Easy Toddler Meals

Tired of the mac-n-cheese and pbj merry-go-round that lunchtime turns into with picky little eaters? Even "good eaters" go through some picky stages during toddlerhood - there are tons of biological theories and reasons, but the consensus is to keep offering a variety of healthy foods, and try pairing new or not easily accepted foods with old favorites. Here are a couple healthy dishes that have worked their way into our repertoire because they are fast, easy, and almost always get eaten. The measurements aren't precise because I assume you're cooking for one or two and you're using leftovers - I trust you to adjust the recipes until the textures and flavors seem right to you.

Peanut Butter Noodles -
This is ridiculously easy. I use organic Soba noodles, (Japanese buckwheat noodles - found in the asian section of the grocery store.) which cook in about 3 minutes. They don't taste creepy like the whole-wheat versions of pasta one usually finds at the store- they are little and have a nice texture that is in between spaghetti and angel hair. So, boil the noodles, enough for the kids you're feeding and yourself (I use a nickel-sized bundle.) While it's boiling, scoop out 1/2 cup of the boiling water and plop a half-cube of bouillon in it. Beef works well, but I found all kinds of fancy flavors at my local international food store, so I have Pho, Roast Duck, Porcini, etc. If you don't have bouillon, just put a tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce with the water. Then put a big spoonful or two of natural peanut butter (just peanuts and salt...they don't need all the other junk.) in the water and stir it. By this time the noodles are done, so drain them, pour on the sauce, and stir until you get a yummy sauce that should be the texture of mac-n-cheese. It's got more protein,good fat, and whole grain than the blue box, and it's just as fast or faster. Your kids will love this!

Avocado Mania -
Use avocado in place of mayo in some standby recipes and watch them gobble their greens. Spread on grilled cheese, smash it in an egg salad, or make a super-easy quesadilla by buttering a whole-wheat tortilla, sprinkling sliced avocado and shredded cheese, and top with another tortilla. when toasty, flip it and get it melty inside. cut this up and share - it's good dipped in mild salsa as well.

Fish Swap -
If your kids are good with tuna salad, switch it up with canned salmon or even - I'm not kidding - sardines. They are SO rich in omega 3's and calcium, as well as being lower in mercury than the big fish and way more sustainably fished - give it a try! My kids love sardines smashed with mayo and pickle relish and a little salt and pepper on a multigrain cracker.

Crazy Nuggets -
Kids like nuggets- it's a fact. The soft texture and hand-held nature is fun and appealing. But they don't have to be terribly unhealthy - in fact, using my formula, you can put so many things in nugget form. Start with your protein - ground turkey, canned salmon, any leftovers you have. Add a binder - usually an egg. Bulk it up with grains - breadcrumbs are standard, but you can get so much healthier. We love quinoa, whole-wheat cous cous, or lentils. Add finely chopped (or GRATED) veggies and herbs - I run  an onion, celery, carrot, or whatever's in the fridge over the microplane. Squish it all together until you have a "dough" that sticks together when you pinch off a little ball and roll it in your palms - like making meatballs. Now put a little olive oil in a pan (a tablespoon maybe) and cook your nuggets over medium high until they are cooked through and golden on the outside. This whole process takes less than ten minutes, so don't be daunted.

Happy cooking, and let me know if any of these healthy swaps worked for you or if you have suggestions of your own! 

No comments:

Post a Comment