It’s the worst thing in the world. You spent hours, and we mean HOURS, painstakingly preparing a gourmet toddler meal, only to have it flung back in your face with a swift flick of the hand. Toddlers are the most intense food critics of all time, and show no mercy when it comes to rejecting food at mealtimes. Now, we are not going to pretend that we have the golden ticket when it comes to getting them to eat their greens all the time, but Team I Love Cooking is mostly made up of Mums, and between us we do have a bit of advice for getting through the fussy years.
Give them a choice, but within reason. NEVER ask a kid what they want to have for dinner, because they will always want ice-cream or cake. Instead, offer them chicken or fish, or carrots or peas – giving them a sense of power is sometimes the gateway to dinner time.
Eat as a family as much as possible. Don’t cook separate meals for the kids and the adults. They are only small for a limited time, so in as much as it’s possible, sit down for dinner a little earlier and all eat the same thing.
When it comes to veggies, offer your kids raw ones instead of cooked ones. Most things with kids are a textural thing, and they are more likely to go for the crunchy freshness of a raw vegetable than the slightly mushy one of a cooked.
The family who cooks together, eats together. Spend time going through cookbooks together, picking out dinners that you can cook together. We invested in kitchen steps for our toddlers to step up the the counter tops and help with the dinner preparation, and the dividends were incredible.
Start early. If your children are used to eating a variety of food from about the age of one, they are less likely to turn their nose up at everything from the age of two. Remember to eat the rainbow every day; help them out by having a rainbow in the kitchen and picking out ingredients to match.
If all else fails, juice or smoothie it up. Kids love smoothies, and they are a wonderful way of ensuring that they are getting some of their five-a-day, every day.
Like all things in parenting, perseverance works. If they won’t eat anything, just keep trying. Keep (your) tantrums to a minimum, and remember that every Irish family has one member who “ate nothing but Cornflakes until he was 21” – it will be OK.
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