Author Topic: How to have better meals for 2yo  (Read 1540 times)

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Offline -Maya-

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How to have better meals for 2yo
« on: May 14, 2016, 12:23:23 pm »
Hello ladies
I need some support to improve ds meals. I am still spoon feeding him for most of his meals and he also eats mainly pureed food.
Both dh and I are picky eaters and we were much worse when young, so I am so annoyed to be leading on the same path.

When with us, ds is spoon feed and he wants to watch videos during meals. He has almost no interest in what we eat and putting food on his tray has no effect. He eats non pureed food only when we give him cookies, parmesan cheese, pasta, bread and  breadsticks. Or salted junk food like tacos. When at grannies he eats slightly better, at least with no video on, but still mainly pureed food.

What should I do to slowly encourage good eating habits? I need something gradual because this approach works best with ds. Also suggestions on books to read are welcome!

Offline deb

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2016, 13:28:23 pm »
Well.... you might not like it, but what he sees he will want for himself, so making sure he sees you and DH eating healthy food and enjoying it is key. Having him help (or even pretend to help) selecting and preparing food can help kids be more open to trying new foods: let him help choose groceries in the store, smell herbs and spices, taste sauces (even help stir!). You can try adding pureed veg to sauces; I was able to add quite a lot of chopped kale and spinach to tomato sauce and pesto before anyone noticed. :D Sauces can also be spread on bread (or bread dipped in sauce); if he sees you and DH do this, again, he's more likely to imitate and be open to doing it himself rather than needing to be persuaded or coerced. Will he eat cheese in chunks or strips? How about yogurt? And yogurt can be mixed with fruit or you can mix with some veg for a more savoury dish; I used to add squash with cinnamon or sometimes curry powder to yogurt, although carrots and pumpkin work that way too, and cucumbers in yogurt is a nice treat. At this point, water to drink for most meals, or milk; if you give juice, I'd dilute it by half with water (it can be VERY high in sugar!).

And I would also get rid of the video during meal times, make those times only for eating, for everyone. Paying attention to the meal, make it less passive, give him the opportunity to do more of the feeding.

Offline ~*Nicole*~

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2016, 17:39:37 pm »
I agree with everything deb said, especially about modeling and ditching the videos. Your LO is very likely to throw a fit though. Most LOs don't love change! That being said, I'd prepare all the food you want to offer first, then put him in his seat, eat at the same time as he eats and make it a social event. Let him give you bites, you give him bites, etc. Let him eat what he wants and not eat what he doesn't. Let him touch and play with all that you offer. When/If he throws a fit, cries/tries to climb out of his seat, throws food off his tray/plate, or any other indications he's not feeling it. Say something like "Okay, I see you're all done? Yes, you're all done. Okay." and clean him up and take him down. Then....rinse and repeat for every meal. He'll begin to learn to try new foods and he will begin to tolerate eating without videos once he sees the new system and how it works. I would avoid trying to coax him or bribe him or make a big deal out of it as you work on giving him more opportunities to try new foods :) Makes for less drama. YOU provide...and...HE eats....or doesn't. If he doesn't. Better luck next meal. Limit snack foods and juices that can fill you up between meal times. :)

Also, there are a lot of baby led weaning ideas for food and presentation...even though your LO is a bit older, he is probably going to have to go through a process similar to younger babies moving from purees to more solid pieces of food because it's such a different texture. You can look on Pinterest or google ideas that may help. I did purees with my older two and I had to give soft but lumpy, then soft but chunkier pieces, then slowly firmer pieces of solid foods as they got used to how to use their teeth for the different textures.

Big favorites over here are: homemade muffins, quiche type egg mixtures, meatballs, yogurts, pancakes/french toast, pasta with veggies and butter and/or sauce, peanut butter, chicken, tons of fruits (bananas, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, pear, apples, oranges....)








Offline -Maya-

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2016, 09:08:45 am »
That's so difficult. DH and I do not have proper meals very ofter, in the sense that we are even not sitting at table at the same moment. I am one of those person who can't just sit at table while there is even one dish in the sink. Not that I do not enjoy meals, but having to prepare dinner for all + feed DS + getting home at 7.15 pm at earliest is just draining me. I do not even want him to sit at table for family dinner, it is ok if he eats where he likes.

I can try to cook ahead of one day, that is today I cook food for tomorrow, at least for DH and I. But this degree of organization is easy to interrupt after a couple of days only. Then I do not want to put DS in bed late and usually meal for DH and me can require a little more (cooking) time.
For sure I can take this excuse to buy earlier than planned the Thermomix :P that I so strongly desire!

About letting him choose food it is difficult as well.  He would live on bread only and (see here my horror face) on homogeneized meat. But I need to make him eat some veggies/fruit as he has some issues on hard stool. He likes all that is fried, cooked in butter, etc. Ok he's right, that kind of foods is very yummy, but it is not the only yummy food! Fruit is a total no-go for him. He does not even like to touch pieces of pears and apples with his hands. Banana is slightly better, becasue he touches it, squeeze it, but after a while he says "mummy eats this".

I hate so much food shenaningas as I remember very well mine when I was a kid. And they are so incredibly boring. I have never set high expectations for food. I was picky and DH is still VERY picky now, mind that he does not eat any fruit or veggies that is not pureeed. And only specific veggies are ok for DH. It is ironic to me that it is me who eats more veggies in terms of quantity and variety. So I end up making 3 different dinners more often that I like. And of course DH cannot be trained in eating now. He just does not eat what he does not like and he ends eating tons of pasta if I do not cook something that he likes...





Offline deb

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2016, 09:58:53 am »
When we had to clean up our diets - and in our case we had medical issues and HAD to, for our health, and because our food choices were affecting my DD's behavior too - I found I had to really lower my housekeeping expectations while I was learning to cook that way. There are days my kitchen stays messy all day and I wash up after it's all over (and my kids learned to do that as well so we can take turns now that they're older), and I've come to terms with that because we're eating much better now and it's worth it to me (most of the time LOL).

Getting home so late does make a difference, for sure. Definitely time to look at something that you can program to cook for you. My electric pressure cooker gets used probably 3-5 times a week in Winter, less in summer (my husband likes to grill meat and veg when the weather is nicer). But if you can put the food to cook and even set the table before you leave for work, when you get home it's ready to go.

If everyone will at least eat rice, can you do a rice dish with sauce and hide pureed veg in the sauce? For fruit, I'd let him squish it for now; at his age he is learning about everything through all of his senses, including (maybe ESPECIALLY!) touch. LOL For the record, I ate my fair share of mushed bananas from my kids' fingers; we sometimes made a game of it and took turns eating smashed bananas off each other's fingers! My younger DD had a number of food texture issues that she has thankfully mostly outgrown (oddly, she hates the texture of cake :o); for a while, her "breakfast" was a protein smoothie with lots of added good stuff, including dried greens and juices, that she could drink from a cup that she could shake to keep the shake mixed up. Once your DS begins to use utensils himself it will get neater, but for now, the time he spends smashing his food will help to "normalize" textures for him so that they bother him less. I'd also try to play with flavors: maybe get him used to different herbs & spices that you use: let him smell what's in the different jars, pick something to add to a meal. Mine have come to like curry, and cinnamon is a surprise addition to mince that everyone likes too!

For days when you get tired of cooking or there's no time, can you plan one day a week to go out? Then each other day a different meal: one day maybe a soup, one day perhaps pizza, one day for pasta (and again, you can hide a LOT in sauce!), one day fish, one day vegetarian, that kind of thing. Makes it easier to plan, too. Any chance you can get your DH to do the cooking one day a week, to lighten your load? (Maybe he can do the pasta day!)

But right now you have DS eating passively and distractedly, and it will mean it takes him longer to learn to feed himself, to experience food fully so he can get used to textures and move on from just pureed foods; the TV is part of this. Even if you and DH aren't eating at the table with him, he begins to associate the dining table with "time to eat" and "place to eat," the way sleep cues and his bed are associated with sleeping for him. :)
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 10:00:50 am by deb »

Offline Buntybear

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2016, 10:20:28 am »
Could you get him to play with foods as well? I used to get bags of cheap rice/oats/dried beans and Olly would love to play with them. Either on a big tray and just smoosh/move them around or with some bowls and spoons. He used to pretend to make cakes and they would be all the ingredients.

Or painting with veg? There must be loads of ideas online to get him used to handling and having fun with foods  ;)

Offline -Maya-

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2016, 14:09:43 pm »
Nice suggestions! Playing with food is interesting.
I was also thinking to have more interesting breakfasts (yk we usually eats very poolry at breakfast here) but it is actually the one and only meal that DS does with me sitting both at table. Result is that DS eats some of my cereals and cookies. He actually asks for them! He also eats some of DH breakfast during weekend, together with him. I can try to eat some fruit in the morning and let DS see it.

I have just bought the book of Ellyn Satter on my kindle. It is difficult for me to give DS enough responsibilites. Food is just one of the field. It seems to me that in this forums mums considers their toddlers much more capable than I am. Maybe it is cultural, maybe it is just me, don't know. But I want to change that.

Offline deb

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2016, 14:16:38 pm »
Different children will be able to do different things at different ages, but at just about 2YO, he should be capable of feeding himself - if not with a utensil (probably not yet so much, but that will come!), then certainly get things from hand to mouth. :) The more he gets to try it, the better at it he will become. Same with drinking from a cup - if you can start with a small enough cup with just a little bit of water in it (so when it spills, it won't be a big spill LOL), he can begin learning to maneuver it and drink from it himself. It'll be messier at first, but will save you a LOT of work down the road!

One other thought I had: my younger DD tended to not want to eat something if it wasn't her idea first, so sometimes we would pretend that something was "for grownups:" "I don't know if you're ready for this blueberry; that's usually for grownups." That seemed to make her all the more anxious to try some things that he had refused otherwise. (She's a contrary one even now! :D) When she got a bit older that evolved into the "Don't eat that!" game, where she would turn up her nose at something (or pretend to), and we'd say something like, "Don't touch that spinach! Don't you eat that! You'll get too big and strong!" with an obviously pretend-mean face and then she'd giggle and eat it.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2016, 14:19:17 pm by deb »

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2016, 14:45:29 pm »
ANOTHER COUPLE OF IDEAS THAT I THINK I USED WITH OLLY

Picnics - carpet or outside if warm enough. Get you away from the table and again just makes it more interesting and fun, maybe for when he is a bit better at acting himself.

Platters of food. A big thing for olly was control and so he LOVED helping himself and serving us from a big bowl. So even with a spaghetti bolognaise I would put it in a big bowl and he would serve us  ;D


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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2016, 12:20:13 pm »
Lots of great advice from pps already, especially Deb, I truly believe in family meals, it's a time for coming together to be with one another as much as it is about eating food.  Maybe this is a time for an overhaul of the food approach for the family?

Some things which came to mind:
- instead of cookies maybe batch cook some oaty chews (a bit like cookies or flap jack but made without sugar and with dried fruits) or pancakes, or mini muffins (sugar free, with fruit and veg to sweeten, for instance sweet potato and sultana muffins) these can be batch cooked if you have a day off work then frozen and just lift a few out the night before to defrost over night and they are ready to serve in the morning.
- bread and pasta my approach would be if you can expand on the types of bread/pasta for a picky eater it is one step towards trying other foods so pitta, naan, chapati, bread rolls, tortilla, crumpets, scones... those kind of baked goods which are a bit similar but a bit different, willingness to give it a go and then discover that it is not too different from an already familiar food can be quite motivating in then moving on to try something else.  You might then try fried bread, toast fingers, eggy bread, cheese grilled on bread and cut into fingers.  A quesedilla which could be a small amount of tomato puree with a small amount of grated or sliced cheese folded in half and dry fried to melt the cheese, when it cools down it makes a kind of sandwich which is stuck together so you can slice it into wedges or fingers.  Just some little variety to 'bread'.
- cheese, same thing really if he eats parmasan then try out some other cheeses, yes the nutritional aspect may not be hugely different but simply having a not-too-different food may be a step towards trying new things
- fried foods, well often these can be oven baked as a healthier alternative but toddlers usually need some higher fats anyway so I was not too concerned about food being fried more so I would think about what food it was.  Tempura vegetables might be an option here?  Basically veggies which are dipped in a light batter and deep fried (I don't have deep fryer but the odd time I need to do something like this I use about half an inch of oil in a non-stick pan), yes it might not be the healthiest but a deep fried green bean or apple slice is quite a step forward for a LO who won't eat fruit and vegetables and is reluctant with eat solids.
- fruit, how about trying some lightly steamed pear or apple wedges?  He may prefer the flavour and texture if it is cooked rather than raw and the cooked flavour may be more similar to that of the puree he is used to?  You can also oven bake pear and apple wedges almost like "fries" (in the UK we can them chips), whilst it might not be standard family meals it offer a step closer to eating solids rather than purees.
- veggies, again I would try some of the veg he is used to eating in puree form, so he gets the same flavour but in a different form.  I'm not sure which veg he has as purees, if you wanted to list some we might have ideas how to cook/serve them differently to make that move from puree to solids.  Just as an example, peas can be made into little patties or pancakes and if he accepts pancake because it is bread-like and because you switch to pancakes instead of cookies for breakfast then it might be possible to make a shift to pea pancakes.  Whilst I'm not a big fan of hiding veg and do think children need to learn to be comfortable with veg for the way veg looks and tastes, I also feel it's ok to take these sorts of small steps in offering foods of different flavours.
- meat.  You mentioned processed meats.  My LO was not a meat fan at all and I looked to other proteins to balance his diet (bean fritters or burgers like those little pancakes, lentils, eggs...) but I discovered he would eat fish fingers (the frozen shop bought kind, I was able to get a brand with very little added which made me feel less repulsed) but I was determined to move towards 'proper fish' I had some real surprises for instance that fried sprats (those little tiny fish which are hard fried, they are crunchy) he would eat 2 or 3, with fins heads tail everything!  I was also willing to prepare home made fish fingers and experimenting with the crumb on the outside so that I could serve different types of fish and move him from the shop bought kind to the more natural home made kind.  Rather than processed meats you might think of alternatives, roast meats which can be very thinly sliced, boiled chicken which is soft, meat balls which can be a bit like sausage.

I know you are home late, that is very hard to be making dinner after a long day and such. There are already some ideas about different types of meals for each night or preparing ahead etc from pps. I want to add to that, not *all* healthy meals take a long time to prepare and cook.  It may also be that if your DS has had a variety of foods during the day he doesn't need a big balanced meal in the evening, many LOs don't have a big appetite in the evening anyway so at that time maybe just pasta is fine for your DS.

It is difficult for me to give DS enough responsibilites. Food is just one of the field. It seems to me that in this forums mums considers their toddlers much more capable than I am.
I imagine part of spoon feeding is feeling you are doing something motherly for your son, giving him time attention and care.  I imagine he also enjoys the time you spend together, focused on one another's faces and communicating whilst you spoon feed him. That closeness may be hard to give up, for both of you, perhaps knowing that him self feeding does not have to mean any reduction in time together in love and care shown and mothering desire to "feed" your child may help you both to move forward.  This is why it is so important to sit with him, to continue to look at his face and communicate and continue that bond and closeness.  I often give my DS a big cuddle just before we sit down at the dining table and often another right after the meal, I have never spoon fed him but have always paid him a lot of attention in the food I serve and the way we communicate during meals.


Offline -Maya-

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2016, 20:21:10 pm »
Thanks Creations, your post is so full of suggestions that I am going straight to take notes!
Up to now I have avoided all kind of hams (ok now translation becomes difficult) and also bresaola and cold turkey roast. All of them are just like rake from the fridge and put on the table. I have not proposwd them to ds because they may not be the healtiest food but I think I was going too extreme here.
About cheese ds is quite picky also. He wants only solid cheese, like parmesan. He can eat also old ones, I mean the ones that takes more time to be mature and have a stronger taste. But they need to be not slippery. Today he has refused straight a piece of fresh cheese because it felt bad when he ahs touched it.

Muffins are a great idea. I have some well known recipes for them both sweet and savoury. Ah how much I miss that kind of cooking!

Tempura I am unsure. It is really too close to the border of unhealthy food for me. I need to discuss with dh as well. But it is really interesting to have fried zucchini. I have just to cut them in fingers and fry them. I need to make them appear like fried potatoes. About veggies he ates zucchini, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, peas (but both dh and I hate them), spinach, lentils, fennel.
About hiding veggies I am a pro because dh needs that -_-
But I have still to find where to hide them for ds!

I have just taken my notes whike posting. I have also increased my grocery list, so let's see what I come out with.
Thanks a lot. I need this support to try again and to find again some happiness in cooking.

Last observation about family meals. Dh  and I both come from families where the dinner and  also lunch in weekend were family meals.
So all together sitting at same time, one puts dishes on table, another cleans up. Maybe here it is more deeply rooted in culture, I cannot say.
But we both do do not do this as adults. We do evaluate meals together just not every single day.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2016, 20:32:15 pm by -Maya- »

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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2016, 20:47:49 pm »
There are some sugar free muffin recipes on our baby recipe board (sweetened with ripe banana or apple, carrot etc).

I understand your caution of unhealthy foods, I don't serve up cheap sausages for instance but I can get some good quality sausages from the butcher which I feel are okay for now and then.  I do not like us to have ham, it's processed and salty but DS does like ham, it's just so soft and easy to eat so there are times we do have it, not often. joints of fresh meat from the butchers though, they do not need to be fancy cooked just put in the slow cooker, the oven or even boiled or stewed.  I prefer the fresh produce cuts of meat to the processed sliced meats from the deli counter.  Thing is though, if you have a picky eater on a limited diet maybe it is worth a bit of this and that just to get him started on more solid meals rather than puree?

It helps to know what LO will eat and what you and DH eat as that way we can all have ideas on ways to introduce them to DS as solids rather than purees.  I'm so sorry but I am not sure I know what you intend here:
About veggies he ates zucchini, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin, peas (but both dh and I hate them), spinach, lentils, fennel.
Are these foods that DS does eat?  I wasn't sure if you were saying he eats them or hates them.

I need to make them appear like fried potatoes.
Is this like American "french fries"? What we call in the UK "chips"  I do a variety of oven baked chips using turnip, sweet potato, suede, parsnip, carrot, white potato. I did tell DS that each was different but said "this are chips, turnip chips, they are like chips but a bit different".

With the tempura I was just thinking it could be a stepping stone, I don't make it myself, I usually steam veg, just thinking of ways your LO may accept some solid veg and then later on you can progress to steamed veggies for instance.

My DS also likes very mature strong flavoured cheeses.  Have you tried handing your DS a fork with a piece of cheese on?  We used some small sized stainless steel cutlery for DS, slightly lighter and easier to handle than the adult cutlery, and I pre-loaded until he was able to stab for himself.  Some things may feel uncomfortable in his hands but might be tasty if he can get them to his mouth...or even if you put it to his mouth? After all you are spoon feeding him so maybe one or two bits you can offer to finger feed him and then if he likes it you can say "here, you take it and eat it".


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Re: How to have better meals for 2yo
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2016, 12:20:13 pm »
To break the connection of "sitting at table -> watch videos" I was thinking to eat sitting on the floor or at his little desk. I can also plan to eat on the balcony all together. I hope to be able to follow up on all those ideas. Now I have had a string of good nights, hope this lasts.