One of my obsessions has always been food and cooking. I toyed with the idea of starting a food blog instead of singlewritingmom, but why can’t I talk about food here? We all gotta eat, right?
Food is an especially relevant, important, and often frustrating topic when you have a toddler. My little man, Jax, is a relatively good eater, but he has his moments. Lately he’s decided pasta is the enemy. What kid doesn’t like pasta, you ask? Mine. He won’t take more than a few bites of it before turning his head to the side and trying to knock the spoon out of my hand.
So, to Pinterest I go, for toddler meal ideas and tips for handling picky little eaters (see my “I have a toddler” board). I put a lot of time into this because healthy eating is important to me, and because Jax has become a little too fond of frozen breaded chicken fingers for my liking. In the grand scheme of time management while being a single mom who works and writes from home, the hours spent reading about and trying new meal-time tactics has been worth it.
A few things I learned or re-learned while browsing pinned meal photos from mommy blogs:
Kids like having a choice. In the hopes of avoiding a mess, I usually give Jax a few bites at a time of whatever we’re having, whether it’s a meal or a snack. This has always worked out well in the past, but guess what’s the thing about toddlers? They’re little people, and people like choices, and the very definition of toddlers is that they are no longer babies, but not quite kids either, and they develop a strong sense of independence that parents must nurture. So I bought colorful little bowls with suction cups on the bottom to stick to his high chair tray. I bought a plate (with fire trucks!) with dividers so I can give him bites of four or five different foods from which to pick. Yes, he has more peanut butter in his hair now, and meal-time takes about a half hour longer than it used to, but he seems to be eating more.
Not eating something one day does not mean s/he doesn’t like it. Pasta is a pretty common staple in a vegetarian diet, which is what I eat. I decided to try different types of pasta, and presenting it in different ways (with tasty, chunky sauces, for example), to see if that made a difference. I think what I realized is that because Jax is still cutting teeth, he likes something substantial to chew. Angel hair pasta almost doesn’t need chewing, compared to, say, a bite of spinach lasagna, or penne with a creamy mushroom sauce. I’ve gotten Jax to eat both of the latter in the past two weeks. The boy just needs to chew! Also, punkin didn’t seem interested in steamed and mashed baby carrots, but when I heated up some chicken noodle soup for him, he ate all the soup’s carrots even after he was bored with the noodles and chicken chunks. Presenting the same foods in different ways can tell you a lot about your kid’s taste and texture preferences.
You can sneak vegetables into just about anything. Cookies with shredded carrot. Potato pancakes with chopped kale and a little shredded cheese. Single servings of pureed vegetables stirred into sauces, mashed potatoes, and muffins. (Sidebar: This might be a great tip for tiny picky eaters, but really, there’s no excuse for any of us to not get our 5-8 recommended daily servings of veggies now.) I made a batch of the potato pancakes and Jax couldn’t get enough of them, kale and all. Crunchy on the outside, soft and a little cheesy on the inside, this side dish was substantial enough for him to chew and got two cups of fresh, local, iron-rich dark greens into him in as many days. That’s a win.
In light of this revelation, I remembered the apple cheddar scones.
I’m a big fan of the food blog Smitten Kitchen, and one of the first and best recipes I tried from SK, years ago, was for homemade scones packed with chunks of roasted tart apples and sharp white cheddar cheese. When I was on my sneak-veggies-into-all-the-foods kick a week or two ago, I decided I needed to resurrect this recipe for Thanksgiving breakfast. The apples were local, the cheese was a splurge, and the little man destroyed them. You have to give these scones a try. They too are worth the effort.