When babies first begin eating food, their taste buds aren’t nearly as refined as the taste buds of toddlers; this means that when they first start out in life, human beings are more willing to eat anything. Both babies and toddlers are engineered to prefer salty & sweet foods, and something happens around age two that convinces most toddlers that anything not of their favorite food groups is simply inedible. Some kids grow up to continue this routine throughout the rest of their lives.
I don’t want our boys to be like that. At a conference last week, one mom said that her ten-year old still only eats nuggets, mac n’cheese and pizza.
I read up a lot on toddler eating, as I want our boys to grow up eating a balanced diet. There are some things that we did to help Jasper eat more vegetables, and so far, we’ve had a lot of success.
We don’t allow nuggets into our house. Mac’n cheese is almost never served, and pizza is an occasional treat. But Jasper gets “adult” pizzas; last week he had buffalo chicken & blue cheese. He doesn’t know that there are bland options out there; he loves to eat what we eat.
2. It Is Fine If He Goes to Bed Hungry.
Sometimes, Jasper doesn’t like what I serve for dinner. I try to add options that I know he’ll like, but toddlers are mercurial beasts. His favorite fruit today might be his nemesis tomorrow. I’m not a short-order chef; it is alright if he doesn’t eat much. (Hey, I’m not always hungry either!) This can be emotional for people; my kid is growing, and consumes more than enough food throughout the day to be able to make the choice to skip a few calories.
3. Make Eating Fun.
Jasper helps make dinner. Sometimes, we make “worms” out of carrots and zucchini using the spiralizer; sometimes he gets to crack the eggs. During dinner, we talk about the best parts of our day and comment on how tasty our vegetables are. (Ok, the latter is hard for me. I honestly don’t eat that many vegetables.)
4. Understand What Food Is
We are growing vegetables in the backyard, and Jasper helps to water them. He helps me to make decisions at the grocery store (Pears or peaches? This apple or that one?) and we talk about the different ways that eating helps us to become healthy and strong.
5. Try a Variety of Foods in a Variety of Ways
I try to add in new recipes on a regular basis. Jasper currrently loves:
- Spiralized zucchini, carrots & beansprouts
- Zucchini pizza
- Gluten-free 3 ingredient pancakes
- Chopped veggies to dip
- Butternut Squash Soup
He also has been known to eat brussel sprouts with bacon, asparagus roasted in oil in the oven, spinach, and stir-fry anything. But sometimes, he doesn’t eat it. And he HATES potatoes. Instead of giving up on a food if he doesn’t eat it, we shrug and move on, and then offer it again a few weeks later. Sometimes, it becomes his “favorite” for a few days. Sometimes, he still won’t touch it.