Tuesday, January 10, 2012

You can lead a kid to mealtime but you can’t make her eat

So. Here’s the thing. Food issues with a toddler suck. Mealtimes and nutrition are most definitely, without a doubt, our biggest struggle with Evalyn right now. Apparently, thanks to the wonderful world of twitter, I know that I’m not alone in this.

I guess it’s normal for kids to love something one day and then shudder and shake and spit it out as if it’s poison the next. I guess it’s normal for kids to eat nothing but 1/2 a banana in a day. I guess it’s normal for kids to throw their food on the floor, push your hands away when trying to feed them, and say “All done, thank you” after two bites.

But guess what? Even if it’s “normal”? It sucks. It’s frustrating. It’s stressful. And it’s annoying.

As Moms, our children’s nutrition is always at the forefront of our radar. They are dependant on us for their nutrition. It is up to us to ensure that we set them up with the foundation for a lifetime of healthy eating. No pressure, right?

So, since a lot of talk about toddler eating habits (or lack of eating habits, rather) has been floating around blog land, I thought it may be helpful to toss some ideas out to each other. What do your toddlers love? Hate? Creative ideas? It seems pretty common that lunch is the most difficult meal for moms to be creative with, so maybe you have some great ideas. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to help mealtime be a happy time instead of a “please get me a strong drink NOW” time? I admit, I do things I said I’d never do. I bribe. How many times I tell her she can have a bite of a chip if she eats another bite of supper is almost shameful. And yes, on average, we watch a cartoon with our meal at least once a day, just to keep her distracted enough to shovel some food in her mouth. Heck, today? I actually encouraged her to toss bits of her food to Nika, who was casually chillin’ at the foot of her high chair, because she thought it was fun to eat together. Mom fail, FTW!

There are so many things she won’t touch that she used to love. Carrots? Nuhuh. Unless they are in soup. I even tried making the most delicious carrots with apples, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. She refused. Except if they were dipped in French onion sour cream dip. Um, sick? Beets, squash, avocado (except if it’s guacamole on a chip) are other things she used to love but won’t touch now. Lately, she won’t eat meat. From about 9-12 months, she was a carnivore. Now we’re lucky if she eats one bite of meat a day. I can sometimes trick her into a bit of meat on a sandwich or wrap but usually she figures it out and spits it out. She used to gobble up meat like it was her job. No longer.

Because I know that I am always stumped for new ideas, I’ve tried to list a few of our go to meals and snacks in hopes that they may spark some inspiration for you. I like to limit the amount of processed food we eat, although I’m not saying my child has never had a french fry or chicken nugget. For the most part, though, I like to see her eating fresh and mostly homemade foods. Of course, as you’re reading this list, remember that sometimes she loves them, sometimes she hates them. Sometimes she eats 3 eggs, sometimes eggs are disgusting. Every single thing on this list has, at some point, been tossed on the floor. But for the most part, they are quick, easy and mostly healthy suggestions, that we have at least had some luck with in the past.


- yogurt, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, pancakes (make a huge batch and stock them in the freezer for a quick morning), toast with butter and/or peanut butter, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, bananas, dry cheerios/other cereal, french toast or waffle sticks, muffins.


- cottage cheese mixed with chopped spinach (this is our #1 go to and makes an appearance in our home multiple times per week), cheesy scrambled eggs, soup/stew/chilli/other dinner leftovers, brown rice and beans, whole wheat tortilla roll ups with flavoured cream cheese, sliced ham, finely chopped tomatoes and cucumber, steamed veggies (most often peas, broccoli or green beans), quinoa with sauteed peppers, mushrooms, onions and (if I’m lucky), some meat, grilled cheese (although she’s learned the art of licking off the ketchup and chucking the sandwich), peanut butter sandwiches, hardboiled eggs (it’s so great to boil up a few at the beginning of the week so they are there and ready), chicken salad sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches, omelettes.


We try to feed Evalyn what we’re eating. The types of meals she will eat are lasagne, spaghetti, soups, stews, chilli, pot pie and a few others. But often, I make a meal and she just won’t have it. Also, she usually starts to get hungry and fussy just a few minutes before we’re ready to eat. Because of this, most of the time I have quick and easy things on hand that I can toss on her tray. Some of her favourites are: black beans, chick peas, peas, steamed broccoli (which she normally loves and gobbles up but currently will only eat it if it has ‘dip’ or hummus), green beans, shredded cheese, fruit (always fruit), bread with butter, applesauce.

Daytime Snacks

- these muffins (with a variety of add ins), often with peanut butter, fruit (specifically: kiwi, berries, pears, clementines and bananas are her favourites), crackers, hummus on cucumber, pitas or crackers, cheese strings (although girlfriend is super iffy with cheese lately), applesauce, black beans, raisins (all.the.time. These never, ever, ever fail).

Bedtime Snacks

- cereal with milk, yogurt, fruit, muffins, English muffins, toast, apple sauce. Sometimes if she had a crappy dinner, we’ll even toss an egg in.

Now, I want to hear from you. What meals or snacks have you found that your toddler will gobble up? Any great feeding tricks? Is duct tape and cookies the only solution? (Kidding. Sort of). Help a mama out!


Crystal Seed said...

Chloe goes back and forth with being picky. Sometimes she will eat anything and everything...and sometimes not. She LOVES yogurt, cheese, buttered bread, waffles, pancakes, mac and cheese, (sometimes) cheerios, crazins, (dried cranberries) pears, peas, carrots, green beans, and most any leftovers that we offer. There are a lot of times (weekly) that she ends up just eating a gerber entree for dinner because she just refuses anything else. To be honest, she seems to eat a lot better at day care then she does for us. They give them bagels with cream cheese, oranges, apples, and all different types of yummy meals like spaghetti, grilled cheese, nuggets and french fries, ham and baked beans....and the list goes on. But yea, your not alone with the picky eaters. It's something I think we all go through with toddlers.

Lindsey said...

I would LOVE to be able to offer that much to Connor. Cottage cheese, string cheese, etc. Damn allergy. Luckily we don't have feeding issues, as you know :) I hope you get great ideas!

I started "Clean Plate Club" with Connor after seeing my sister do it with my niece. Connor eats until his plate is clean and his favorite thing to do is to lift his place up, shout, "cln pate cub!" I take his plate, shout and clap, and he does the same. maybe doing something like that will help? Making it fun or something to celebrate?

Regan said...

Good luck with this! We struggle too but I know it gets better because I have a six year old that put us through the same thing and now she eats like a champ. Right now our two year old is extremely picky. He won't eat meat either or any type of bread product (no waffles, pancakes, crackers, biscuits, bread, bagels, etc.) Thank goodness he will eat veggies and fruit and some days that is all he eats.

Kate said...

Your list beats mine by a mile. The only things I KNOW I can get her to eat are yogurt and berries, a green monster smoothie, an avocado, a tomato, a spoon of peanut butter (hey, protein.), a banana, popcorn, cookies, peas, corn, french fries, pears, oranges, and hummus. She will almost always eat cheese. She doesn't really like things mixed or cooked with anything else, so when I say she eats peas I mean she eats ... peas. She doesn't like carbs or meat. Every once in a while she will eat a fried or scrambled egg, and chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese interest her for the first 4 bites. I made curry tonight which is one of our favorite dinners, and she eats it every single time - cleans her plate. I'll send you the recipe :)

ps- totally trying the spinach and cottage cheese.

Brandy said...

I used to stress out so much because my little girl just doesn't seem to like much and it's like pulling teeth to get her to try new things (sometimes to even try old things I know she likes!)Anyway, our pediatrician told me to basically stop worrying so much. She told me that my daughter will not let herself starve. That when she's hungry, she'll let me know and she'll actually eat. And that's really true. I wish my daughter would eat more, but all I can do is offer her all kinds of foods and wait for her to decide to branch out and eat something other than mac-n-cheese. :)

Erin said...

Friend, you're doing REALLY well! I hope you see when you write it out like that that she truly is getting a well-rounded and balanced diet. I struggle with Kate because she's allergic to SO many things! Mostly she eats avocadoes, berries, oranges, turkey tilapia, salmon, rice, quinoa, rice or quinoa pasta, lentils, corn, popcorn, peas, carrots, oatmeal and applesauce.

If I really need her to eat something and she just won't have it, hiding stuff in peach or berry flavored applesauce usually does the trick.

Can we talk about this?

"grilled cheese (although she’s learned the art of licking off the ketchup and chucking the sandwich)"

Is that a Canadian thing? Ketchup on grilled cheese?

Laura said...

Thank you for all the suggestions, I've copy & pasted them so I can add some stuff to my shopping list this weekend.

We are struggling with our daughter too. Like E, she loves something one day and hates it the next. Sometimes I'm at a loss as to what to feed this child besides cheese or a banana.

My daughters favorite is definitely chicken. We bake a whole chicken and she'll eat that like there's no tomorrow... most of the time! Lately I've resorted to making smoothies to make sure that she gets veggies and fruit daily. I use fat free yogurt, water, spinach, kale, bananas, blueberries, peaches, apples and ice cubes. (give or take a few ingredients) and mix it in the blender. This is my daily breakfast so I leave a cup for my daughter too.

Good luck!

Lynsey said...

I wish Mason liked cottage cheese. Yogurt and green beans are our go to foods when he refuses anything else. And he loves the pouches by Plum Organics. Breakfast is usually yogurt and cereal bar, lunch is always the hardest meal! and then dinner is whatever we are having.

You are certainly not alone though with picky eaters. Can't wait to get through this phase!

Lindsey said...

You are amazing!!! Let me start with that, but I can totally relate to having a picky eater- J won't eat anything other than pancakes, pretzels, yogurt, cereal, pasta, pineapple, sometimes bananas, and crackers with cheese. That's it! We struggle every meal time and it is a challenge but you are rocking the socks off of this mama! I wish I could say the same!

Aunt Shelley said...

I will have to send over my Mickey Mouse toast imprinter. We used it (or cookie cutters) for toast, sandwiches and pancakes (before the peanut butter went on of course). Somehow Mickey always made things taste better...and note to Erin...ketchup on grilled cheese...didn't know that was Canadian. I HATE (my mother always said don't say hate) ketchup on anything EXCEPT grilled cheese. I wouldn't touch a french fry that came near ketchup but for some reason ketchup (and dill pickles) are a must for grilled cheese. Strange Canadians we are...now vinegar that's a whole nother story!

Laura said...

I can't really offer you any new suggestions, but it sounds like you guys are doing just fine :) I am sure they are just phases and it will get better. I am fortunate enough to have a pretty good eater, but my sister's kiddos sound just like E. And one of my nieces refused to eat any meat for like 6 months and now she loves it. You can't help it, they are gonna do what they want to do!

Anonymous said...

This is such a great list! The only thing I can always get B to eat is cheerios. Haha. But those plum organic pouches are a pretty good bet too along with pureed fruit mixed in his baby oatmeal.

Backwards Amber said...

Our fights have always been over eating OR sleeping. It's like Alexa will alternate between being fab at one and sucky at the other...then vice versa. Both are normal, but oh so so frustrating! I feel for you.

Lindsay said...

Tell me about the cottage cheese mixed with chopped spinach? How do you fix it? Parker is loving whole milk organic yogurt right now so I'm thinking she might like this.
How do you make your quinoa with all that stuff in it? How do you fix the beans you feed her?