What I Ate: With a Picky Toddler

How is it Wednesday already? Post-holiday weeks usually feel slow to me, but for some reason this one is flying by!

As usual, I’m still trying to figure out how to get my picky toddler to eat a larger variety of foods. As you may recall, he used to be the BEST eater as a 12-month-old and 16-month-old. He’d eat almost any food I put in front of him, until he turned 2. It’s like he knew he was supposed to become a “picky toddler” overnight.

toddler eating a muffin

If it were up to him, my son would only eat grilled cheese sandwiches, toast with nut butter, and peanut butter oat balls. I had hoped he would just grow out of it, but after nearly 4 months of letting him have these things on a regular basis, we finally decided to just cut him off! We no longer keep bread in the house, so he has no choice but to eat more nutrient-rich options. And you know what? I think he only whined about it once– I was afraid it would be a much bigger tantrum!

Now, his favorite options include applesauce, goat’s milk yogurt, fresh fruit, raw tahini by the spoonful (weirdo), smoothies, raw cheese, and anything he sees me or his dad eating. We do let him have a grilled cheese or toast if we go to a restaurant over the weekend, but it’s nice to have it limited to once a week so I can squeeze in more nutrient-dense foods the rest of the time!

Here’s a peek at what our days have looked like lately:

raspberries, pear slices, and quinoa fried rice

Morning: I usually try to start the day with fresh fruit or smoothies, and sometimes both! This week, my son has been asking for “ice cream” (which is what he calls goat yogurt) but I had run out, so I offered him “green ice cream” instead– a.k.a. a smoothie in a bowl. These days he has only been taking a few sips of smoothies before losing interest, but somehow when I put them in a bowl they become magically more appealing! He requested two bowls before he was ready to move on, so I’ll consider that a huge win! I had to eat my smoothie from a bowl, too, which was a nice change.

Later, I ate an entire box of fresh raspberries, hoping he’d want one, but he hasn’t quite warmed up to those yet. I also cut-up two pears which are much more appealing to the little guy, and I think we both ended up eating a whole pear each.

Afternoon: For lunch, I made a large salad topped with strawberries, cucumbers and avocado, topped with a shallot dressing from my cookbook. Followed by a veggie “hash” topped with baked eggs. (I bake them long enough so that the yolk isn’t runny– I hate runny eggs!) My son wanted his own plate of the hash, but I think most of the bites he took were only pretend…

Late Afternoon: I had to run to the grocery store, and ended up making an impulse purchase of pre-cut watermelon as a car snack for the drive home. I ate almost the whole container before I parked in my driveway! We also had to sample a new attempt at a banana “cream” pie that I had made the evening before. (It was honestly just okay– not great.)

Dinner: For dinner, I whipped up a batch of my One Pot Quinoa Fried Rice, a recipe which will be in my next cookbook (the new book is focused on all things fast and easy, because that what I need these days). It’s so hearty, and my son will even eat it– so that’s saying something.

On days when my son won’t eat the dinner offered, we still try to insist that he sit at the table with us and eat an orange (or whatever fruit is in the bowl on the table) or some sliced raw cheese. He’s happy with both of those options, and it’s no extra work in the kitchen for me. Win win.

Reader Feedback: What are YOU eating this week? If you have a kid(s), what are their favorite foods to eat these days? I’m always looking for new ideas and tips!

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Comments

Maria

I’ve worked hard to set up good eating habits with my 2 year old but ever since having my second child a few weeks ago things have not been the same! There have been some nights when she’s had a bowl of blueberries and a flour tortilla for dinner. I keep encouraging her to have at least one bite of what we’re eating in the hopes that she’ll eventually come back around. Our doc says to just keep exposing her to a variety of good foods and so they’ll be familiar when this stage passes.

Karen

I don’t know if this is new to anyone or not but I use purees quite a bit in cooking and baking. A. Idea I learned From Jessica Seinfelds cookbooks. Basically I buy extra vegetables when they are on sale, lightly steam them then purée them. I label and date them and freeze them in 1/2 cup portions in freezer bags. (Silicone muffin cups would prob be best though). Defrost them, cut the corner off and squeeze it out when I need them. Carrot purée goes well to naturally sweeten tomatoe sauces. Butternut squash or sweet potatoe purees go well with orange sauces like Mac and cheese. Spinach and broccoli go well With green or brown things. Zucchini blends in seemlessly with almost everything (especially if pealed) but is my go to veg I use to mix in with my sons applesauce. Basically it’s all following the colour wheel and tasting as you go so it doesn’t change flavour or the asthetic Appeal of what you are making. So recently I made home made chicken nuggets but mixed cauliflower purée in with the egg wash. The. I froze the nuggets so I have then already Cooked and ready. I also shred a lot of vegetables and mix it in with things because it is harder to pick it out. If my son doesn’t finish his food. I save it for his snack.

sara

A wonderful book to read regarding kids at the “picky” stage is called “French kids eat everything” by Karen Le Billon. Highly recommend reading this book to gain insight into the eating habits of children who used to eat everything and suddenly don’t anymore. It was a game-changer for my 3 kids.

    Laura ~ RYG

    Heading to Amazon to check out that book! My kids were very much like yours Megan, at first would eat anything and then 2 came and the game changer. One thing that frustrated me was like you, I just stopped keeping bad things like bread in the house, so when the tantrums came, I wouldn’t be tempted to give in. But I couldn’t control the snacks the girls got at church (Teddy Grahams & Fish Crackers) They’d be so stuffed that they come home and not eat a good lunch! Bleh.

    Jen

    Yes!! Love that book too! Whenever people ask me what my favorite “baby” book is to read I tell them that one, even though its not about babies. My biggest thing that I think helps is that we don’t snack really. We have 4 times we eat. My 3.5 year old snacks only when at preschool or somewhere. Then I know he’s legit hungry at meals. (And it makes me snack less too). He still has his picky moments for sure!!

Melissa

Ahhhhh, your son is so cute! My daughter is also 2, she begged me for goji berries today at the store, she loves them…. I’m glad she thinks they are a “treat”!
She also eats sundried tomatoes right out of the bag (very weird). And is currently obsessed with your raw fudge!

Thanks for another great post! I can’t wait for your next book! Many days I realize that I have eaten breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all from your book or blog!

Christine

Lol–weirdo indeed. Tahini by itself? I don’t think so! 😉
Thank you for sharing–it looks and sounds yummy!

Milissa

It can be soooo frustrating for a mom when, despite our best efforts, our kids start refusing the healthy food we want them to eat. But, alas, pretty much all kids go through it! I’ve decided if my children are healthy and happy wth lot of energy and not losing weight, it’s all ok…weird thing, though, is that my 3 year old rarely refuses fruit or veggies! She rarely does smoothies anymore but loves all fruit. Her favorite lunch is broccoli and cauliflower florets with hummus and a side of fresh berries or a peeled clementine! My10 year old has tried to be picky since we switched to an almost completely plant-based diet at home, but she has a sensitive stomach. So when she’s not making healthy choices, she gets sick. It’s terribl but it’s a good incentive for her to make better food choices. She LOVES fresh cucumbers and grape tomatoes with ranch dressing or hummus, any fresh fruit and smoothies, provided they’d don’t contain bananas as she is allergic to raw bananas. She also loves fresh dates stuffed with almond butter. They both love raw nuts such as cashews, almonds and walnuts. It’s a daily challenge to think up healthy meal and snack ideas they will eat and sometimes I feel like giving up but I never will! 🙂

Dana

My 3 year old will eat almost anything (peppers, onions, broccoli, black beans) if I put it in a quesadilla, melt a little cheese with it and offer some smashed avocado as “dip”. I most often use Ezekiel brand tortilla shells. I also add chopped fresh spinach to almost everything so he expects it. Sometimes he gets whiney and doesn’t want what’s offered so we talk about how it will help keep him healthy & strong. Often he’ll ask halfway through meals if we can tell his muscles are getting stronger from all the nutrition…. and then he flexes. Ha!

Sara Maples

Wow – what an achievement. That is so great that he is starting to eat different foods.

Karen

My now three year old became a picky eater overnight when she was two and a half. I remember fondly how proud I was that she gobbled up kale and leek frittata at 18months. Now she won’t eat a single vegetable. Thank goodness she’ll still eat fruit. But even that she seems to be boycotting whatever fruit I’ve purchased that week. If I buy apples – she only wants strawberries. If I buy strawberries the next week – she “doesn’t like strawberries”.

Your post has inspired me to stop buying the ‘junk’ that she seems to live on now. It’s definitely not junk food – but it’s not the most nutrient dense food either. Thanks!

Kezia @ Super Naturally Healthy

I have been eating lots of green smoothie, chai green tea (which I am loving) and lots of leeks as we got tons in our veg box! Plus some homemade cookies too as finalising recipes for my next ebook 😉

Christina

My daughter was the same way – eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables until she turned 2 and then she suddenly wanted nothing but grilled cheese and pizza. We got around it a good bit by starting a garden. Anything that was growing in the garden, she would eat – even if from the market she refused to. I also started giving her freeze dried fruits, which she became obsessed with. They are pretty expensive in the little bags from Whole Foods, so I have been buying them in bulk online. Now that she’s 6, she’s really coming back to being interested in the healthy stuff and understands why it is important for her body. Except for the occasional restaurant where we will let her have grilled cheese, she is back to a vegetable-centric diet. Although, she still won’t drink green juice or smoothies more than a few sips.

Yvette

I’m so glad these mom’s are being intentional at a young age. Keep up the great effort and don’t quit. I believe It will pay off in the end. I started off very intentional with my first two children. They are now older teens and eat a pretty good variety of fruit and veggies. My third child is an ok eater, but my youngest is 10 and will hardly eat anything healthy. So, what do you do with an extremely picky older eater? My biggest challenge is at school the other kids eat tons of junk and unhealthy food around her everyday. I have tried to make the same or similar things in a healthier version, but she does not want it. Any suggestions?

    Karen

    I’m dreading school age. I’m not there yet. My son is only 2. I don’t think you can change social pressure or unhealthy food environments for your kids unless you keep them in a bubble. The only thing i can think of is 1. Don’t give them lunch money. Make lunches at home. And 2. I don’t think being overly strict with kids and their diets convinces them in the long run to make healthy choices on their own. All I can think you can do is guide them. ReInforce healthy eating whenever possible. And be firm in your values of importance of healthy eating but reasonable 3. Realize healthy eating is a journey for everyone. Including our kids. They won’t always make smart decisions. But have faith that your teachings will carry them through. I myself didn’t care about health and food until I became body conscious in high school. And it took a long time before I came to my own general definition of healthy eating was to me. A really good book I started reading from the library is called “It’s not about the broccoli” by Dina rose. She looks at eating from a sociological perspective and how to inforce healthy eating habits from a sociological perspective. It helped me to shift my focus of teaching healthy habits rather than being stressed out about their micro and macro nutrient intake.

      Karen

      I’m rereadig what I wrote. I shouldn’t say “don’t give kids lunch money”. I think if you want something done right do it yourself as much as possible that way. But in no means is any of my advice meant to guilt. Again. I’m not where you are yet. this is my own plan of attack to how I’m going to deal with school and health and my own thoughts on it.

Lynn @ The Actor's Diet

I love that “ice cream” is code for goat yogurt!

Colette

Can you please share your veggie hash recipe? Yum! Also could you try making a healthy raspberry sherbert recipe? Thank you so much, Megan!

Efe

Your son wants high-fat foods which is normal because he is growing rapidly. I suggest you feed him avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, nut butters, mix ground flax/chia/hemp seeds in his food. You mention high nutrient foods. I’d advice you to check Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s work. He calls his diet a “nutritarian” diet. He has plenty of videos on youtube as well.

https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article17.aspx

Jamie

One thing my son loved when he was a toddler was kidney beans!! We probably went through 500 cans of kidney beans – I would just rinse them & he would eat them plain. I would make him little “nosh trays” by taking a muffin tin & filling each section up with something yummy… apple slices, kidney beans, kalamata olives, raw veggies & fruits, nuts, etc. Now he’s almost 13, and he basically never stops eating, which might stem from 3 hours of soccer practice most days. 😉 But seriously, pretty soon you will be buying massive quantities of food at Costco, none of which will ever fill him up, and you will seriously wonder if he has a tape worm. I just try to keep it mostly healthy – tons of raw fruits & vegetables at every meal, lots of huge green smoothies, etc – and I don’t sweat the other stuff he eats that I can’t control… in fact, I want him to get used to making his own choices & being mindful of how he feels. He begs for green smoothies every day, and half the time he doesn’t even bother asking to eat the crap soccer snacks that some of the parents bring for post-game, so I consider that a win. (Cosmic Brownies + Gatorade at 10AM? Really people????)

Talitha

You’re doing great! My three kids went through phases, and in the middle of such a phase I would despair and think all was lost. Don’t despair! It does get better again! There is no one size fits all families magic formula, just hang in there and keep doing what works best for your family. And. Don’t. Despair… ?

Jen

Thank you for posting things like this! I know you have mentioned you aren’t a “mom blog” so you don’t always post kid things. But It’s so great to get ideas for my super picky toddler too (who also used to be the best eater). My son LOVED your Mexican Pilaf from Everyday Detox and I am so excited to try more veggie recipes!

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