April 30, 2010,
J.L. asks from Pittsburgh, PA on April 28, 2010
Meals for 2 Year Old
Hello! I was wondering if anyone could give me meal ideas for my 2 year old. I know this seems like an easy question, but I am at a loss as to what to give her. All she eats is noodles (mac-n-cheese, buttered noodles, etc.) and refuses vegetables. I have a 6 month old also, so I don't have time to trick her into eating by turning her food into butterflies or snails like you see in those parenting magazines! I need healthy, quick and convenient. Any suggestions?
So What Happened?™
First of all, I would like to say that I AM A GREAT MOTHER! Just because I am asking about food choices for my child doesn't make me a bad mother; I wouldn't want to break anyone's heart. Also, I didn't add it in, but I was mainly asking for lunch items. I am busy during the day and I don't have time to prepare a meal that me and my daughter can sit down and eat together. I usually just eat a PB&J sandwich or throw a Lean Pocket in the microwave. However, every night I cook a homecooked meal for my family. I mean homemade from my spaghetti and meatballs to my chicken noodle soup, to my mashed potatoes. No boxed items for me! My daughter is served whatever we are having. She usually will only pick and eat maybe the rice or the noodles or just scrape the cheese off the grilled cheese. Nothing really of substance. I am not worried (neither is her pediatrician although she would like her to eat more variety), she eats a ton of fruit and drinks milk. I just wish I could get her to eat more. I continue to offer her veggies and things that I know she doesn't really eat with the hope that one day she will all of the sudden start eating it. Thank you all for the ideas. I forgot about the quesadillas, I used to make them but then she stopped eating them so I will reintroduce them. I don't like ground turkey or veggie burgers so I guess that's why I didn't think of them, but I will definitely try them for my daughter. Thank you to those of you that can offer me advice without passing judgment.
K.F. answers from Salinas on April 28, 2010
Hi- I always get confused by this question (and the first response below as well). Why are you feeding the child a separate meal? My kids have always eaten what the adults eat, most of the time. Not to say that we don't break out the mac n cheese once in a while but why not just put whatever your eating on a plate and say here's dinner? If they don't like it, too bad, they'll learn to eat it when they are hungry enough. The "kid foods" mention below are literally poison. If you feed your kids frozen and prepared foods most of the time not only is it extremely unhealthy but they are not being exposed to any real food. Now, if you want to feed the kids first so you can have a peaceful adult meal below is a list of pretty healthy kid friendly stuff that's very simply to prepare and our family eats all the time:
Black Beans with Cheese
Pasta (try different sauces and noodles)
Veggie Burgers/Tofu Dogs
Grilled cheese on Wheat with Real Cheese
Homemade Chicken Nuggets (we're veggie but these seem easy and healthy)
Oatmeal with Fruit
Scrambled egg or Omlette
I'm sure you can think of a ton of other stuff you eat for lunch or snacks that would be appropriate to feed your daughter. Just keep putting healthy food in front of her and don't give in if she complains. In our house if you REALLY didn't like the dinner you may have fruit or raw veggies (ie carrot sticks) to fill you up. Really it doesn't happen very often that either of my girls wouldn't enjoy at leat one thing on their plates. Beware of the multi-dish family as you'll spend your life in the kitchen, trying to please everyone!
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D.K. answers from State College on April 29, 2010
Since we just had it last night and she likes pasta, maybe try spaghetti squash. You can cook it pretty quickly in the microwave or it takes about 45 mins in the oven, but should offer several meals. You could also mix it in with noodles once it is cooked, since it is stingy like noodles. For veggies, I'm sure you have tried but maybe canned versus fresh versus frozen. I hate canned peas since they are often mushy, but I will eat fresh or frozen. My husband on the other hand hates the frozen ones. And just to add I am a picky eater, if I have to eat something I will, but there are many things, including onions that I avoid and it is mainly a texture that I don't like. So for onions the flavor does not bother me, but I don't like the crunch of even the smallest piece.
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D.W. answers from Indianapolis on April 28, 2010
Oh, my heart breaks reading both of your messages.
So what I am about to say next is hard because I don't want you to think I'm telling you that you're bad mothers, but the only reason the kids eat what they do is because it's offered and allowed to be their diets.
I'm a full-time working mom with a 2 year-old and an almost 4 year-old, and I completely understand time constraints. I'm also a recent cancer survivor and the wife to a husband who was allowed to eat poorly his whole life and is ridiculously picky.
Our kids really don't have a choice - sure, we'll give them a few options of things we're considering eating and let them tell us what they're in the mood for. We have chicken nuggets in the freezer, but they're a once/month kind of food vs. once/week.
We always have a fruit or vegetable on the table. Fresh is best in most cases, followed by frozen, canned in their own juices, and canned in syrup. We almost exclusively do fresh or frozen.
Having spent almost a decade in the world of Diabetes, having a mother with type 2 diabetes, being genetically predisposed myself, and having a 35 year-old husband on both heart/cholesterol medication, I worry about our kids as their generation is the first expected not to outlive their parents.
I'd recommend keeping a few staples in the house (we get most of ours at Costco to keep costs down) including chicken breast (we freeze until we're ready to dethaw), ground turkey (tacos, turkey burgers, meatloaf), eggs (we do a lot of breakfasts with fruit for dinner).
If you can find a few veggies they like (it may take lots of coaxing), I'd recommend adding those to your weekly shopping list. For us, it's carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and recently celery and green/red peppers.
We do a lot of quesadillas/fajitas/tacos because they're easy to make and relatively inexpensive. We use either low-fat refried beans or low-sodium black beans for protein if we're not having meet and make sure lettuce/cheese/tomatoes are in the tortillas.
If we're doing pasta, we keep the quantities limited and always serve with a fresh vegetable lightly sauteed on the side (often quicker than steaming frozen vegetables).
Turkey burgers with a L. bit of ranch dressing for dipping with carrots/cucumbers on the side is a favorite in our house.
Jamie Oliver gave a great recipe for homemade chicken nuggets on Oprah to promote his Food Revolution show on ABC - I'm sure the recipes are available on either Oprah.com or on the Food Revolution site.
Be careful of any prepackaged foods because they're usually really high in sodium/sugar for preservation and flavor.
Check labels to compare turkey-bacon to pork-bacon. You may be surprised at what you find.
Finally, you have to set a good example yourself. My husband has learned to tolerate broccoli in the best interest of his own health and the kids' well-being. Hiding veggies in foods only encourages them NOT to learn to like the taste of them, so I'm really opposed to that approach.
In the end, you're the parent, they're the child. Sometimes being the parent and making them upset is hard, but if they're best interests are first, you can't go wrong.
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K.S. answers from Pittsburgh on April 29, 2010
Something fun for a lunch that I have tried and had success is turkey (or ham) and cheese roll ups. If your two year old can handle pretzels, I would roll up one slice of lunch meat with cheese, slice into 1 inch pieces and stick one of those tiny pretzel sticks through each roll up. My kids loved this when they were L. because they could pick up each L. piece and it looked neat. Not time consuming, though, but something different for lunch! Good luck. I don't think anyone is judging you! I think your post was a L. misunderstood. Moms thought you were short order cooking. It is always good to get more ideas though...
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D.D. answers from Philadelphia on April 29, 2010
One more quick snack my kids like is rice crackers and cheese (they like mild cheddar, havarti, and even provolone). They get to stack it themselves and like that. They will even dip the crackers in hummus on occasion and like that, too. I have even put yogurt into a popsicle mold and made it a "dessert" if htey eat well....With the veggies, my kids love sugar snap peas, corn, and cucumber/tomato salad. Good luck!!!
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T.H. answers from Kansas City on April 28, 2010
Wait, do 2 year olds actually eat food?? ;) I think it's an age old question with no real answer! You can try some of the Sneaky Chef options of adding purees into pancake batter and spaghetti sauce, but that also takes some time. Most of the time, breakfast and lunch are "kid" foods that my daughter will eat and they're usually centered around her. For dinner I make healthy "adult" food and give it to her. Most of the time she doesn't eat it, but sometimes she suprises us. I will supplement her dinner with already made easy things like fruit and yogurt, but I won't make her a totally separate dinner. I figure if they eat throughout the day, they're probably eating enough and for dinner they need the exposure (and nutrition) to the other foods. Although, a few months ago we were at a chinese restaurant and she LOVED the edamame. They are healthy and very kid friendly and now she will beg for it, so you can try it! Also corn on the cob is kinda fun for L. kids and since it's getting warmer you can grill it and it tastes great. The other thing I've found that works is giving her veggie soup. For some reason she'll eat whatever is in the soup and doesn't even care that it's vegetables!
E.B. answers from Philadelphia on April 30, 2010
I find lunches tricky too. Have you seen the Ziploc steamer bags? I love those things. I get a big bag of frozen chicken breasts from Wal-Mart and stick 1 into a steamer bag and it’s done in the microwave in about 5 minutes. I give him that for lunch a few times a week plus some organic ketchup to dip it in. Dipping seems to be the key for my son (who is 21 months). He’ll eat just about anything that’s dipped in ranch or ketchup. I pay a L. extra to get all-natural ranch and ketchup so that I never have to feel guilty about him eating as much as he wants! I also found a deli turkey at Trader Joes that doesn’t have any junk in it and it’s also low sodium. The brand is Applegate Farms, they make good stuff. I break up a few pieces of that and he’ll dip them in ranch. Does she like black beans? I give him a nice big helping of black beans as his entre some days because it’s got a good amount of protein and I know he’ll eat them all up. Eggs too, do you ever do eggs for lunch? Quick and healthy! Hope this helps!
C.M. answers from St. Louis on April 28, 2010
My daughter went through a hotdog and mac and cheese phase. Daddy is not home in the evenings so I often don't make 'real' meals for me (usually eat a sandwich or leftovers) so I make dinner for she and my son. Usually I give her the option of eggs, cereal, pasta, etc. or if we go to my parents house or I am making a meal, I just give her some of what I'm having.
If all else fails, I give her V8 Fusion juice (serving of fruit and veggies in one cup!). She likes broccoli with real butter (not margarine), cucumbers with ranch and lettuce with ranch. She pretty much won't eat any other veggies (will try but then spit out).
Try adding pureed carrots or squash to pasta sauce. Make english muffin pizzas with the pureed veggies added in. Give her peanut butter and jelly or just peanut butter on bread if she likes that. Some days my daughter will eat yogurt or pudding and fruit and that is it for a meal! She also loves lunchmeat (especially ham and fat free bologna!).
Quesadillas are a good idea as are grilled cheese. I often find that if I don't push the issue with food, she'll be more apt to eat or at least try it!
T.F. answers from San Diego on April 28, 2010
I just feed my son what we are having for dinner. The only time a substitue something is if we are having steak because he doesn't like the texture so on those few nights he will get leftovers from the night before or a grilled cheese. I think it goes back to him just starting on table food. Since he could eat table food he has been eating what we ate. I would just put it in the food processor so it was choped up really small. I agree with all the other posts if they are hungry they will eat!
J.P. answers from Boise on April 28, 2010
I'm so glad that you asked this question. I was googling the topic this morning, but didn't get very far. My son doesn't eat pasta at home, and has never touched mac and cheese. We are stuck in a rut of chicken nuggets, grilled cheese, fish sticks, and hotdogs. I will be coming back to this to see if you get some good suggestions. Thanks!!
Update: I realize that all the prepared foods aren't ideal, but I have about 15-30 minutes to prepare dinner for him after I get both of us home after work. I don't have enough time to make dinner for my husband and I AND get to spend some time with my son too, so yes, I do do the separate meals during the week. These always include fruits and/or veggies, but it is the main dish that we have trouble with. We have tried the leftovers of our meals, but he usually doesn't eat that part, and after 2-3 days of just having fruit for dinner, I break down and give him the junk again, just to get something in him. Thank you for the suggestions that have been given.
J.V. answers from Lansing on April 28, 2010
LOL...what your not making cities out of your kids food?? My kids were always picky eaters drove me nuts! They do grow out of it! Doctor always said feed them what they'll eat. Ad L. things to there dinner trays that they may or may not try. Eat dinner with them if they see you eating all different foods I think they are a L. more inclined to try it. If my kids were staring at me while I ate I ask them wanna bite? There tastes for different foods improved just from that. A lot of products are helping with this delima already. Ragu makes a spagetti sauce that is full of vegtables, and you can't tell from the taste. Chef Boy Arde has a couple of things too. Pre packaged carrots and apples ect.
Make sure they are taking a good multi vitiam to make up for things that aren't getting from their diet yet. Good luck!
A.A. answers from Chicago on April 28, 2010
What are you eating for meals? Unless you're drinking you lunch via a martini, then baby has whatever mama is having =) No need for separate meals--you are training your child to be picky and treat you as a short order cook. Trust me this will get old fast--especially with baby #2 going to table food in the next couple months. Save yourself the trouble and serve them whatever you would like to eat. If they don't eat it, fine--they don't eat. Trust me they won't starve.
M.L. answers from Erie on April 29, 2010
Ditto on the V8 Fusion juice! I have a hard time getting my 3 year old to eat his veggies too but he LOVES to drink his "berry juice"! I also fake him out by adding pureed veggies/fruits into his every day favs like mac & cheese & squash. He never knows it's in there! I also do sweet potato fries...he loves those. And thanks to watching the Wonder Pets on Nick Jr, he loves celery! So there are things that he will eat, but you'd be surprised on how much you can mix into foods and she'd never know :) Also, it's totally typical for kids this age to go through this phase. I think we went a month or so where mine would only eat chicken nuggets. It'll pass!