No sooner have you passed through the parental testing ground that is sorting out your child's early baby phase (the trial period of purees and new tastes) than you find yourself smack-bang in the zone of the determined toddler stage.
It's a time of No's! and I don't want to's! and it goes on like that indefinitely.
Feeding your baby or toddler doesn't have to be difficult despite their unyielding developmental ways. So often it can feel as though it is however! Even though it seems to be so much work and effort, in reality very little equipment or skill is required to prepare happy little serves of delicious and creative meals for your young child in this next period of growth.
Feeding toddlers is all about nutrition as we know however kids from around 12 months of age until well into their three's and beyond can naturally turn away from mealtimes, preferring to play instead and graze-eat when it suits themselves. It can be frustrating as a parent but there are ways you can still get the good-stuff into them.
It's a trick to lure tactile toddlers back to the table to feed and most of that trick rests on the simple factors of taste, colour, texture and presentation.
Over the years I have fallen back on quite few favourite toddler meal ideas for my picky little people and I am still serving my most popular recipes and ideas today to my youngest.
Healthy eating is all about fun and the two should definitely always come together from that very first day your baby tries food to ensure this longer term relationship is well cemented into the future. Food should never be boring or forced. Make it playful and colourful and watch your child come quickly to give whatever you serve a try every time. (Ok, most of the time!)
I have rarely gone to the effort of producing specific toddler meals for this age group. Instead, I prefer to adapt our family meals to fit the toddler-accepting mode instead.
Take this meal idea for example -
This is a simple lunch or dinner option to serve a young child made from leftover Bolognese sauce. It looks so much more fun when it's baked inside a ramekin and served with a fun pastry lid! To make these pot pies, I spooned the meat and vegetable sauce into a ramekin and cut a fancy pastry top with scissors.
I added leaves to my flower shape, brushed it all with soy milk and baked this at 200 degrees C for 20 minutes until golden. This dish took only a few short minutes to prepare and the result is so much more entertaining for a young child. (It went down with excitement too!)
Toddler breakfast ideas can be simple too and remembering their independence when prepping meals is the key to getting the food to go down. Young kids are wilful and desperate to master self-feeding (self-everything really!) so keep it basic and make it not too challenging for them.
Pick and mix meals are perfect for any time of the day and especially at breakfast. Serve something simple like sliced fruits with buttered fruit loaf in an attractive formation and cut in small or interesting portion sizes or shapes to entertain little minds while they eat. Presenting food in this manner means you'll rarely have an issue with feeding - toddlers love the independence inherent in the choices available.
Cereals softened and sweetened with fruit juice and thickened with yoghurt are great for aiding sloppier textures to stick to the spoon when journeying from bowl to mouth. (Don't forget a silicon scoop bib to catch any spills!)
Healthy lunch or snack ideas can include dips. Try mashed avocado with a dash of lemon juice served with sliced tomatoes, carrots, cucumber or crackers. Cottage cheese is a superb addition to your fridge and can be adapted as an ingredient in so many meals. Make a quick and tasty dip from cottage cheese blended with corn kernels or creamed corn for example. It takes only minutes and little kids love it.
You can make a simple yoghurt dip from plain yoghurt, lemon juice and grated (and drained) cucumbers with a dash of garlic and dill. Serve with sliced flat breads and sliced vegies.
A purchased pack of mini vol-au-vent cases are always a hit and can be filled with so many tasty little surprises like tuna and cheese or corn and ham with the addition of a binding cheese sauce or even rice.
For easy dinners, try to adapt your family meals to save time and stress. Simply serving in small bowls with appealing additions that add colour can be enough to lure your little one to eat. Little Shepherd's Pies for example, which you can adapt from this recipe are simple meals that require no extra effort on your part.
Using commercial baby foods such as those produced by Heinz are an ideal addition for expanding your child's diet. They're a fantastic way to add new flavours and in combinations you may not have thought to try. I have relied on Heinz baby foods for all of my children and my toddler regularly enjoys the variety offered in their range. Heinz baby foods are prepared in country Victoria and approved by nutritionist Mums who know what young kids enjoy.
Just remember when preparing any meals for your toddler, to think creatively. Use cookie cutters and pastry cutters, add lots of interesting textures and flavours and invite your child to interact with their meal in a fun way. Tell them what each item on their plate is and let them make a mess while they discover it and eat. If you make eating an educational and fun experience and you won't feel inclined to worry endlessly about whether they've eaten 'enough.'
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