How to make mealtimes more interesting.
If you're struggling with healthy eating for your toddler, don't fret -- you're definitely NOT alone. Kids go through phases just like adults; they have days where all they want to eat is Cheerios (or worse!) and other days where they are open to trying different recipes...although the latter seems few and far between.
When it comes to to combatting your toddler's food rut, it's important to pay attention and address the issues appropriately, rather than stress about it. We know it's easier said than done, though, so here are 5 simple tips to help encourage eating variety for your little ones.
1. Use alternative grains. Most kids loved baked goods -- muffins, cakes, pastries, you name it. Don't fight a losing battle. Instead of cooking with basic all-purpose flour, try sampling recipes using oat flour or almond meal. Both have high nutrition qualities (fiber, Vitamin E and protein) in comparison to all-purpose flour and wheat flour but won't compromise the taste of a yummy baked product.
2. Transition to “new." You can't just make new dishes all at once and expect your little one to embrace it right away. Start small. Maybe instead of the traditional pasta with marinara sauce, try a whole grain version with tomato sauce. Instead of making fried rice with rice, try using quinoa. And always introduce new items to your kids with patience. For example, “Hey little one, I've made this tasty pasta dish for you today!" If you get a weird look after the first try, just say “Don't worry, just eat a few spoons and then we'll move onto the next course."
3. Soups. Soups. Soups. When making soup, you could pretty much boil, blend and puree anything together. Soups are one of the best ways to obtain macronutrients as well as several vitamins and minerals at once. Making soups with legumes, vegetables and ground meat are a great way to increase consumption. Pair a cup with a toast or come oyster crackers -- a perennial toddler favorite.
4. Pick healthy “fast" foods. We all have cheat days! Pizza, pasta, hamburgers. Who says our kids can't have them as well? But you could easily make them pizza or even hamburgers using healthier ingredients. Sliders are a good “kid-friendly" version of hamburgers. Instead of frozen pizza, get your kids involved and make a homemade version using alternative grains. And why not replace those French fries with sweet potato fries instead?
5. Let kids decide...sometimes. It's important to let our little ones feel in control. Pick a few items that they like – maybe show them visual representations, and let them choose what they want to eat. Bonus: Have them help you prepare the meal with you! It'll be a mess for sure, but hopefully they'll enjoy the final product. Offer them meals that they would have eaten before, and put together a healthier version if possible.
If you've experienced a “toddler rut," we would love to hear your tips! Comment below to let us know what worked for you.
Stock media provided by Jozef Polc/Pond5.