Nutritionist Anita Bean’s clever ideas can help you tweak your tot’s meals and snacks in such a toddler-friendly fashion, he won’t even notice!
1. Eat as a family
Eating together lets you have a positive influence at mealtimes and encourages young children to be less fussy.
2. Give them (a little) control
Let your toddler help prepare the meal, choose which veg to have, and decorate his pizza with sliced peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes or pineapple. When they feel involved, they’re more likely to try new foods.
3. Hide the veg
Add finely chopped or puréed veg to pasta sauce; mash potato with sweet potato, swede, parsnip or butternut squash; add finely grated courgettes or carrots to lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese.
4. Make healthier chips and crisps
Thickly slice potatoes, toss in a little olive oil and bake at 200°C/Gas 6 for 35-40 minutes, turning occasionally, until they’re cooked and golden brown. Instead of crisps, open out wholemeal pitta bread and cut into triangles. Bake at 200°C /Gas 6 for 5-7 minutes until golden and crisp.
5. Go raw
Sticks of carrot, cucumber and pepper, baby sweetcorn and cherry tomatoes make tasty snacks. Serve with houmous, salsa or a cheesy dip and children who refuse most vegetables will often eat these. And keep fruit on display in a bowl – then your toddler is more likely to ask for some.
6. Make veg attractive
Have fun – arrange carrots in a ring around the plate; stand broccoli ‘trees’ on a base of mashed potato; make a cucumber snake.
7. Eat dessert first
If your toddler is too hungry to wait for supper, give him dessert first – apple slices, grapes, melon – to stave off his hunger pangs and help reach his five-a-day target.
8. Make traditional fruity puds
As well as basic fruit for afters like grapes and satsuma segments, make old-fashioned puds by simply stewing apples or pears, baking apples, or making a fruit crumble or pie and serving with custard.
9. Don’t ban foods
Allow all foods, but explain that some should only be eaten occasionally, as a treat. Banning a food increases its desirability, making it more likely your child will try to eat it in secret!
10. Be positive
Praise your tot for trying new foods. If something is rejected, try again a week or so later. Children will grow to like healthy foods if they’re offered them often enough.