Sunday, January 6, 2013

Feeding the Finicky Toddler

This was originally published on my main blog, Evergreen and Indigo. Turbotot is now three years old so has been upgraded to Turbokid.

Oy, toddlers!

All toddlers go through phases of loving and hating foods and my vegan toddler is no exception. We made an effort to introduce him to a wide variety of foods as soon as he started solids at six months. He loved even stranger things like kale and tempeh until he was over a year old, when he decided all he wanted was crackers, rice, and fruit. It can be a struggle to get him to eat anything but carbs some days, so I've had to be sneaky to get him eating veggies and beans. Here are some things that work for us.  But, be warned... what works today might not work tomorrow, and what a toddler won't touch today he might devour the next time it's offered. Keep offering, it might take a while but my son decided he loved snap peas after I put them in front of him at least two dozen times without him ever trying them.

1. Soups 
This is a big one for us. As soon as Turbotot discovered the mechanics of a spoon, he only wanted to eat spoon foods. There was a catch, though. The foods had to be smooth. He refused chunky soups and yogurts, but would eat any flavor if they were pureed smooth. I made him cream of broccoli soup and he devoured three bowls in one sitting. I experimented with other veggies and came up with an all-purpose cream soup recipe that has been a hit with my texture-picky toddler.

Cream of Whatever Soup
1 pound vegetable of choice (broccoli, carrot, asparagus, kale, cauliflower, squash, etc.)
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup flour Or cornstarch
2 1/2 cups fortified plain non-dairy milk
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons basil, oregano, ginger, or other herb or spice of choice
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Cut the vegetable of choice into chunks. Put the broth or water in a large saucepan and add vegetable, onion, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender.

Put the contents of the pot and the flour in a food processor or blender (probably needs to be done in two batches) and process until smooth. Return to stove and stir in remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens.

This recipe is very forgiving and you can use more than one pound of vegetables or a combination of vegetables. Cream of carrot soup with ginger is very soothing on upset stomachs.

2. Dips
Toddlers love dips. Hummus, guacamole, bean dip, and spinach dip are a huge hits in our house. I serve them with homemade or store-bought pita bread, crackers, or vegetables.  

Simple Bean Dip
1 can of beans, any variety, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of salsa

Process in blender or food processor. That's it, super easy and my toddler loves it on toast. It yields about two cups for far cheaper than the store-bought bean dips, and the texture and taste can be adjusted through using more or less of different kinds of salsa.

Whole Wheat Pita Bread

3 1/2 cups flour (a combination of 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat works well. You can use all whole-wheat, but may need to add more water since whole wheat flour is more absorbent than white)
3 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup lukewarm water

Stir the yeast and sugar into water and let sit until the yeast bubbles. Combine the flour and salt, then add the yeast mixture and knead. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, knead the dough. Divide into 12 portions. Roll each one out to make a thin bread.

Heat and lightly oil a skillet. Cook the breads one at a time for 1-2 minutes on a side on medium-high heat. The breads should fluff up and create center pockets if the heat is adjusted correctly (this can take some trial and error).

3. Smoothies
Add ground flax seed, chia seed, a quarter of an avocado, and/or a handful of spinach to fruit smoothies for a health boost. Coconut oil can be added for skinny toddlers who need more calories.

4. Pudding
Head to the nearest Asian market for a healthy, toddler-friendly pudding! Blend the jelly-like meat of a young coconut with strawberries, cocoa, carob, or banana until smooth. Reserve the coconut water for a quick electrolyte drink or an add-in for smoothies. My toddler goes nuts over this "pudding" and calls it "pie". Young coconuts can be found in some regular supermarkets, but I've found them to be cheaper and fresher in Asian markets.

5. Pasta Sauce
Stir pureed vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, or squash into homemade or commercial pasta sauce. My toddler is a huge fan of pasta, so this is an easy way to get him to eat veggies. I also like pureeing beans to make cream sauces as instructed in The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.

I know I have more ideas hiding in my cluttered head, so I'll add to this list if I remember them. My guy loves whole edamame, mushrooms, snap peas, carrots, baked sweet potato fries, and bean sprouts, but we are still trying to convince him to eat other vegetables without having to disguise them. Do you have any more suggestions on how to get toddlers to eat more beans, vegetables, and other healthy foods?

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