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TODDLER TIPS: How to encourage your littles to try new foods and eat more balanced

Let’s face it, when you’re trying to feed your toddler, it can be very challenging to say the least. It changes on a daily basis, and they’ll do anything NOT to try something new. So in this blog, I’ll provide some tips to help encourage your littles to try some new foods, and provide some fun recipes that will excite them and get them involved in the kitchen. 

PUREES FOR DAYS

Purees are one of the easiest things to not only make ahead and freeze, but to hide in a large variety of foods. From cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, and carrots, you can puree literally any vegetable to throw in different foods. A great example of this is butternut squash mac and cheese. Reflecting back to my childhood, mac and cheese was one of my favorite foods. If my mom hid pureed butternut squash in there, I never would have known the difference. It’s the same color, and gives it a nice creamy texture. You can also use puree cauliflower as an “alfredo sauce” for veggies or noodles to give them a nice, creamy texture. The key is taking the time to make the purees and having them in your freezer at the ready. It can be simple, but what the littles don’t know won’t hurt them! 

MIX-INS

I suggest this not only with toddlers, but adults as well. Mixing healthier foods in with our regularly consumed foods can help add veggies without sacrificing taste. An example of this is adding cauliflower rice to regular rice. Again, it’s the same color and they have a similar texture, but you’re still eating rice. Meatloaf is another way to hide some veggies. Throw in a mirepoix mix (carrots, celery and onion) to your meat mixture but make sure to finely mince the veggies in a food processor so you can’t even see that they’re in there! Try throwing really finely chopped spinach into eggs, as it wilts perfectly with eggs and doesn’t change the taste. If they ask what the green is, make it a positive addition (green to help your muscles grow, keep your body strong and give you energy). 

FUN SHAPES 

Ants on a log, apple donuts, fruit kabobs, and heart-shaped sandwiches are all great ways to put foods into fun shapes to encourage our kids to eat or even try foods. The more fun a food is, the more they’ll be willing to try it. See the recipes at the end of this post for ideas, but getting creative is key. The more you respond positively, so will your toddlers. 

EATING THE RAINBOW

Often when I see kids in my office I always use the rainbow approach. Sit down and show your kids the colors of the rainbow, have them even do a coloring activity of the rainbow and see if they can name just one fruit or vegetable from each color. The more involved they are and learn from you, the more eager they’ll be to try different colors. They often want to try each color rather than the actual food, but it’s a start and gets them excited to try something new. When they come up with the idea of the food they want to try, they’re much more likely to try it as well. 

IMMERSION BLENDERS ARE LIFE 

When making a simple dinner like spaghetti and meatballs, there are a ton of ways to sneak in those veggies without the kids realizing. With your sauce, add as many vegetables as you can that won’t only enhance flavor, but will puree very easily with an immersion blender. Throwing celery, onion, carrot, butternut squash, even cauliflower in a red sauce and blending it up so you don’t even see it is a great way to hide those veggies but also boost fiber. With your meatballs, you can do the same thing, like the above mentioned “hiding them in foods” post. Remember, using seasonings are always helpful to keep the flavors alive as well. 

Immersion blenders are easy to clean, don’t take up too much space and keep dirty dishes minimized since you can blend it up right in the pot that the food is in. You can also add parsnips to mashed potatoes, butternut squash to sweet potatoes, or even cauliflower to an alfredo sauce. Use your imagination! 

TRY EVERYTHING MANY TIMES OVER

They key to truly seeing if we like or don’t like a food is to not only try it multiple times, but also try it in different ways. When I was a kid, I hated brussel sprouts and now they’re one of my favorite veggies. I discovered that getting the shredded version and roasting them with olive oil, salt and pepper was the most delicious way to make them! I could eat them like that every night if I had to. My point is that it’s not always about the food itself, but the ways in which you cook it. Your little may not like broccoli cooked, but may love it raw with ranch, so try it in it’s different forms. 

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Always remember how your attitude is towards certain foods. Let’s say you hate spinach. If you constantly talk about how gross spinach is or how it’s something you just need to eat to be healthy, you’re not setting the best example for your little one. When they see you not having a positive attitude towards trying new things, they won’t either. The more fun, exciting, and new you make trying a new food, the more your toddler will want to play along too! 

NOW FOR SOME INSPO…

See below for some great recipes that you can make with your little ones and also some great ways to sneak more nutrition into foods as well! 

HONEY MUSTARD HUMMUS 

Honey Mustard Hummus Recipe

This is a hit with kids and if they like honey mustard flavored things, they’ll love this hummus. It takes about 5 minutes to throw together and pair with a side of carrots, celery, or pretzels. Check out the recipe here.

APPLE DONUTS 

This is such a fun snack to make with your kids!! It’s so simple and who doesn’t love sprinkles? Simply cut your apple in thin slices, cut out the core with the tip of a spoon, top with your favorite greek yogurt, sprinkles, and devour!! 

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP “NICE” CREAM 

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Frozen bananas whipped into a puree go a long way for a healthier sweet treat. Simply add chocolate chips, cinnamon, almond milk, and you can even try to add different extracts to change up the flavor. Get your kids to pick out the toppings and switch it up every time. Check out a great recipe here.

ICE POPS

Just like ice cream, popsicles are a great frozen treat in the summer. Skip out on all the high fructose corn syrup and get the kids to make their own! Another strategy to get them to try their own creations. The possibilities are endless, but check out a great recipe here and the ice pop molds on my favorite things list under “Kid Stuff” from amazon here

PALEO PANCAKES 

These pancakes are SO good and so versatile. Ingredients are simple and you can add things like frozen berries, chocolate chips, fruited greek yogurt, you name it!

  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Spray and heat pan over medium heat and pour mixture into pan. Flip when edges are firm and flip until golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and enjoy!