Making sure your toddler eats a nutritionally sound diet is a major focus for parents. However making sure toddlers have fun with food and develop a desire for healthy food goes hand in hand with this focus and is equally important. A bit of fun and creativity in the kitchen will help your toddler grow up with a love for nutritious and delicious food!
Do you sometimes feel like you spend hours slaving away in the kitchen to only have food flung back in your face? Yet your toddler constantly reaches for nutrient-devoid snacks? You’re not alone and rest assured there is reason behind this madness!
Toddlers naturally have a preference for energy dense food as these foods deliver most calories per gram and therefore are associated with feelings of fullness. However, this doesn’t give the green light to give into your toddlers call for energy dense chips, chocolate or cake. Try using this preference for energy dense foods to your toddler’s benefit. Thankfully, nature has you covered – avocado, bananas, sweet potato, yoghurt, egg, cottage cheese –are not only energy dense but also nutrient plentiful– Yum!
Base snacks around these foods and your toddler should have a natural affinity to them. Here are some fun snack ideas which incorporate nutrient and energy dense foods certain to ensure no boomerang action in the kitchen and guarantee your food does not come back to bite!
- Banana slices dipped in yoghurt and frozen until yoghurt sets
- Mini pikelets made from mashed banana and buckwheat flour, set up a range of toppings on the table like fruit and yoghurt and let kids “decorate” their pikelets – try using Rafferty’s Garden fruit products mixed with yoghurt as a healthy and delicious topping!
- Dip platter – vibrant beetroot dip, sweet potato hummus and avocado dip with a variety of colourful vegetables sticks
- Ice blocks blending fruit with yoghurt or coconut milk – try using Rafferty’s Garden fruit products with yoghurt and freeze until set
- Cottage cheese dip mixing ½ cup cottage cheese, 1 tsp honey, 2 tsp sultanas and ½ tsp cinnamon –serve with sliced green apple
- Devilled eggs – mash egg yolk with avocado and place back in egg white – an oldie but a goodie!
- Roasted sweet potato chips dipped in guacamole
- Sourdough toast or spelt flat bread with a variety of toppings: tahini (if no sesame allergy exists) with banana/strawberry, avocado, ham, cottage cheese & tomato
First Impressions Count – Creativity in the Kitchen
Research suggests toddlers are more likely to eat unfamiliar and disliked foods if they have watched others eat them first, especially parents. Moreover, parent and child intake of foods/nutrients is generally correlated and most significantly parents’ consumption of fruit and vegetables is the strongest predictor of their child’s intake. Show your toddler your love of healthy food and how food can be delicious and fun, here are some tips to get the creative juices flowing:
- Picnic style dining with a range of different foods can be a great way to introduce variety into the diet of your child, often when food is laid out and they are left to their own devices, toddlers will try a greater variety of foods
- Communal style family dining – place food in the centre of the table and let toddlers make their own, try chicken burritos with a variety of toppings such as guacamole, tomato salsa, mixed bean salad, shredded cos lettuce and cheese
- Create theme nights – teach kids about certain cultures eg Japan and serve home-made sushi, teriyaki chicken tenderloins and quinoa fried rice
- Purchase a healthy cook book, let kids pick their favourite recipe from the book and cook it together on Sunday night – do this as a weekly tradition
- Have a vegetable or fruit picture book and lets kids select a type of fruit/vegetable and then cook with it eg apple – do baked apple with yoghurt for an afternoon snack or dessert or select zucchini and try zucchini boats baked and stuffed with Rafferty’s Garden Moroccan Lamb– this will not only encourage toddlers to eat healthy foods, get excited by food but also learn about fresh fruit and vegetables!
Remember, mealtime is a time to bond and nourish, not a time to stress. If your toddler has distaste for what you’ve dished up, don’t be too hard on yourself. Repeated exposure to disliked food is the key to turning the tide on your toddlers’ liking of foods – persevere and have fun with food – you will turn your toddler into a healthy foodie in no time!
Try my super quick and yummy soup recipe using Rafferty’s Garden Just Veggie, sure to be a favourite with the little ones in your house!
Quinoa, Carrot, Potato & Swede Soup
1 pouch of Rafferty’s Carrot, Potato & Swede
½ cup salt-reduced chicken stock
½ small red onion, diced finely
1 zucchini, finely diced
½ cup coconut milk
1/3 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 tbsp olive oil
- Heat olive oil in a medium size saucepan and lightly sauté onion until soft, add zucchini and sauté for 2-4 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and simmer until zucchini and onion are cooked
- Stir in coconut milk and quinoa and cook for 15 minutes until quinoa is soft, adding extra stock if needed
- Turn down heat and stir in Rafferty’s Carrot, Potato & Swede pouch, warm through
- Serve with an extra drizzle of coconut milk or poach chicken breast in soup as a nourishing meal
Caton, S et al 2014, ‘Learning to eat vegetables in early life: the role of timing, age and individual eating traits,’ PLos One, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. e97609.
Hendrie, G et al 2013, ‘Change in the family food environment is associated with positive dietary change in children,’ The international Journal of Behavioural nutrition and Physical Activity,’ Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 1-17.