut the nozzle so that the hole is bigger, and it should fix the problem. Squeeze bottles also erase the problem of glass jars and breakage.

Squeeze bottles also work for milk and juice, but there are other options for that. Check out your local Walmart or Kmart, and see if you can find a jug with a spout on the bottom. These nifty jugs can be set on a low self and stick out just far enough for a child to fill his or her cup, or bowl full of cereal, without having to pull the jug out of the fridge, lessening the chance of major spillage, or leaving it out on the counter. (I know this from experience, as a child I left an entire gallon (new gallon btw) out on the counter to get very warm. Mom was NOT happy. Milk is not free.) Juice boxes and small plastic bottles of milk are also a good substitute for heavy gallon containers.

Dry products can be stored in a lower cabinet, and it is easy to add a lazy susan rack to it. Glad containers with a “portion sized” amount of cereal can easily be used as a bowl for a super easy breakfast. You can also add plastic applesauce cups, 100-calorie packs of snacks, bags of microwaveable popcorn, as well as Ziploc bags full of pretzels, baked chips, dried fruits, or nuts.

Paper or plastic plates cups bowls and even silverware can be stored in your kids “pantry” so that they can be easily available when Mom isn’t. Making the restocking of the “pantry” a habit is a great way to teach your kids how to wash, dry and organize their utensils.

Provide access to the microwave and the toaster. Teach your children an easy setting like the “Quick Minute” or “Add 30 Seconds” function to prevent burning food. Hitting the “Add 30” button repeatedly until the hotdogs are plump but not fried is much easier than constantly repeating how long a hot dog cooks. Plus it teaches your kids self-reliance, and that, if anything is our main goal today. Be sure to teach them that metal can NOT BE MICROWAVED.

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Now let’s brainstorm some simple and easy meals that your kids can make for themselves with limited supervision, or none at all. Because let’s face it, the straightener cord is long, but definitely not long enough to reach the kitchen from the bathroom, and you didn’t mean to sleep in, but you’re running late…

Meals Kids Can Handle:

Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Simply put, this delicious snack was created to save moms time and money. Its sweet, nutty, and fills kids up with the right balance of carbs, sugars, and vitamins that can keep them happy and not hyper. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches can be made super simple in a couple of ways. Keep the bread in a low drawer. Not only does this keep it accessible to little ones, but the cooler temps at the bottom of your kitchen will help it last longer. Teach your kids the importance of keeping the bag sealed, so that it doesn’t go to waste.

Hot Dogs:
Again, a staple of any household that has kids. Hot dogs are super easy, and only require a microwave, so kids can easily heat them without worrying about boiling water or a hot grill. Keep hotdogs in a resealable Ziploc bag in a lower part of the fridge or freezer depending on how quickly your family goes through them. Teach kids to poke a series of holes in them so they dont burst, and microwave til done.

Soup:
Campbells and other soup makers learned quickly that cooking soup in a separate container was inefficient, and created such items as the Soup At Hand personal serving cups. You can heat them after removing the seal, and eat right from the cup. Ramen and other noodle makers also have “Cup o Soup” which you just need to add water to and microwave. Even Chef Boyardee has gotten in on the insta-meal, with microwaveable packaging for individual portions of their pastas.

Sammiches:
Make sure the bread is accessible, teach kids how to add just the right amount of mayo and mustard, or get a box of the packets from your local restaurant supply or Costco, and add deli meats and cheeses. A simple sammich takes seconds to make, and requires no heating. This is a great thing for kids to learn EARLY.

Cheese and Crackers:
Sometimes you can buy little plastic packages with cracker sticks and processed cheese goo in them, but real cheese and crackers doesnt have to be hard. Cheese can be pre-sliced, or buy those little individual squares, or cubes, and keep them readily available, along with Triscuits, or Wheat Thins.

Tuna Fish:
Not quite as easy as other meals, but still not hard. Tuna doesn’t have to come in a can anymore, which is good, because I have yet to find a brand that makes it with a pull-tab lid. Teach your kids how to mix a pouch of fresh tune with some salt, pepper, light mayo and celery seed, and you’ll have a snack that’s great for crackers or bread in no time.

Baked Potato:
The average sized baked potato can be ready to eat in anywhere from 5-8 minutes, depending on the size of the potato and the power of your microwave. Warn your kids that they need to poke holes in the skin though, or you’ll get “burst potato” instead of baked.

Frozen Dinners:
If you’ve tried everything else with no success, or have run out of options, or food, a frozen meal can easily be microwaved. I don’t always recommend these, because kids versions of these meals are hardly healthy, but in a pinch they will work just fine. This is one habit that should be considered a LAST RESORT. Teaching your kids to make a real meal and fend for themselves will go a lot farther than zapping a meat-look alike and squishy mashed potatoes in the microwave for a minute and thirty seconds.

Your kids are not without options! Next time someone starts to whine and says “Moooooommmmm… I’m huuuuungry…” you can point them in the right direction, and teach them a lesson that may inspire their inner chef.

Happy Cooking!

One of the defining moments of any toddlers life is eating with the family. But a lot of times this happy occasion can become a battle of wills between chef and patron. Young children look to express their own individuality, push the boundary limits, and develop different tastes all at the same time. This “perfect storm” of developmental trademarks can be difficult to bear, especially for a working Mom or Dad who has limited time to be standing at the stove. Here are a collection of tips and tricks to help your child eat more with less coaxing, bribing, crying, and tantrums.

1: Know your kid, and respect his/her unique tastes and moods. Not all toddlers eat the same things, even kids in the same families will have widely varied opinions on what tastes good. Your five year old might not have had a problem with cheese sticks, but your 2 year old thinks they are the grossest thing in the fridge. Realize that your child may not be hungry, may not feel up to trying a new food, or might just simply be a “stick in the mud” about the item you are presenting, for reasons you may never understand.

2: Keep it scheduled. It helps if you eat at the same time every day, in the same spot. Try to limit meal time to the dining room table, to create a good habit, and don’t let your kid snack for an hour or so before the meal. A child that is hungry will be much more willing to try new and different foods than a kid who is full of chips or juice and just pushing the food all over his or her plate.

3: Be patient. Remember that pickiness is usually short term,  is not going to harm your kid unless they refuse to eat absolutely anything, and that nine times out of ten they will not starve if they live on just chicken nuggets for a week. If your child complains of pain or anything unusual after eating a food consult your pediatrician, as it could be a sign of a food allergy.

4: Enjoy the meal and make it fun. Make dinner time fun for your kid. Use their own nifty plates or toy cups, or give them a strange looking fork to eat with, or have a “fingers only” night.. Use bite size pieces to encourage nibbling, and consider giving your child his or her own mini table and chair to eat at. Kids who sit with their feet on the floor are more likely to focus on the meal than be distracted.

5: Channel his/her inner chef. Let your child help your prepare the meals. Nothing helps you out with picky eating like letting your kids have a hand in creating the meal. Even if it is just stirring a small bowl of mashed potatoes with a big rubber spatula after they’ve been cooked, your kid will develop a sense of pride over having achieved something and taking part in a “grown up activity”, therefore being more willing to continue on that path with trying the food that they’ve made.

6: Be a role model. Kids will be more open to new things if they see you enjoying them.  Use a wide range of colors and textures in your meal plans, and comment on how you experience them, not just focusing n whether or not they are yummy. And remember that some studies have proven pickiness to be genetic, so if you don’t like peas, there’s a good chance Jr. won’t either.

7: Camouflage. When all else fails, try sneaking in a new veggie into a favorite food. Mac’n’cheese hides plenty of different things with its bright orange sauce, and small bits of broccoli in things like spaghetti or chicken stir fry will be better received to your child instead of alone in all its green glory on their plate. Fish can be breaded and deep fried to look like “chicken nuggets”, and spaghetti squash can be easily mistaken for.. well… spaghetti!

8: Keep them focused. Food that has to fight for your child’s attention is going to go to waste. Turn off the TV at mealtimes and limit toys and games to their playroom during dinner. Make the meal a family event, and be firm on this one, because it will help with more than just picky eating on a long term basis.

9: Dessert is not a reward. Fight the age old saying, “If you finish that you can have this.” Kids who are already happy eating sweets and are resisting blander items such as veggies or proteins are not going to be helped by encouraging ice cream or cake as a reward for swallowing a single bite of broccoli. If you must use this technique try different items like yogurt or fresh fruit. Starting them on healthy eating patterns at a young age helps fight the national epidemic of obesity.

10: Resist the urge to make a separate meal for your child. A lot of times kids look at this as a form of attention, and catering to their needs might help you short term with eating, but when you need to carve out an extra twenty minutes every night for a single meal, you will easily and quickly tire of it. Families that eat as a unit are statistically proven to be stronger, and have a closer knit bond.

11: Smoothies. If you are seriously worried about your child lacking in nutrition, putting together a wide range of ingredients into a tasty smoothie is a good solution. Of course avoid anything that could be contaminated, like raw egg, and after your child is done, remind them of what you put in the smoothie for them. Broccoli mixed with strawberry banana yogurt and milk doesn’t taste too bad!

12: Crazy shapes and colors. This goes along with making dinner fun. Use cookie cutters to cut those cucumber slices into neat little shapes, or buy pasta in funky wheels, wiggles or swirls. Use food coloring to make bright pink mashed potatoes for your princess, or green eggs and ham for your Dr. Suess lover.

13: Make veggies a central focus in your home. Plant a garden. Encourage your kids to watch the steps of the growing process, from seed to produce. Try making different things at home, like butter shaken from whole milk, or try making cheese.

14: Use others as an example. Bring over older kids or cousins that are more than happy to show your picky eater what eating like a big kid means. Your child will be much more likely to want to prove themself instead of fighting you.

15: Dont take it personally. Food is going to be a battleground if you accept the blame. Realize that this is a temporary phase, and that eventually your kid will grow out of it. Take the time to learn more about your child, and bond over the stove.

These tips and tricks can help you get through mealtimes and make them more enjoyable for everyone.

For more information and insight on picky eaters please visit:

The Mayo Clinic

Ask Dr. Sears

For great little plates, cups and dishes to use for your kids please click here:

Constructive Eating

Food Face