Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Easy Toddler Lunches

For a long time, I wouldn't make Oliver a lot of "kid" foods. I didn't want him having artificial colors and getting a taste for high-sodium junk foods. Oliver was so picky. He wouldn't eat anything! I don't think he gained a pound from about 16 months old (when he was weaned) until close to his second birthday. People say kids grow a taste for what they're given, but that was not true with Oliver. Our nutritionist at WIC would talk to me about how Oliver wasn't keeping up his weight on the weight-height chart. I kept food available to him literally all day long to try to get him to eat more, but it didn't work.

I had to learn to be less picky as his mom and started to let him eat lots of more typical kid foods, like chicken nuggets. Oliver eats a little of what Andrew and I eat, but he's happiest with simple foods like Cheerios, fish sticks, quesadillas, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So, we let him have those foods for lunch. I don't serve separate dinners, though. I expect him to eat the same dinner as Andrew and me. It doesn't really work, and we have to fight to get him to eat each bite.

Anyway, Oliver doesn't eat fruit and vegetables straight up. He'd literally rather not eat. Our WIC nutritionist told me to always have fruit and vegetables on his plate so he gets used to seeing them so that maybe he'll start eating them one day. I do that, but I also hide fruits and vegetables into his meals to get him to eat them.

Here are three lunch ideas that help me get extra fruit and veggies into my kids' meals. Enjoy!

1. Use baby food in quesadillas

This tip was given to me by a friend a couple years back, when I was struggling to get Oliver to eat his vegetables. For the life of me, I can't remember which friend it was to give credit to (Lisa??).

If your kid is especially picky, use a fairly mild flavor of baby food, and one that will blend into the color of the cheese, like squash. My kids don't notice the baby food and will eat their quesadillas no matter what baby food I smear in there. I used Gerber Garden Vegetables.

All you do is smear a bit of baby food onto your tortilla:

Sprinkle cheese over the baby food:

Cover with another tortilla, and let it cook:

After a few minutes, flip it and let it cook on the other side. Voila! Here's Oliver's plate:

As you can see, I still serve real vegetables with his food so he's used to seeing them. He'll sometimes take a bite of broccoli if I point out that the small ones are "a baby broccoli!"

I give Joanna larger pieces of quesadilla because she shoves the whole slice in her mouth if it's small enough.

In addition to smearing baby food vegetables onto quesadillas, I've also put baby food fruit (or just applesauce) in place of jelly onto their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

2. Banana Burritos

This idea came from Pinterest. You can find the pin here:

I took the idea a step further, and I made banana "quesadillas" for Joanna. I take one tortilla for each child and spread peanut butter on it. For Jo, I keep the peanut butter layer very thin so it's not too sticky for her. Then, I set a whole banana on Oliver's. On Jo's, I slice half a banana and lay the banana slices out on half of the tortilla, like this:

Then, I roll up Oliver's tortilla to look like a burrito. I fold Jo's in half and smash it so the bananas are a bit mushy.

I really can't think of any lunches that are easier to make than this. Seriously! They take two minutes to whip up. Here are the "burrito" and "quesadilla" after I cut them each in half. I served Oliver's with some mandarin slices that came from a fruit cup (again, super easy!).

They both enjoy their banana burritos and banana quesadillas.

3. Macaroni and Cheese and Veggies

Yup, I make my kids boxed macaroni and cheese. I've also learned how to sneak vegetables into it! It's really not difficult to do.

After I put water on the stove to boil, I take my box grater and quickly grate up a carrot. It literally takes 30 seconds.

Once it's grated, I add the carrots straight into the water (even though it's not boiling yet). With Jo, I want the carrots as soft as possible. I don't care if they're overcooked. When the water with carrots reaches a boil, that's when I add the pasta and cook it according to pasta directions.

Here's the macaroni and cheese with carrots when it's all done:

The carrots are similar to the dish in color and are as soft as the pasta, so the kids don't notice or care.

Instead of carrots, I've sometimes dumped some frozen, mixed veggies into the pasta water for macaroni and cheese. The kids are better at avoiding those vegetables because of their different color and texture, but they still eat some. It helps!

Please share any of your other tips for getting your kids to eat their vegetables. I'd love to hear new ideas!

Here are my little ones playing with the macaroni and cheese boxes! Boxed food is so much fun!


denisemichelle said...

Shredded zucchini in ground beef hides really well, particularly in tacos, etc. We actually prefer meatloaf with shredded carrots and zucchini (or blended canned beets).

Spinach is also really easy to sneak in a variety of meals because of it's inconspicuous texture (though it turned out that my son actually loved spinach and it was one veg I didn't have to fight him on).

If you make homemade baked mac & cheese, it's extremely easy to hide cauliflower in it- it becomes indistinguishable from the pasta.

whirledpeas1129 said...

I forgot to mention spinach! When we make our own pizza, we blend a little in the pizza sauce. If we ever go out for pizza, we ask them to put some spinach on underneath the cheese. It works great.

Thanks for the tips!