It seems like everyone I know with a kiddo between two and five is dealing with some sort of picky eater. It’s to be expected, though, right?
It may be they truly don’t like the appearance of what you’re serving, it may be that they don’t like the smell. It could simply be that they have realized they can dictate their surroundings and are refusing your selections because they can. Whatever the reason, it’s frustrating. Super frustrating.
Some experts will tell you to hold back on any food until your child eats what you presented them with. I am not an expert, and I don’t agree to that tactic. Why? Because I’ve tried it. And it sucks. Because my kid will hold out for a long, long time and turn into a hungry nightmare beast. I also (personally) think kids should be educated on why food is important and that it’s our job as parents to help them make healthy choices.
So here is my non-expert advice, a few recipes, and all the wishes of luck I can give you.
1) Offer your child a few options that you can be happy with, regardless of what they pick.
2) Put some vegetable puree in foods (a few recipes can be found later in this post).
3) Have a “Color of the Day.” Pick snacks that correlate to the color. Example: Red Day – red apple, strawberries, red bell pepper sticks; Green Day – green apple, green bell pepper sticks, green grapes, spinach smoothie.
4) Get them involved with food prep and shopping as much as possible. For example, take them into the produce section and let them pick out a few items completely on their own. Take outings to pick berries and produce and go to the farmer’s market.
The Maple Grove Farmer’s Market (in-season) offers a really unique program called Power of Produce. It allows kids to get a
credit to spend at the market and spend some time learning about healthy eating and where their food comes from. For at-home food prep, let them measure out water, dump pre-measured ingredients in the bowl, push the button down on the toaster, and any other age/skill-appropriate tasks.
There are also some really awesome kid-friendly knives. While you supervise, kids can help prep their snacks and dinners. The more involved they feel, the more likely they are to take pride in eating. This knife is a high-quality starter knife. It is a bit on the pricey side, but it’s blade and handle shape are pretty unbeatable. Even better, 30% of what you spend on it will go towards the No Kid Hungry campaign. This set is definitely more on the budget-friendly side and is perfect for introducing your kids to chopping.
5) Don’t give up and get angry. I know how frustrating it is to have a picky eater, but you don’t want them to associate food with a battle/struggle. Meal time should be enjoyable for everyone – a time to connect, talk to each other, and entertain. Stay calm and work together to have an eating plan you are both happy with.
6) Do your kids love mashed potatoes? If so, try swapping out potatoes and making mashed cauliflower or mashed rutabaga. Same texture, great flavors, but much more nutrient-dense and not as a carb-rich.
7) What about macaroni and cheese? You can add butternut squash or yam purees to homemade (or boxed for that matter) macaroni and cheese to add vitamins and nutrients. Either option is DELICIOUS. If you want to try the homemade route, I recommend Martha Stewart’s recipe.
Vegetable Puree Combinations:
2 cups spinach, 2 carrots, 2 ribs celery
2 cups broccoli, 2 carrots, 1/2 cup green peas
1 cup mashed sweet potato, 1/2 cup green peas, 1/2 cup green beans
2 carrots, 1/2 cup beets, 1/2 cup pumpkin
Pick any of those combinations (or make up your own!) and mix them into muffin batter, scrambled eggs, smoothies, meatballs, etc.
1 lb. of meat (ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken – preferably at room temperature)
3/4 cup of vegetable puree
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Pinch of Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, and lightly spray with a non-stick spray. In a bowl, thoroughly mix all the ingredients together. If the mixture seems too dry (as in, you’re unable to mix with your hands), add a little more vegetable puree. If it seems too wet (as in, your meatballs won’t stay together) add in a little more panko. Scoop about 3 Tblsp of mixture in your hands, forming a uniform ball. Place on cookie sheet. You should get somewhere between 12-15 meatballs. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, and serve with the meatless version of the sauce below.
2 Tblsp good olive oil
1 yellow/sweet onion, roughly chopped
3-4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2 large stalks of celery, chopped into chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks
1 lb ground beef (I used organic 93/7 to reduce the fat – you can’t drain this recipe very well) – OPTIONAL
1/2 lb ground turkey – OPTIONAL
1 Tblsp sugar (this helps cut down the acidity of the tomatoes)
26-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp ground nutmeg (recommended, but totally optional)
3 tsp Italian seasoning (again, recommended, but totally optional)
Salt & Pepper – to your taste
What You Do:
Using a food processor (if you’re fancy) or a blender (like me), pulse or blend the onion and garlic cloves until it gets liquidy – it’ll appear to froth. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large deep pan over medium to medium-low heat. When the oil is warm, add the onion “froth” and stir for 1-2 minutes.
Add the carrots and celery to the food processor/blender, and pulse until everything is chopped finely – almost to a thick paste. Add this mixture to the onion and oil, and saute until everything starts to soften up (about 7 minutes).
Next, add your meats IF you’re using them and cook until the meat is cooked through, breaking it up as you go. (*Ground turkey can be a pain. I recommend patting it into a large burger or meatball like structure before cooking it. It’ll just have a better texture as it cooks) Add the sugar and stir until it’s mixed in.
Add your tomatoes, broth, and seasonings. Turn heat down to low and cover. Continue to let it sit for awhile – the longer it simmers, the better it’ll taste.
Serve it over your favorite pasta and meatballs.