When my kids were born I was the queen of homemade baby food. My boys ate kale, broccoli, spinach and every other superfood I could blend with apples, pears and other sweet fruits and they loooooved it. I felt like super mom and thought by starting the kids out early on these foods, they would develop a taste for super healthy eating and my job would be done (all the books said so!!!!) I was wrong. So very, very wrong. As soon as my boys developed opinions about food it would be all over. My first, J1 (4.5 years) would give me a good run. Almost made it to two before I heard that dreaded nooooooooooo! I would not be so lucky with my second son, J2 (2.5 years) He stopped eating the super baby food I offered and opted to only eat sweet fruits and carbs making meal times super hard and downright miserable.
So here I am, in the kitchen , preparing for yet another battle with my kids again. I am tired, the kids are wired and all I want to do is sit down for one meal with my entire family once a day. I have heard tales from other moms who actually cook one dinner that everybody eats! Really? Is that possible? I am so used to preparing three (yes three) separate dinners it is no wonder I am tired and cranky at night. In case you were wondering I will explain a typical weekday meal: grilled chicken and veggies for my husband and I, pasta/chicken nuggets or a turkey hot dog (don’t judge me), fresh fruit and veggies for J1 and some sort of Cheerio-esque cereal or a granola bar, fresh fruit and veggies-only-if-you-play-silly-games-with-him-the-entire-time for J2 (2.5 years old)
Thankfully, my oldest is coming around and will eat more foods than ever before. He mostly eats single ingredient, raw foods but we are working on expanding his palate. My little one, however, is proving to be much trickier. He tries everything but will only eat 1 out of 10 things given to him. To make matters worse he is almost off the chart in hight but in the 20% percentile for weight making him a skinny stringbean. This has caused me to step up to the challenge of getting this picky eater the nutrition he needs. I have compiled some strategies I have used over the last 5 years that have worked the best for us.
HIDE IT! One of my favorite ways to get veggies in my kids was to mix in finely pureed roasted sweet potatoes and squash into pancake and waffle batter. You can also use pureed fruit as well but since my kids eat a ton of fruit already I like to sneak in the veggies when I can. My kids are very particular about the colors of foods so I had to stick to orange veggies in order to blend well with the colors of the pancakes and waffles. You can make your own (this was my baby food making bible) or can purchase pre-made, stage one baby food. As long as it is finely pureed it will blend in well and will be undetectable. Start off with 1/2 cup of puree and add in more to taste. Pancakes seem to have the same texture but the waffles will not be as crispy and have a tendency to stick so you will have to experiment to find the perfect proportion. If you want to hide some green veggies into dinner, try finely pureed spinach or broccoli in tomato sauce over pasta. You cannot taste the difference and it blends in nicely.
BLEND IT! Ok, so you tried to hide some veggies in their food and it did not work so well. How about making a smoothie? The combinations are endless and you can find a ton of recipes online. Here is a strawberry-pineapple-yogurt smoothie recipe (leave out the sugar) to get your started. You can use ice cubes and fresh fruit or use frozen fruit instead. I like to use greek yogurt for a high protein smoothie and add in whatever fruit I have on hand. If using berries, puree them separately, strain out the seeds, then add to the smoothie. I personally have not had success with making a smoothie that is any color other than pink but you might be able to get a green smoothie into your kid. I added V-8 fusion to a few test smoothies and so far so good. As long as you take out all the seeds and make the puree super smooth and add some sweet, over-ripe fruit, your child will most likely give it a try.
FREEZE IT! Take advantage of the upcoming warmer months and offer healthy, home-made ice pops this summer!. You can take the recipes you used for your smoothies and freeze them (avoid re-freezing frozen fruit so start with fresh fruit) You can use any combination of pureed fruit, juice and yogurt. The key to success is to get yourself a great set of molds. The ones you see here suit the job ok but are a bit frustrating at times because they don’t pop out 100% of the time. I have my eyes set on these beauties for this upcoming summer. The price is a bit steep but if you factor in how much colored sugar water is compared to a healthy home-made pop, it works out in your favor over time and you wont feel better if you kid wants two.
GROW IT! Speaking of summer months, why not try to grow some veggies with the kids? We always have a big garden every year and one day, J1 was toddling around the garden at 2 years old, when he came across a ripe cherry tomato. He took one look at it, picked it and stuffed it right into his mouth. He was so excited he wanted more than were ripe and has not stopped eating cherry and grape tomatoes. J2 loves them as well and is a go to food for us. If you involve your children in the entire gardening experience, they are more likely to try something they have helped grow. My son has been known to eat a raw chive straight from the garden just because he could!
SUPPLEMENT IT! Even children who aren’t picky are likely to be lacking in certain nutrients so a supplement is a smart way to cover all the bases. Sometimes it is hard to administer a supplement because, let’s face it, they don’t always taste so good! Luckily, there are supplements out there that are high quality, are full of nutrition and taste great! Children’s Oxylent is a sugar free powder you add to 4-6oz of water. My kids loved this and thought they were drinking juice. Children’s Oxylent uses the revolutionary effervescent delivery system, which offers exceptional absorption of vital nutrients for a great-tasting, nutritious, hydrating drink in delicious Bubbly Berry Punch flavor. Best taken with meals or snack, the product is guaranteed to be free of gluten, dairy, caffeine, and artificial flavors and colors.
Another great supplement are these Nordic Berries Multi-Vitamin treats by Nordic Naturals. These are a little too yummy so make sure you hide these with the medicine bottles. My oldest son was not crazy about the citrus-y taste but my little guy could not get enough of them. Even my husband has been known to sneak a few (I ate two while writing this post….just for inspiration) These chewable, pectin-based, multivitamin provides 100% of the daily value of the most essential nutrients— including zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D3, and E, do not contain artificial coloring, flavorings, or preservatives and are gelatin and allergen FREE!
Do you have a picky eater on your hands? I would love to hear what methods have worked for you. Share your info and leave a comment below. Sometimes it takes a village!
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All opinions are mine. I did not receive a product in exchange for a positive review.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to treat and diagnose. Please refer to to your health care provider before making changes in your health plan.