Little Bear just turned 16 months old, marking ten whole months since we started him on solid food. Which means he’s been eating solid food for the majority of his life.
And yet, he’s still not a great eater. And I’ve become exhausted trying to make him one.
Picky toddlers can come in all shapes and sizes. I know children of B’s exact age who will only eat blueberries, strawberries and Cheerios; some who won’t have anything to do with whole milk or water; and others who will only eat foods covered in sauces. As you can image, the list goes on. B in particular seems to have a texture problem. He doesn’t like soft or moist foods. It has nothing to do with the taste, it’s solely in the texture of the food.
We started him on purees, and in that form the child’s palette knows no limit. Kale? Wonderful! Carrots with nutmeg? Absolutely! Spinach and pear? Two helpings please! So imagine my confusion when I sat a sliver of pear in front of him and he wouldn’t even put it to his mouth. If I tried to give him a bite I was met with sealed lips and a panicked expression. What gives, kid?? Why will this child who devours peas and carrots in a puree balk at the idea of taking a bite on his own?
Sure there are plenty of kids with an insatiable appetite for veggies and proteins who are happy to gobble down a plateful of whatever you put in front of them. But my son isn’t one of them, and from the looks of things we’re joining a pretty well-populated club.
So basically I’m finding there are really three main approaches.
1) Give your child the foods they’ll eat and hope they grow out of it
2) Make the foods your child eats healthier, either by selection or sneaky cooking (ex. the Sneaky Chef approach) or
3) Offer a no-food ultimatum (ex. the “you’ll eat whats on your plate or you won’t eat at all” approach).
Weirdly, the only solution that’s kept me from having a full-on breakdown every night at the dinner table is to try a bit of all three. Have I mentioned I have no idea what I’m doing? Seriously folks, no clue.
Now I’m THAT mom who is hiding veggies
Initially, because his issues stemmed mostly from texture, I felt I had it easy. There were tons of recipes and blogs and books devoted to hiding veggies in kids food, most notably in something he already loved: breads.
So I set to work. I made muffins and spreads and toasts and breaded things that probably were never meant to be breaded and attempted to get him to try them all. And while we had limited success with things like homemade veggie nuggets, the muffins and granola bars were a huge hit. However, I don’t like the idea of loading him up on carbs just to get him to eat a veggie that isn’t pureed, so we needed some other approaches.
We tried winning him over with some independence. In addition to feeding himself his favorite purees, it was amazing what we could get him to try if we gave him a bowel and a spoon to feed himself: meatballs, rice and peas, macaroni and cheese, yogurt with berries and even cut up chicken! Success! I was thrilled, and thought to myself “Problem solved. Good job mom, you win at the mom-ing of picky eaters.”
Then two days passed and my toddler decided all these new foods he enjoyed are now terrible and he should probably never eat them again.
Right. So. Back to the drawing board. What else can I hide veggies in?
This may come back to haunt me
My favorite approach to “sneaky” cooking was with grilled cheese. This kid loves his grilled cheese. So I set out to make it as healthy as possible. I bought fresh, whole wheat bread, chose healthier cheeses with low sodium, and – most importantly – I tucked some veggies and proteins inside before I grilled it. His favorite seems to be a broccoli, carrot, chicken and cheese sandwich.
*Note: I don’t think I count this as hiding. Because, technically, if he was old enough I would most certainly be telling him what’s in the sandwich. He already likes it, so we can all be honest here, right? No harm!
So, if you’re looking for sneaky recipes to hide nutrients in your kid’s food, hit me up. You can also feel free to come back to this and laugh at me in a couple of years when he turns his nose up at this sandwich simply for the mention of the word broccoli.