Parents of toddlers, has this happened to you?
You carefully prepare a well balanced healthy meal for your little one, and present it to them with love in your heart, hoping to see them devour it with glee.
Then, your little angel picks out just one of the meal’s components to eat and throws the rest on the floor.
I feel your pain. I’ve been there too.
At those times the desire to sneak healthy foods into your child’s mouth can be strong. Take heart, you aren’t alone. The internet is full of websites devoted to helping parents sneak healthful, but not always popular, foods like vegetables into family meals.
While sneaking pureed vegetables and other foods into meals may be a popular strategy, it should be used with caution. Being sneaky could backfire and make picky eating worse in the long run. The main concern is that your child may perceive your well intentioned sneaking as trickery, which can damage the hard earned trust in your feeding relationship. Your child may begin to view all the foods you prepare with suspicion, wondering what disliked ingredient has been snuck in.
Maintaining that trust is so important that I prefer to take a ‘not-so sneaky’ approach to helping ensure that my finger feeding toddler gets more than one food group in at a meal.
My latest discovery and finger feeding triumph, has been the secret of shell shaped pasta. My toddler loves to feed himself short pasta of all shapes. But the small pasta shells in particular do a wonderful job of engulfing other ingredients and grabbing onto pasta sauce. The parent pleasing result is that my little man ends up eating the entire meal as he hungrily pops each shell into his mouth. The approach isn’t sneaky because he can clearly see all the main ingredients, they just happen to be stuck to and in, the pasta shells.
I’ve used this ‘not-so sneaky’ approach to great effect with one of my toddler’s favourite meals, Easy Salmon & Baby Sweet Pea Pasta Casserole. It tastes better than it may sound, contains all four food groups and is cheap and easy to make. Here’s the basic method (adjust ingredient proportions to your liking).
Easy Salmon & Baby Sweet Pea Pasta Casserole
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add enough small shell pasta for the family, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Let the pasta cook for about five minutes.
- Meanwhile, open a can of salmon, drain off any liquid, flake the flesh and crush any bones with a fork.
- Grate some cheddar cheese. (A tasty option that takes slightly longer to make is to replace the grated cheese with a homemade white sauce, or cheese sauce.)
- When the pasta is nearly cooked, add frozen small (baby) sweet peas to the pot and cook for a few minutes longer until the pasta is cooked and peas are tender. (Chopped frozen spinach can be used as an alternate green vegetable).
- Turn off the heat and drain the pasta and peas in a colander, then return them to the pot. Stir in the flaked salmon and grated cheese. Add in some ground pepper, Italian herbs or other seasoning if you like.
- Voila, a simple wholesome meal for the whole family. Let the pasta cool slightly before offering as a finger food to your toddler.
I’d love to hear any other ‘not-so sneaky’ tips for feeding picky eaters that work for you.