Ask and you shall receive. Before the new year, I asked what was on your mind, and how could I best use the Unpacified community to help! Maybe it was just the holiday sugar overload, but I had countless requests for any help on getting your picky eaters to eat better. While I definitely try to offer Lu healthy options, I don’t feel like I’m super well versed on this topic (***eats entire bag of Dino Bites***). Instead, I called in a favor.
I met Hannah in September 2015 at a Parent and Me class in Santa Monica, and I just adore her. She’s a former teacher turned stay at home mom who I propositioned to raise my child for me. She politely declined. However, she did come up with the next best thing by starting a children’s lifestyle brand called “California Toddler” focusing on clean family eating.
Not only did she come up with an incredible list of tips and tricks for y’all, she also provided 10 of her favorite recipes to get your kids eating healthy.
Without further ado…
Picky Eaters: just another one of those things about motherhood that they DON’T tell you about when you’re pregnant! Luckily I’ve got some tips, tricks and foolproof recipes for picky eaters that have worked for my toddler (3 years old), but before I go into that, I wanted to share this theory (from Ellyn Satter) that will CHANGE the way you view meal times!
Division of Responsibility is the theory that we (the parents) and our children each have jobs when it comes to mealtime. It’s our job as parents to provide a variety of healthy food options and opportunities for eating. And then, it is our child’s job to choose HOW MUCH and WHAT to eat from what we provide.
If you can accept this theory when it comes to feeding your child, like truly BELIEVE it, you will save yourself hours in the kitchen as a short order cook, and overall, you’ll be less stressed when you hit those picky eating phases. While it takes some getting used to and you might have the initial “oh my gosh, my kid is gonna go hungry” worries, rest assured that no child will ever starve who has food made available to him or her.
6 Tips for Getting Your Picky Eaters to Eat:
1) Involve your kids in the meal making!
There are a number of benefits, both life skills and academic skills, from cooking with your kids, but one of my favorite parts about involving my toddler in the kitchen is that I know it will greatly increase the chance that he’ll eat the meal he helped prepare!
2) Eat the same food.
My toddler and I eat the same food. Eating with your child, and also eating the same thing, not only makes it easier on you (only preparing one meal), but it allows for modeling during mealtime (look at mama trying and enjoying these different foods and flavors)!
3) Include a dip!
When I include a familiar dip with my son’s meal, and I can almost guarantee that he’ll at least try a new food if he can dip it! Hummus is my son’s favorite!
4) Throw a secret veggie in with one of your child’s food favorites.
For my guy, it’s pasta and quesadillas. Some of my go-to veggies to add in are peas, carrots, and spinach.
5) Act normal.
Don’t make food and meal times a “thing.” Don’t announce that you’ll be serving something new or different or that your child doesn’t like. Just a simple, “ok, dinner is ready!” is all you need!
6) Don’t give up!
Finally, whatever you do, do not stop serving the food your child is being “picky” about. Sure, take a day or 2 or a week off, serve it up differently (raw, baked, steamed, with a dip…cut in circles or sticks), but keep including that food with meals because you just never know when they’ll be in the mood!
Recipes: Time for some recipes! Below are some of my go-to meals & snacks!
2 cans of chickpeas (15oz cans)
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Optional: spices, fresh herbs, or sweetener of choice
1) Pre-heat the oven to 400°F and place oven rack in the middle of the oven.
2) Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
3) Dry the chickpeas well or leave out to air-dry for a bit (best option if you have time)!
4) Toss the chickpeas with the olive oil and salt.
5) Spread the chickpeas out in an even layer on the baking sheet.
6) Roast the chickpeas in the oven for about 30-40 min (shake them up every 10 min). 7) Remove from oven, and if you’d like, toss the chickpeas with the optional spices, herbs, or sweetener.
7) Let them cool off for a few minutes and serve warm!
Notes: The chickpeas are done when they’re golden and slightly darkened. You’re going for dry and crispy on the outside, and soft in the middle. Serve warm and crispy! Store in airtight container on the counter for up to 4 days!
Pumpkin Fat Balls
These balls are filled with healthy fats, tons of protein, and a little sweetness!
2 cups dry, uncooked oats (you can leave whole or put in the blender for 30 seconds)
1/2 cup nut butter of choice or sunflower seed butter for nut-allergies
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended)
1/4 cup agave nectar, honey or maple syrup
2 tbs hemp hearts
2 tbs chia seeds
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon works here, too)
1) In a bowl, add all the ingredients except the chocolate chips (you can combine all dry and all wet ingredients first if you like, but I like to just throw them all in there!).
2) Stir well to combine. I like to use my hands for this!
3) Once all ingredients are mixed to together, add chocolate chips and stir to combine.
4) Next, roll into balls. Mixture should make about 20 medium sized balls.
Notes: Store in the fridge for about a week or the freezer for a couple months!
2 (or more) Ingredient Pancakes
Did you know you could make pancakes with only 2 ingredients? You can!
Mash/mix together until smooth and cook ’em up in an oil of your choice (I like to use coconut oil).
2-Ingredient (Plus) Pancakes
2 large spoonfuls of buckwheat flour, almond flour, or ground oats
1 large spoonful of ground flax seeds
1 large spoonful of chia seeds
1 handful of semi- sweet chocolate chips
1) Mix all these ingredients together in a large bowl
2) Add a little oil or butter to your pan
3) Pour batter, flip, serve, and gobble up!
Notes: We eat these for any meal of the day (not just breakfast)! They’re great to throw in lunches for school or for snacks and they freeze well. Also, no syrup needed (unless you want, of course) because the bananas and chocolate chips give them all the sweetness they need!
Quesadillas/ Burritos/ Wraps/ Tacos
I love making anything that involves a tortilla and cheese because you can pretty much throw anything in it, and you’re good to go! They’re probably my favorite things to make for my toddler and his favorite thing to eat. They’re also a great way to use up leftover protein and get some veggies in.
The basic Ingredients: you need are large tortillas (I use @tortillalandtortillas 5-ingredient tortillas which you can get at Costco or Whole Foods).
1) Cook the tortilla(s)
2) Put a thin layer of cheese
3) Add layers of whatever you want inside*
4) Put another thin layer of cheese on top
5) If you’re making a quesadilla, then top with another tortilla. If you’re making a burrito or wrap, roll it up. If you’re making a taco, skip to next step.
6) Put in toaster oven or pan to melt the cheese! Enjoy!
*Ideas for what to put inside:
Chopped spinach, micro greens or lettuce of choice
Chopped bell peppers
A pizza bun is just a whole wheat burger bun (or English Muffin) topped with mozzarella cheese and turkey pepperoni and toasted for about 3 minutes in an oven or toaster oven. I also like to sprinkle some hemp hearts on for added protein!
So easy, so yummy, so many options!
Sliced turkey (like you’d use for sandwiches) or turkey pepperoni or protein of choice
1) Finely chop up the turkey and spinach
2) Mix the turkey and spinach shredded cheese before putting it on the pita
3) Put a thin layer of extra shredded cheese on the pita bread (before putting the mixture on top- This just helps it all melt together nicely)
4) Add the turkey, spinach and cheese mixture
5) Toast or bake for a few minutes or until cheese and toppings are melted!
Prep the night before and have breakfast waiting for you in the morning! Overnight oats are just oats (& whatever else you put in them) that are soaked in milk of choice overnight. The oats absorb the milk and your left with mushy goodness!
I use equal parts oats & almond milk and then throw in some bonus superfoods (totally optional).
In the picture above:
1/2 cup raw rolled oats
2 tbs hemp hearts
1 tbs chia seeds
1/2 tsp bee pollen
1/2 tsp raw honey
Small handful of dried strawberries & bananas
After this photo, I added a 1/2 cup of almond milk, put a lid on it, placed in the fridge, and forgot about it until the next morning!
Parchment Paper Salmon & Veggies
Veggies (Bell Pepper, Snap Peas, Mushrooms)
1) Preheat the oven to 400°F
2) Place veggies & salmon in the center of a 13-inch square of parchment paper
3) Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with oil
4) Then, lift the parchment paper on 2 opposite sides to meet in the middle above fish
5) Tightly roll down paper and crimp the ends to seal (be sure the paper is sealed well so that steam won’t escape during cooking)
6) Place the packets on a baking sheet and cook about 20ish min or until fish is cooked through
7) Transfer packets to plates, carefully unwrap and serve!
DIY Freezer Smoothie Bags
If you make smoothies regularly, you need these freezer smoothie bags in your life. They’re perfect for busy days and picky eating days because you can jam a lot of nutrition and protein into a tasty smoothie- essentially making it a meal!
1 frozen banana
1 cup+ of greens
1.5 cups of fruit
2 tbs hemp hearts
1 tbs chia seeds
When ready to make smoothie, add 1-2 cups of liquid depending on the thickness you want.
Some ideas (see pic above);
Top left: spinach, mango, strawberry, banana, hemp heart, chia seeds.
Top right: kale, blueberry, banana, cashew, date, hemp hearts, chia seeds.
Bottom left: kale, spinach, strawberry, banana, acai, hemp hearts, chia seeds.
Bottom right: spinach, blueberry, strawberry, banana, hemp hearts, chia seeds. .
So how do these freezer bags work?
Assemble a bunch of freezer bags at once, varying (if you want) what you put in each bag. Then, store in the freezer. When you’re ready to make a smoothie, choose a bag and empty into the blender. Add your liquid of choice and let it sit in there for about 5 minutes before blending (just to let the fruit soften a bit). Add any optional superfood, protein powders, nut butters and then blend away and enjoy! I use a Vitamix for my smoothie makin’!
Thanks for reading! And don’t forget to follow along with me at California Toddler!