Thursday, 9 February 2012

Coping with Fussy Babies and Toddlers

One of the most common things I read on forums is "my child won't eat fruit and vegetables".  I've been really lucky with my son that he pretty much eats all of my creations but he does have days where he shuns the green stuff.  On Tuesday he even decided he'd gone off carrots which is probably his favourite vegetable.  But kids do this, it's normal.  Teething, colds, tiredness, a bad mood; all of these can put a child off track.  I am no expert but I suspect some problems start because parents stop offering.

I took part in a twitter discussion the other day hosted by @TheFoodCoachRD.  I've got no idea whether my suggestions were seen as good ones by a qualified dietitian but one of the suggestions I had was to hide fruit and vegetables.  Now, I don't mean "all the time".  I think it's really important to offer fruit and vegetables in their natural forms to avoid them being shunned forever but I also see nothing wrong with sneaking in a few fruit and vegetables into meals as an insurance policy either.  It's also not a bad idea as you get older.  Meat is often more expensive than fruit and vegetables and you can often get a better overall nutritional balance in a dish by adding some fruit or veg.

So here are a few of my favourite 'hidden' fruit and vegetable recipes which have been a success with my son.  Most of them are hugely adaptable too depending on what you have in your fridge or cupboard.

1.  Mini meatloaves.  I've made lots of variations of these.  Beef and courgette, Beef and Pepper (capsicum), Beef, potato and apple or Turkey and courgette.  I even made some with pork and grated mushroom ones the other day but it was pretty much the same idea so it seemed pointless to post.  Basically they're pretty adaptable, take a look what's in your fridge and get going!  Including some grated or chopped vegetables, they turn out to be a little softer than meat on their own would be which makes them more suitable for younger babies.

2.  Pancakes.  Traditionally not great on the nutritional front but if you include some banana, apple or pear, why not?  If you think about it they're cooked in a smear of butter and I would serve them plain (no syrup for babies or toddlers).  If you ate a slice of toast instead, not only would it have more fat on it but also no fruit so not the worst idea in the world.  I also find they're great as a pudding option too which when you consider you're substituting it for a sugary treat, it makes it a pretty good idea.

3.  Bolognaise.  You can sneak some fantastically nutritious ingredients into a bolognaise.  I normally include livers which are great for vitamin A and iron but courgettes, mushrooms and carrots can also bulk out the tomatoey sauce.

4.  Mini muffins.  There are sweet options like my sweet potato muffins which contain vegetables and dried fruit or why not try a savoury spinach and feta muffin?

5.  Pastry tarts.  There's a tomato and goat's cheese tart or why not an apple 'jam' tart without the jam?  I don't think we should be afraid of stronger flavours like goat's cheese, after all, my 21 month old will happily eat Parmesan on it's own all day if I'd let him (which I don't.)

6.  Pasta.  Kids love pasta.  Generally anyway.  There are loads of things you could try but I find a bit of cream cheese and cheddar makes some vegetables a bit more interesting.  One of the first recipes I posted was for mushroom pasta and spinach pasta but you could also do salmon pasta; great for omega 3.

7. Haricot bean and mushroom gratin.  It's easy to forget that dried pulses (or their canned counterparts) can count towards your 5 a day (for one portion).  Great for fibre content and the mushrooms in this dish mean you've ticked two of the 5 off before you even think about vegetable accompaniments.

8.  Risottos.  A delicious way to sneak in some vegetables and my slow cooker method for butternut squash risotto takes out the stirring.

9.  Bubble and squeak; a great way to use up leftovers and my son spits out sprouts if I serve them any other way.  He is of course wrong.  Brussel sprouts rock!

10.  Savoury welsh cakes a touch of slightly wacky inspiration but pretty successful I feel.

So I hope that's given you some inspiration if you're despairing of your baby or child's lack of love for the fruit or vegetable world.  Keep with it, most kids go through their fussy stages at some point so I'm told.

In other news, I've been featured in a couple of blog carnivals; family budgeting have featured me in their blog carnival on thrift and Mid 30's life featured me in their blog carnival.  It's cool to be featured on other people's sites and I really appreciate other people welcoming me into their internet 'space'!  If you've stumbled over here by way of their sites, thank you for reading further and I hope you enjoy!


  1. It was my pleasure! Great post, I especially love the sound of the slow cooked risotto. I am unnaturally obsessed with my crock pot so I will try that out.

  2. Thanks, I hope you enjoy, I'm not 100% sure my slow cooked risotto is perfect, but my son certainly loved it and I mean loooooved it!

  3. My goodness they all look delicious! I know that you were my mom I'd eat everything you give me :)

    1. Ha, ha! Can you tell him that? No, he has his days like every other child!

  4. I so agree with you, could have written this post!!
    What is also a great hit here, is spinach pancakes. Just add some finely chopped spinach to the batter.
    It works with many other veg, courgette, betroot, all sorts of veg, pureed, chopped or grated.great wih cream chees and some rocket (to add some 'real' veg)

    1. My son is a bit poorly sick at the mo and I made him some courgette and parsley pancakes yesterday. I think he's a touch weirded out by the savoury but I'm going to keep trying!

  5. Oh, and the other one is all sorts of fritters, you can sneak anything into those!

    1. Oooh do you have a recipe?

    2. Will do one on my site soon. But basically grated veg, with some egg and a little bit of flour to keep it together. Great with courgette, carrot, sweet or regular potato, etc.
      Or puree broad beans and make into a paste with again some egg, flour. spice with cumin and coriander.
      Shallow fry in some oil.

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