The only thing worse than taking a toddler on an airplane is trying to feed him a reasonable meal. If you’re feeling on the back foot, because your mini-me won’t eat anything other than Play-Doh, help is here. These toddler recipes are aimed at sneaking veggies into your green-phobic little darling, but for a more comprehensive guide, there’s always the children’s nutrition class.
When it comes to feeding toddlers, it’s all about the packaging. Sometimes, all it takes is a frilly toothpick to get your kids stoked for a meal. (Obviously, make sure junior won’t poke his eye out with it.) Call it ‘fire fighter food.’ Make her gobble it down before her toy dinos do. Do whatever it takes, because your family’s health and happiness start with a decent diet.
Sushi isn’t that hard to make at home. Just follow the instructions on the back of your sushi rice and roll it up in nori. Fill with cucumber, avocado, tuna salad, smoked salmon, or surimi, but try to avoid over stuffing your rolls and keep your workplace totally dry or the seaweed will split. Unless you’re a pro, you should probably hold off on using raw salmon and tuna. If you’re wondering why, consider this course on safe food handling before giving your baby botulism.
The name for this idea was just too funny to change. Spread some cream cheese on a flour tortilla and layer with ham, shredded cheese, lettuce, carrot sticks, avocado, cucumber—you name it. Roll it up and slice into halves. Look into more tasty, healthy and affordable cooking here.
Mix half a pound of ground beef with one egg, ¼ cup of oatmeal or breadcrumbs, one clove of minced garlic and half and onion. Add a teaspoon of cumin and one of oregano. Form into bite-size balls and shallow fry on medium heat turning occasionally. If you want to go pro, try subbing half the meat for chopped veggies like mushrooms, zucchini or grated carrot.
These are so simple and so good. This is just shredded cheese melted between two whole wheat tortillas. Keep the heat on medium and flip it once to toast both sides. It never hurts to sneak in some bell peppers or carrots where your kids can’t see ‘em. Serve with guacamole: one mashed avocado, half a clove of minced garlic, a squeeze of lime juice, and a decent pinch of salt (add a tablespoon of water to keep it from going brown.)
Yes, these frozen little beauties are a staple of busy moms. Make your own by buying a firm piece of white fish, dip it beaten egg, then coat it in crushed up cornflakes seasoned with salt and pepper. Pan fry on medium heat til fully cooked, or finish in the oven, if your cornflakes are getting to dark. If you serve them with ketchup, Ronald Reagan considered that a serving of vegetables…
Fruit skewers—enough said.
Serve with yogurt dip, if you’re so inclined.
Though slightly dated as a food concept, deviled eggs make a great finger food for toddlers. Take two hard boiled eggs and slice them in half. Gently pry out the yolks and place them into a bowl, then add a teaspoon of mayo, a bit of mustard, and a tiny sprinkle of smoked paprika. Combine. Season to taste and spoon back into the egg whites.
Though noble to try to make your own, a tin of beans works in a pinch. Serve them English style: with eggs and toast at breakfast.
Yogurt, granola, fruit, repeat. Call it a ‘breakfast banana split,’ if you need a sales pitch.
Smoothies are a great way to pack in both calories and nutrition. They can certainly be a meal in and of themselves. See this post on Smoothies for Kids for more details.
Veggies and Dip
Hopefully the veggie part of this is self-explanatory. My go-to dip does contain a fair amount of salt, but that’s the price I pay for kids who eat salad. Salad Dip: Two tablespoons of mayonnaise blended with one tablespoon of Dijon mustard and one of soy sauce. Arrange your veggies in rainbow order (red peppers, carrots, something yellow, cucumber, purple cabbage) for an easy way to draw in your toddler. For more on vegetarian cooking for kids, check out this course.
Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches
If you have a posh little puppet, add dill, lemon juice and lemon rind to the cream cheese.
Bumps on a Log
Another oldie but a goodie. Fill two celery stalks with peanut butter, then top them off with raisins pressed into the center.
Pigs in a Blanket
Why does no one make these any more? Look for nitrate free and organic hotdog options, then slice them lengthwise to prevent choking. Wrap them up in a pancake or puff pastry for a perfectly handy snack.
Lay the toppings out like a sundae bar and watch your kids pile on the sweet corn, chopped bell pepper, bacon and cheddar.
Go to the dairy aisle for some fresh pizza dough or consider making your own (it isn’t hard.) In a pinch, grab an English muffin and top it with pasta sauce and cheese then add any veggies your kids will eat—like olives or mushrooms. Bake in a hot oven until the cheese melts and the base browns. You can nuke the muffin for about one minute, if you’re really desperate.
Fry the rice in butter then add a splash of wine (don’t worry it will burn off by the time you’re done) and warm chicken stock by the ladle-full until the rice is cooked. Stir through some chunks of roasted squash, sautéed mushrooms, frozen peas or all the above. Finish the dish with a pat of butter and a generous grating of parmesan cheese for a dinner the whole family can eat.
Make it in a Muffin Tin
Carrot cake, zucchini bread, banana bread, whole grain muffins: if it comes out vaguely in the shape of a cupcake, your toddler is more likely to eat it. Try mini quiches and frittatas too.
Take yesterday’s leftover rice and toss it in a fry pan with a dash of olive oil, a splash of soy sauce, frozen peas, corn (tinned or fresh), mushrooms and a few pieces of bacon. Once the veggies are cooked, move the rice to one side of the skillet and scramble and egg in the pan. Mix through and serve. If you’ve got adventurous pups, add some garlic and ginger while you’re sautéing.
That list should give you a decent start on getting your kids to eat reasonable food. Don’t forget that children are totally inconsistent. If they spurn something one day, they may well gobble it down the next. Keep offering new tastes, and don’t let one piece of sushi thrown against the wall get you down. Even better, get your kids in the action of healthy cooking by baking bread or getting in touch with your Italian roots. Involving your kids in the cooking process means they’ll be more likely to cook themselves instead of opting for nutritionally-void packaged food in the future.
My mother always used to say: “use every opportunity to add vegetables.” She was right about that (but wrong about lots of other things, ahem.) Sneak some minced broccoli in with the mac and cheese. Toss some chives in the scrambled egg. Slip some bell peppers into their smoothie. Use your parenting superpowers and show those tiny tyrants your veggie-masking mojo.