To avoid battles with picky eaters, many moms get stuck in the rut of making a separate, guaranteed-to-be-eaten dinner for their toddler and a “grown up” meal for the rest of the family. But as Alena K. realizes, preparing multiple meals for dinner can easily become a very time-consuming routine: "I'm trying to avoid being a short order cook in the future!" To help you break the two-dinner habit, here are six tips for creating meals that'll be approved by toddlers, adults, and everyone in between.
1. Change the Texture
Many moms have a tendency to worry about whether their children will like the taste of a particular food, but a food's texture can actually be more important than its taste to a toddler, especially if the toddler only has a few teeth. For toddlers who are still better with mushy food raither than chunkier pieces, Circle of Moms member Steph advises throwing the contents of their plate into the blender. Here's one of her favorite meals that tastes good on the plate and out of the blender: "Chopped cooked chicken breast very lightly seasoned, gently boiled fresh veggies, egg noodles, and a tiny bit of salt and pepper."
2. Add Color
As Monjay S. says of her girls, toddlers often "eat with their eyes first." As a result, adding a splash of color can make any meal look more appetizing. Monjay relays: "I add bright colored things to them which adds to the flavor as well...I use the green stuff and colorful veggies (peppers, tomatoes, etc.) as the bottom of the dish, then add their favorite fruits to the dish."
3. Serve Fun Shapes
Other moms note that their toddlers are more likely to eat foods that have interesting shapes. Rebekah S. recommends you "make it fun" for them by cutting bread or veggies into interesting shapes, while Victoria says her daughter handles spiraled rotini pasta better than other noodles.
4. Spice It Up
Although baby food is usually quite bland, some Circle of Moms members say their young children actually prefer lightly seasoned or even slightly spicy food. Marina F., for example, had a tough time feeding her kids when they were toddlers until she discovered they preferred spicier food: "Low and behold they loved the spicier Mexican foods that I loved, and not the American foods like fries or burgers and hot dogs." To start experimenting, try separating your toddler's portion before you season the meal for the rest of the family, and experiment to see how much salt or pepper they really like.
5. Let Them Dip
Many toddlers love to dip their food. As Circle of Moms member Kirsten T. recalls, she began giving her son a variety of dipping sauces when he started to get "funny with food" at around the age of two: "Then every meal was fun. He could dip his food, make a mess, etc." Similarly, Bethany L. gets her toddler to eat more veggies by giving him ketchup or Ranch dressing to dip them in.
6. All-In-One Recipes
Sometimes the easiest way to get everyone to eat everything (meat, veggies, etc.) is to make an all-in-one casserole or crock-pot style meal. Here are a few recipes from the Circle of Moms communities that are great for toddlers and grown-ups.
- "Diced chicken mixed with Parmesan and peas is an amazing meal that toddlers typically love and will eat like candy. You can easily refrigerate or freeze this meal for a later date. You can use turkey for that also." -Erika M.
- "Cook chicken and some veggies. Boil some pasta. Spoon it all into a baking dish and stir in a sauce of your choice (I use a tomato-based Italian sauce), cover with cheese and bake until the cheese is golden. It has [the] majority of food groups for your child... It's healthy, quick and easy." -Leisha P.
For more crock-pot recipes, check out 7 Easy Crock-Pot Recipes, 7 Easy Make-Ahead Casseroles, or this discussion Q&A, with recipes for everything from chicken to pork, beef, meatloaf, stew, and chili.
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