Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!
Posted on February 06 2019
“How do you get your toddler to eat so many vegetables?” “Eating vegan must be so hard, especially with a toddler.” Chances are if you are reading this, you are already vegan or thinking about it and therefore, you know the many benefits of eating vegan. Nonetheless, feeding toddlers (no matter what their diet) can be challenging.
I barely have time to cook one meal, let alone two. You know how they say measure twice, cut once? I say you cook once, plate twice. It is unrealistic for me to cook a separate meal for my toddler and she eats just about anything… for a key few reasons.
Consistent table habits: “Two-bite rule” (all new food must be given two chances). This is a rule that was initially implemented at daycare that we adopted at home. If you can keep meal time guidelines consistent even when your toddler isn’t eating at home, this helps set them up for successful consumption
Start em’ young: At 6-7 months, start introducing small amounts of spice (record what baby does/doesn’t like and try that same spice on a different food, or, a week or two later)
Don’t give up on yo’ greens: If my toddler doesn’t like something, we try it again two weeks later
Pleasure not pain: You want mealtimes to be something kids look forward to. We try to have one meal a day where our toddler gets ‘all’ of our attention (so dad and mom are not feeding the baby). If that means we have to push our meal or reheat it because baby’s feed coincides with our mealtime, so be it). We have guidelines and reminders at the table, but no ‘rules.’ Lots of positive praise for eating veggies- to dad and mom too!
Form matters (just present the ‘toddler determined gross’ food in a different format). Many vegetables and legumes can be cooked many ways.
Take the heat out of it: When I cook a new recipe or something with a bit of spice in it, I take my toddler’s rice, quinoa, or other grain/staple out first so that she has a “plain” version of what we are having. I hide this ‘safe version’ behind the coffee maker. I have her try the “adult version” (twice) and if she doesn’t like it, she has her plain ol’ back up version (but I didn’t cook a separate item for her). Oftentimes, we end up mixing a ‘bit’ of the “spiced-up” version with her plain helping.
Bribery is so old-school: We try not to bribe with dessert (because this doesn’t drive a love for the main course)
Get crafty: Focus on what your toddler DOES like. Find something they enjoy and add it to the food item you are struggling to get them to eat. My toddler likes nutritional yeast so I started mixing it with food-processed cashews and garlic powder to put on her broccoli). She eats broccoli plain now too (and it’s her go to veg now).
Put those little hands to work! A lot of parenting advice I’ve read says to “involve your toddler in the cooking process.” This one doesn’t work as well for me but I am trying. Cooking with a toddler is a fucking mess, honestly. And when I am trying a new recipe, I want to concentrate so I don’t screw it up (not answer a million questions). So, here’s a trick; put your toddler in charge of a small, unimportant side to your meal and get her working on a different counter space than yours. Don’t help her. It might end up in the garbage or on our dinner plates but it fosters independence. Some of my meals don’t work out either; show a positive attitude and make sure your toddler knows that cooking can be ‘hard stuff.’ You want your kiddo to have a growth mindset when it comes to cooking and not be afraid to try new culinary skills or eat a new food item. If we have company for dinner my toddler still gets to help… toddlers are intelligent and I don’t want my little human to think I don’t trust her to help cook for our guests.
Don’t cater: My toddler doesn’t like onions. I don’t leave them out when I cook. Call me mean but she can pick them out, right? In some recipes, she barely notices them. I think it sets the narrative that I cook for our entire family, not just her. It goes back to my refusal to cook separate meals.
Kiddo’s pick: Once a week, I try to let my toddler choose what we are having for dinner (after looking in the fridge). She will get better at this as ‘pizza’ is often the request and sometimes I don’t have dough made and ready to go.
- It’s all in the name: My toddler didn’t like cauliflower for the longest time but she’d eat broccoli. She was used to us saying, “we are having broccoli for dinner. The little trees.” So, we started calling cauliflower white broccoli trees. Weird.
Secret agent recipe ideas and quick tips:
* Chickpea mashed potatoes (can do this with just about any bean and any veg that can be mashed (parsnips, carrots and so on)
* Red lentils and carrots with vegan margarine, salt and bit of coconut milk is a big hit in our house
* Put nuts like walnuts or raw cashews in the food processor and put them in your red pasta sauce before spreading on pizza or using in pasta
* Quick iron fix recipe idea: Homemade pear sauce and swirl blackstrap molasses in it (toddler thinks its “adult” chocolate)
* Food pairing: vitamin C rich foods after you eat iron
Tofu contains both calcium and iron so after some “dry-fry tofu,” dessert can be a bowl of strawberries topped with coconut flakes and walnut pieces