Save Kids International
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Learning to love food
Your toddler needs plenty of variety and lots of different nutrients from fresh, natural foods. Encourage your little one to try new foods regularly, and to enjoy versions of healthy family meals, and she’ll soon be on her way to establishing healthy eating patterns-and learning to love great food!
What does a varied “toddler” diet mean?
A varied diet includes a variety of different foods. We know that kids need the basics of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and vitamins and minerals, and the best way to ensure that they get what they need is to offer as many different foods as often as possible.
How many servings of carbohydrates does my toddler need each day?
Try to ensure that every meal has at least one or two servings of carbohydrates, and that your child has at least one or two carb-rich snacks as well. Add a little mashed potato, some couscous, pasta, quinoa, or rice to his main meal, alongside fresh vegetables (which are also rich in carbohydrates). Also offer toast, oatmeal, or cereal with breakfast, and perhaps some breadsticks and fresh fruit at snack time. Sandwiches, pasta dishes, risottos, and baked potatoes are also high in carbohydrates.
Are there any grains that are too harsh for my toddler’s digestion?
Whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oats, millet, and corn are good sources of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and are a great addition to a toddler’s diet. It is, however, better to stick to small portions because they are rich in fiber and can fill up little tummies very quickly. Too much fiber increases the speed at which foods are digested, which can lead to inadequate intake of some nutrients.
How can I persuade my toddler to eat meat?
Often it’s the texture rather than the taste of the meat that toddlers object to. Minced meat is good for little ones; make sure you choose lean mince. When making dishes such as Bolognese or shepherd’s pie, I often brown the minced meat and then chop it for a few seconds in a blender, so it has a less lumpy texture. Combining a tasty minced meat with a mashed potato and carrot topping, or mixing it with pasta, are other good ways to make
it easier to eat. You can also encourage your toddler to enjoy eating meat or chicken by making mini-meatballs that he can pick up with his fingers. My recipe for Chicken meatballs on page 216 contains sautéed red onion, carrot, and apple, so is very tasty and appealing to little children. These can also be made using minced beef. Also consider adding tiny pieces of meat to pastas or risottos, where they aren’t quite so overwhelming.
If your child is still resistant to eating meat, don’t despair. Pulses such as chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans, peas, and lentils can all be added to soups, stews, casseroles, or pasta dishes to provide a good source of protein; they can even be offered on their own, as they are easy for little fingers to manage. Rice and whole grains, such as barley, wheat, buckwheat, corn, and oats, are also high in protein, as are nut butters or ground nuts, seeds and quinoa, which can be eaten on their own, or added to your child’s favorite dish.
A little hummus with some whole-grain toast, for example, is a good protein-based snack. Don’t forget, too, that eggs and dairy products are as high in protein as meat, so a scrambled egg with a little grated cheese will be a perfect high-protein meal.
Do toddlers need five servings of fruits and vegetables every day?
Toddlers need at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but it doesn’t need to be as daunting as it sounds! At this age, a serving is roughly what your toddler can hold in her hand. So a couple of grapes, a few pieces of apple, or a tablespoon of corn or peas will count as one serving. Vegetables blended into pasta sauces, and hidden in dishes such as spinach and ricotta lasagna or butternut squash risotto, are other good ways to get your toddler to eat her veggies. Potatoes don’t count, but sweet potatoes and carrots do, so mash potatoes with these as a topping for cottage pie. A handful of berries or dried fruit, such as raisins or apricots, make good snacks, and you can sprinkle oatmeal or breakfast cereal with berries. A small glass of fruit juice or a smoothie also count as a serving. Homemade fresh fruit popsicles are another tasty way to get your little one to eat more fruit. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables are best for your child as the pigment contains antioxidants, so make sure there is plenty of color on your child’s plate.
* Mix and match
The wider the range of foods you offer the better. Wheat-based pastas or breads offer a good source of carbohydrates, but also include different forms, such as rice, potatoes, and different grains (buckwheat, oats, etc.) from time to time. Offer vegetarian proteins such as tofu or lentils at one meal, and fish or chicken at the next. Experiment with the whole spectrum of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, ensuring you toddler gets all the key nutrients she needs.
Why are fruits and vegetables so important?
It probably goes without saying that fruits and vegetables contain most of the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for your child to grow and develop, and to remain healthy and full of energy. They contain fiber, which encourages healthy digestion and normal bowel movements, and also antioxidants that are vital for good health, and can prevent many health problems. The secret is to go for variety-and plenty of color- which will ensure your toddler gets the whole spectrum of nutrients she needs. A sweet potato or some butternut squash makes a great alternative to an ordinary baked potato, and a handful of berries, or a piece of fresh, ripe melon, or mango, can offer a fantastic nutrient boost. If it’s bright, it’s bound to be healthy! Berries are particularly good as they are rich in vitamin C, which helps us absorb iron from our food.
My child eats no fruit or vegetables at all, but drinks a lot of juice. Is this enough for his five servings a day?
Juice is a good way to get a serving of fruit or vegetables into a fussy eater, but it isn’t really enough. For one thing, juice contains no fiber, which is important for healthy digestion and bowel movements. Secondly, even the freshest, pure juices contain high levels of natural sugars, which can not only damage your toddler’s teeth and encourage a sweet tooth, but wreak havoc with his blood sugar levels. What’s more, his little tummy may be filled by even small servings of juice, preventing him from eating a healthy, balanced main meal.
If he’s keen on juice, I suggest looking for some fresh fruit and vegetable blends, preferably with “bits,” which do at least offer a little fiber. Always dilute your toddler’s juice, and offer it after he’s eaten a meal, when it will add to his overall nutrient intake, keep him hydrated, and help the absorption of iron in his food. It is, however, a very good idea to work on including vegetables and fruit in his daily diet, even if you have to hide them. For some good ideas, see right.
Did you know...?
That juicing fruits and vegetables can help to ensure your toddler eats a good variety and might also help her to become accustomed to new tastes while getting a good boost of nutrients at the same time? Try blending carrots and oranges, or celery, apple, and cucumber. Apricots, peaches, mangoes, berries, or pears can add sweetness to red pepper, carrots, or beets, and make a nutritious combination of ingredients that your toddler may not consider eating on their own.
My toddler’s diet seems to consist of three or four favorites, but these include just two fruits. Is this enough or does she need more variety?
Most little ones have particular favorites, and are reluctant to try new foods, particularly in the fruit and vegetable range! If she’s eating three or four different fruits and vegetables regularly, it’s likely that she will be getting a fairly good range of nutrients. It does, of course, depend on what these are! For example, if she eats only peas, corn, apples, and bananas, she’ll be missing out on some of the essential vitamins and minerals-in particular, antioxidants-found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. It’s worth trying to include more of these whenever possible, even if you have to purée them into soups or pasta dishes until she acquires a taste for them. Continue to offer a variety of foods at mealtimes. Make food look appealing-how about threading some bite-sized pieces of fruit onto a straw? What’s more, it sometimes helps to sneak a new food into a plate of favorites without drawing attention to it. Curiosity or hunger may win out. Also consider offering “tapas”-sized bits of new fruits and vegetables, with a favorite dip to try with them. Serve different fruits and vegetables to the whole family, too, and make a good show of enjoying them. Your little one will want to be part of the fun and may just give them a go.
My toddler doesn’t like the consistency of vegetables and fruit. Are purées OK at this age?
Many little ones find the crunchy texture difficult to manage, and may even gag on small pieces, particularly if their introduction to “lumps” was later than usual. While it’s important to encourage toddlers to develop their chewing and swallowing skills, it is equally important to ensure that they are getting the vitamins and minerals they need. Try cooking food to a slightly softer texture, and mashing rather than puréeing it. Blend his usual purées with some lumpier foods that he loves, such as tiny pasta shapes, and continue to offer tempting fruit and vegetable finger foods too. There’s no reason why some of his food can’t be puréed, but blend it for a shorter period of time each time you present it. If your little one continues to gag and object to lumps, it’s worth visiting your doctor, to reassure yourself that all is well.
- Juicy nutrients
If you’re struggling to get fruit into your little one, why not try stirring puréed and finely chopped fruit into sugar-free jelly (replacing half the water content with fruit)? Or freeze an exotic smoothie with a little yogurt and runny honey in ice cube trays for a delicious frozen sorbet.
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Finger foods aren’t just snacks or incidental additions to your toddler’s diet. You can supplement even the fussiest toddler’s menu with appealing goodies that will both add nutritional value and encourage her to learn the skills of independent eating.
How can I encourage my child to eat foods with different consistencies?
Some little ones find the transition from purées to lumps, and then to mashed, chopped, and cut food more difficult than others, and may be reluctant to eat meals that require chewing. In some cases, it comes down to laziness, or it may be that weaning took place a little later than usual. It is important that you continue to introduce foods with different textures. One of the best ways to do this is to offer what is effectively a balanced selection of finger foods at every meal, so everything he eats must be chewed, with no purées at all. For example, offer peas, sweet potato cubes, strips of chicken, and chunks of steamed new potatoes, or rice with fish balls and steamed broccoli. Many children seem to find it easier to move straight on to this “real food,” rather than progressing through different textures.
How small should I mash or chop foods for my toddler?
Once your toddler has some teeth, she can manage most soft foods that have been diced, grated, or mashed. In fact even without teeth it is surprising what a set of gums can munch their way through. Certainly by 12 to 18 months, your toddler should be able to enjoy a variety of different finger foods, which can be incorporated into his regular meals. As long as the food isn’t too tough, which may be beyond the capabilities of little teeth and gums, small pieces of most foods can be managed easily. If your child gags or has trouble managing diced foods, try making the pieces a little smaller until he’s more adept at chewing. I often find it useful to whiz tougher cuts of meat in a grinder for a few seconds, to smooth out some of the lumps and bumps, and make them a little softer for little ones. Use your ”ground” meats as a base for any meat dish, including pasta sauces, casseroles, or dishes such as Chicken meatballs and Funny-face hamburgers. You can also try increasing the chunks in the foods that he already loves and is most familiar with, where they will not be so readily noticed or identified!
My toddler still refuses to eat anything with lumps-what can I do?
Some babies and toddlers, particularly those who have been weaned onto jarred baby foods, tend to like things smooth! They can often develop the most amazing ability to filter out every single lump and spit them out. Some little ones simply gag because it’s taken them a little longer to develop the knack of chewing things well enough to make them easily swallowed. You should visit your doctor, however, if your toddler regularly gags or refuses lumps, as there may be a physical cause at the root. There are a few ways you can help your child to accept lumpy food. First of all, don’t force it. If your toddler senses that you are angry or anxious, he’ll begin to find the whole experience of eating traumatic, and may literally gag or choke on even the tiniest lumps because he feels under pressure.
Slowly increase the lumpiness of his food, and allow him to play messily with it. Babies and toddlers tend to prefer overall lumpiness to something smooth with the occasional lump, so pasta stirred into a favorite purée is a good way to introduce more texture.
Also offer finger foods alongside his meals. Start with soft foods, such as steamed carrots and broccoli or avocado, and move on to slightly harder foods, such as toast fingers and well-cooked pasta shapes, before he’s comfortable with chewing, when you can introduce cubes of soft cheese, dried apricots, and chunks of meat, for example.
Once your toddler starts to experiment a little and becomes more comfortable with lumps, it’s a good idea to encourage him to stir “lumpy” ingredients into his foods, such as raisins into cereal, or to dip finger foods into purées. Over time, all will be well.
What are the best finger foods for this age group?
A Incorporating as many different food groups as you can will make a big difference to the number of nutrients your toddler gets. Raw vegetables, such as carrot sticks, cucumber, or strips of red pepper, are often more popular than cooked. Try some more unusual vegetables, too. Crunchy sugar snap peas are delicious-serve them with hummus. Berries, grapes, mango, apple, and banana are all healthy snacks. You can also make fresh fruit popsicles by blending fruits together with fruit juice or yogurt and freezing in mini-popsicle molds-chewing on something cold will also help relieve your toddler’s sore gums. For wholesome carbohydrates, choose breadsticks, whole wheat toast fingers, finger sandwiches, flapjacks, rice cakes, healthy breakfast cereals, and well-cooked pasta. As long as there is no risk of choking, anything goes!
- Finger food dips
Make a dip for dipping vegetable batons by blending together 41⁄2oz (125g) cottage cheese, 2 tbsp mayonnaise, a heaping tablespoon ketchup, and a squeeze of lemon juice. For a more fruity dip, blend together a little cottage cheese with some sugar, a few drops of vanilla, and some apricot purée.
Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 15 Minutes
Makes: 2 Child Portions
When learning to feed themselves, toddlers can get frustrated with a spoon and fork and prefer to use their fingers, so pasta dishes that are not too “slippery” are ideal. This one includes a delicious and colorful range of vegetables-you can both have lots of fun identifying the colors as your toddler eats.
1⁄2 heaping cup pasta shapes
½ carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 broccoli florets cut in small pieces
2 tsp olive oil
½ yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
¼ small, red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into matchsticks
3 tbsp crème fraîche
1⁄2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (medium or mild, according to preference)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to package directions, adding the carrot and broccoli for the last 3 minutes of the cooking time.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and stir-fry the squash and red pepper until softened and lightly golden, 3-4 minutes.
3. Drain the pasta, carrots, and broccoli and add to the frying pan. Add the crème fraîche and cheeses. Toss everything together over low heat for about 1 minute to heat the crème fraîche and just melt the cheeses. Serve warm. (This dish is not suitable for reheating.)
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Always on the go
Your toddler will be raring to go, and ready to try many new experiences. It isn’t always easy to keep up with an energetic toddler, and to ensure he’s getting all the nutrients he needs. But it’s not as hard as you may think to keep things going on the run, whether he’s in day care, at nursery school, or dining with friends.
How can I be sure my child gets a balanced diet when she is at day care?
It can be difficult to work out what your little one is eating at day care, unless you send her with a packed lunch. Most day cares will happily provide details of the weekly menu plan, and most will contain a good balance of healthy foods. Several studies show that young children can be more adventurous when eating with friends, so she may end up trying and eating a wider variety of foods than she would at home. If she eats all three meals at day care, talk to the staff to see what she is eating regularly, and where the shortfalls might be. If it appears that she isn’t eating well at day care, consider sending in a packed lunch, and ask that anything she doesn’t eat be returned to you so that you can see what is actually going in!
Can you give me some ideas for a fun but nutritious packed lunch?
One of the easiest ways to make sandwiches more interesting is to use different types of bread. Mini-bagels and wraps (flour tortillas) are also good for sandwiches. I like to roll slices of bread with a rolling pin so that it is thinner for sandwiches. You can then use cutters to cut the sandwiches into fun shapes. If your child doesn’t eat sandwiches you could try deconstructing the sandwich and making fillings, such as cream cheese and peanut butter, into dips (stir in a little milk to soften the consistency). Give strips of ham and cheese plus mini-rice cakes, unsalted crackers, or cold cooked pasta to eat with the dips.
As it is often a rush to get yourself and your child out of the house in the morning, each of these can be assembled in less than 10 minutes. To help keep lunches cool, invest in an insulated lunchbox or bag and cold pack that can be frozen every night. Add a juice box each day as fruit juice counts as one of the five-a-day fruit and vegetable requirements. Snack-sized boxes of raisins are also a good addition.
Is it OK to rely on jars occasionally?
There is no reason why the occasional jar of toddler or baby food can’t be used for the sake of convenience. Problems begin when you over-rely on them, or use them exclusively. In this case, babies and toddlers become used to the bland flavors and the over-processed texture, making the transition to family food more difficult.
Why are jarred foods so appealing to babies and toddlers?
First of all, babies who have been weaned on to homemade baby foods don’t seem to have the same interest in jarred foods—probably because they seem tasteless in comparison to their normal fare. However, little ones whose first tastes have come from jars do find them appealing because they are completely unchallenging. The flavors are often bland, they lack the vibrant colors of freshly made fruits and vegetables, and there tends to be little texture. Furthermore, while baby foods for very small babies do not usually contain salt or sugar, jarred foods for toddlers may contain both, as well as other ingredients, such as flavorings, which obviously makes them more attractive.
I have very little time to cook in the evenings, but don’t want to rely on readymade meals. Can you suggest nutritious recipes I can make in a hurry?
Homemade burgers are easy to prepare. It’s a good idea to make a batch of these and freeze them on a tray lined with plastic wrap. Once frozen, wrap each one in plastic wrap and store in freezer bags so that it is easy to take out as many as you need. Grilled chicken yakitori is also a quick, delicious meal for the whole family. Try the Cheese and ham pit-zas, on the following page-these take just 15 minutes, so are the ultimate fast food. Try the very quickto-make Chicken quesadillas, too, which the whole family can enjoy. It’s a fantastic idea to make a large batch of Hidden-vegetable tomato sauce; it can be used in lots of different pasta dishes and as a pizza topping too.
Did you know...?
Those fussy eaters are almost always willing to try new things if their friends are doing so, so why not invite another mom for coffee and add a few different goodies to the menu? Try meeting up with friends and their toddlers at different venues, such as a restaurant or park, to see if this sparks an interest in something your toddler may not have tried before. Picnics with other toddler friends can provide a wonderful opportunity for your little one to try a variety of different finger foods
Toddlers can be notoriously fussy about fish, but most like these baby-sized fish fingers made with tender white fish.
Preparation time: 15 Minutes
Cooking Time: 4-6 Minutes
Makes: 6-8 Child Portions
Toddlers can be notoriously fussy about fish, but most like these baby-sized fish fingers made with tender white fish.
1⁄2 cup dry bread crumbs
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp paprika (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp water
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
8oz fresh white fish fillet, such as cod or sole, cut into little-finger-sized strips (if you are planning to freeze the goujons, be sure the fish has not previously been frozen)
13-4 tbsp sunflower or olive oil, for frying
1. Mix together the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and paprika (if using) and season with pepper. Spread the crumb mixture out on a large plate.
2. Beat the egg in a bowl with the water. Spread the flour out on another large plate.
3. Coat the fish pieces in the flour, then dip in the egg and coat in the bread crumbs. If planning to freeze, lay the coated fish goujons on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If cooking immediately, put them on a plate.
4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Fry the fish goujons until they are golden and the fish is just cooked through, 2-3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels. Check the temperature before serving.
5. To freeze (uncooked), cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and freeze until the fish is firm, which will take 2-3 hours, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. Cook from frozen, adding about 30 seconds per side extra cooking time.
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Preparation Time: 5 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes
Makes: 1 Child Portion
Cheese and ham pit-zas
Pitas make a nice crisp base for pizzas-or pit-was! Try my tomato sauce on page 183 or use a good-quality store-bought sauce. If you only have large pitas, then warm and split one as described in the recipe, and just use one-half. Another good pizza base is a split toasted English muffin. For a vegetarian version, omit the ham.
1 small, round pita bread (about 3in diameter)
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1⁄4 cup shredded mozzarella or Cheddar cheese
½ thin slice of ham, cut into thin strips
1 tsp sliced black olives (optional)
2–3 fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Warm the pita bread in a microwave for about 10 seconds, then carefully split in half to give two thin rounds. Place the pita halves on a baking sheet, crumb side up. Spread tomato sauce over the rounds and scatter on the cheese, ham, and olives, if using.
3. Bake until the cheese has melted and the pita is crisp 9-10 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting each pit-za into four. Scatter a little-torn basil on top to garnish, if desired.
Variations: Toast the pita halves under the broiler, then add the toppings and continue cooking under the broiler until the cheese melts.
For hungry toddlers or older children, use the whole mini-pitas.
Packed lunch ideas
• Cheese or ham sandwiches
• Carrot and cucumber sticks
• Pita bread fingers and hummus
• Fruit yogurt
• Apple slices and grapes
• Smoothie or 100% juice
• Cheese slices cut into shapes plus strips of ham packed into containers
• Mini-rice cakes or unsalted crackers (lightly butter them first, if you like)
• Blueberries or quartered grapes • Oatmeal raisin cookie (or fruit yoghurt)
• Tuna mini-sub-fill a split hot dog bun with 2–3 tbsp drained canned tuna, 2 tsp thick plain yoghurt, 1⁄2 tsp ketchup, 2–3 drops of lemon juice, and 1⁄4 tsp sweet chile sauce (optional)
• Carrot sticks
• Cottage cheese and pineapple container (or fruit yoghurt)
• Cream cheese and fruit wrap-spread 1-2 tbsp cream cheese over a flour tortilla and scatter on small pieces of dried apricots or add a thin layer of good-quality fruit spread. Roll up and cut into 3-4 pieces.
• Cucumber sticks
• Mini-muffin (or fruit yoghurt)
• Peanut butter on a mini-bagel
• Potato salad with chopped ham or chicken
• Apple slices
• Cheese sandwich on whole-grain bread
• Melon and strawberry salad (cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces)
• Fruit yogurt
• Pasta salad with chicken, lightly cooked broccoli, and corn, and a dressing made with 11⁄2 tbsp light olive oil and 1⁄2 tbsp each of honey, soy sauce, and lemon juice
• Probiotic yoghurt drink
• Mini-pack of dried fruit
• Fruit and oat bar
If your child is in a day care facility that requires a packed lunch, or you’re out and about, it can be difficult to come up with ideas. Here are some great lunches that cover all the requirements for a balanced meal.
Flavours from around the world
Family meals offer a great opportunity to encourage your toddler to try new foods and to experiment with new tastes. Too many people assume that babies and toddlers want bland, tasteless meals, when, in fact, most of them love to try new flavours, and have sensitive palates right from the word go.
My toddler’s food seems a little bland. Do you have any ideas to help me spice it up?
The idea that you can’t add herbs and spices to a toddler’s food is long outdated. It’s absolutely fine to experiment with different flavours and textures, to make your toddler’s diet not only more exciting but to introduce her to a more varied diet.
Some little ones might find hot spices difficult to manage, but focusing on more fragrant options, such as coriander, lemongrass, thyme, cardamom, cinnamon, dill, and oregano, are all good options. Consider adding some fruit juice, such as lime, orange, apricot, or even grape, for flavor, or seasoning with a little ground black pepper, some wine (as long as it’s cooked at a high enough temperature to evaporate the alcohol), a little mild curry paste, coconut milk, sweet chile sauce, soy sauce, or garlic. Consider offering some unusual combinations, such as adding fruit to meat or vegetables to puddings; not only will you be bumping up her nutrient intake, but you will be adding flavour, texture, and fibre to old favourites.
The greater the range of flavours to which your toddler is introduced in the early years, the more expansive her palate will be.
How can I encourage my toddler to try new tastes?
The great thing about hungry toddlers is that they’ll normally eat what’s put in front of them. So when your little one is tired out from the time at the park, nursery school, or a play date, have a bowl ready, full of whatever healthy, new tastes you want your child to try.
Eating out with your toddler can be fun, but it’s a good idea to make sure you arrive at the restaurant well before her usual dinner time and to avoid busy periods, which can result in delays. Bring along a selection of finger foods and some distractions, such as crayons, to keep her busy while she waits, and ask for her food to arrive as soon as it’s ready.
What are some good ways to introduce new spices and other tastes?
If your toddler is used to plain purées and bland meals, she may be a little more reluctant to try new tastes. Little ones also have an amazing ability to spot anything that looks different, such as a sprig of dill, or a sprinkling of chopped basil, and may pick out the offending items. At the outset, try using herbs and other spices to flavour food while cooking, and then strain them out before serving. Another option is to purée them into a sauce, so they are not immediately obvious. Once your toddler is accustomed to the taste, you can leave in increasingly larger bits of seasoning, until they are accepted. I find that pesto is popular with little ones; see the recipe opposite.
There are many ways to make meals flavorful, and encouraging an appreciation of different tastes will help your toddler to develop a healthy approach to food in general.
My toddler wants to eat the same food as the rest of the family. Which are family meals appropriate?
Good choices include pasta dishes, such as spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, and macaroni and cheese. Consider trying chicken satays with rice, tiny beef burgers, fish cakes with potato wedges, and a fish pie with a cheese sauce. Simply make sure that salt is kept to a minimum, and everything is cut small and cooked well for your toddler to manage without choking.
Are restaurant meals appropriate for my one-year-old?
Introducing your toddler to different tastes at restaurants is an excellent way to encourage both an appreciation of food and a wider diet. Every different culture uses unique herbs, spices, and other flavourings and, in reality, none of them is inappropriate for little ones. While we might balk at offering a toddler a spicy Indian meal, children around the world are brought up on the similar fare with no ill-effects. I would, however, avoid foods that have high levels of fat, sugar, or salt, are deep-fried or raw or contain MSG (an additive).
Did you know...?
That child love to try food from different cultures? Take your child out and let her try delicious stir-fries, grilled chicken satays with peanut sauce, mild curries, thin-crust vegetable-topped pizzas, spaghetti bolognese, lean chicken kebabs, grilled fish, and breaded fish balls. A word of warning, though: if your child suffers from food allergies, it is often difficult to avoid cross-contamination in some restaurants, so when in doubt, steer clear.
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Pesto pasta with chicken and cherry tomatoes
Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cooking Time: 13-17 Minutes
Serves a family of 4-5
Children seem to love pesto, even those who shy away from green foods! Making your own is easy and it keeps very well, although you can use 1⁄3 cup pesto from a jar instead. Vegetarians can replace the chicken with cubed fresh mozzarella.
10oz pasta, such as farfalle, fusilli, or spaghetti
1oz bunch of fresh basil stems discarded
½ garlic clove
1⁄4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
6 tbsp olive oil, plus 1 tsp extra
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1–2 tbsp boiling water
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 heaping cup cooked chicken,
1. Cook the pasta in boiling water according to the package directions. Meanwhile, make the pesto: Put the basil leaves in a food processor with the garlic. The process to a purée, then add the pine nuts and process until the nuts are minced, stopping and scraping down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary. Keep the motor running and trickle 6 tbsp of the olive oil into the processor.
When all the oil is mixed in, add the Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste, and pulse three or four times to combine. Add just enough boiling water to thin slightly.
2. Drain the pasta and set aside. Put the extra 1 tsp oil in the empty pasta pan and add the tomatoes.
Cook them gently until just softened, 2–3 minutes.
Add the pesto and chicken and heat through for 1–2 minutes (the chicken must be piping hot). Add the cooked, drained pasta and toss everything together. Spoon onto serving plates and serve with extra Parmesan
Lasagna al forno
Nothing is more of a crowd-pleaser than a big dish of baked lasagna-at any age and any time of year! Mixing the meat and cheese sauces may sound odd, but it makes the sauce taste richer.
Preparation Time: 1 Hour
Cooking Time: 35-40 Minutes
Serves a family of 4–5
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
1 red onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3⁄4 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
1 garlic clove, crushed
14oz can crush tomatoes
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
2 tbsp ketchup
1lb ground round
2⁄3 cup beef stock
1 tsp light brown sugar
¼ Tsp dried oregano
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
3⁄4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup cornstarch
21⁄2 cups milk
1⁄2 cup mascarpone
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan and cook the vegetables gently until soft and lightly browned.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and ketchup. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
2. Brown the beef in the pan, then add the tomato mixture, beef stock, sugar, and oregano. Simmer until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste.
3. Make the cheese sauce by mixing the cornstarch in a saucepan with a little of the milk until smooth. Whisk in the remaining milk. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking, until thick, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
4. Lightly oil a large rectangular baking dish (about 11 x 7 inches). Mix half of the cheese sauce into the meat sauce. Spread 2 tbsp of the remaining cheese sauce over the bottom of the dish, and then put on a layer of three lasagna sheets. Spoon half of the meat mixture over this, and then add another layer of pasta. Spoon the remaining meat mixture on the pasta and top with a final layer of pasta. Cover with the remaining cheese sauce and scatter the grated cheeses over the surface.
5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the lasagna until golden brown on top and cooked through, 35-40 minutes. Test by inserting a knife down through the centre; you should feel no resistance.
Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
6. The unbaked lasagna can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. It can also be frozen wrapped well in foil; when needed, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. To bake chilled or thawed lasagna, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for 40 minutes, and then increase the oven to 400°F and bake until golden brown on top and piping hot, about 10 minutes longer. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.