Mother guilt is real! Most mothers want the best for their children and we worry about every little aspect of their precious lives. I find myself lying in bed in the middle of the night sometimes trying to remember when they last did a poo, worrying if I’ve picked the right day-care options or counting vegetables and fruit servings for the day.
In fact recent research shows that 81% of mums feel the pressure to be perfect … But are we over complicating things? What did our mothers do when they were raising us with far fewer resources and options in most cases? Most of us turned out okay so maybe we should look back to some of the simpler building blocks of a happy life like health and nutrition and relax a little.
Whenever I remember back to how Gran was when she was a mum, I think of simple healthy foods that were easy to prepare and that we grew to expect and love. I find myself having to pick which battles to fight with my toddler and making sure that he eats healthy is one area where I do try to have a few wins.
Here are my top five tips that I have found help my toddler eat more healthy food:
Chefs will tell us that presentation is more than half of the meal and I swear that’s true with toddlers too. Little minds are inquisitive and they love to see something fresh and new so I try to vary the way I give them the same old foods. One day a whole banana, the next day I’ll cut it into long skinny strips and the next day it might be in circles or triangles.
Another variation I try a lot is to give them a different implement to eat the food with … For example let them use their hands, a blunted toothpick, thread them onto a skewer (without a sharp point), put them on a plate, in a cup etc. That’s just one fruit so if you combine these ideas with different fruits and vegetables and different presentation you have a month of healthy options!
Hide The Goodness
Okay it’s a bit sneaky and eventually we want the little ones to understand about healthy food but for now I’m happy to get it into them anyway I can haha
If you’re a little creative you can get veggies into other foods that they do like to eat and that way they’re getting the goodness at the same time as eating something they love. Some classic examples that I have used are grating the vegetables and zucchini into the rissoles or paddies, mixing the potato and the pumpkin together and even popping peas in with the mince or curry sausages.
With toddlers this works really well for almost any one pot meal so as you are making the Bolognese or the sauce, take a few minutes to grate or mix in some vegetables and fibre.
Supplement the Nutrition
Fresh food is awesome and a balanced diet is essential but it is okay to add a little ‘insurance’ by using nutritional supplements. As an adult I take a multi-vitamin each day just to top up any vitamins minerals that I may have missed or been low on. Our bodies don’t store Vitamins B and C so we need a constant supply of these with excess vitamins usually leaving the body in the normal way through your urine. There are specially formulated vitamin supplements for children however by far the most common way is to use a toddler supplementary milk drink.
Our children really enjoyed having a cup of toddler milk drink usually in the morning and they would help us mix it once at an age where they could handle that. Obviously they weren’t using a bottle anymore but they had a sipper cup and then later a straw and we knew that they were getting some baseline nutrition even when they were going through particularly fussy periods.
Just because something is healthy doesn’t mean it has to be boring and I try to make sure some of the healthy stuff gets into the dessert and treats too. One little trick is that whenever I make a fresh fruit and vegetable juice, I’ll pour a few into some ice block moulds or even just ice-cube trays. I can then pull out a super healthy treat which my boy loves a hot day.
Even the old-fashioned fruit salad with a dob of ice cream is still a great way to get fresh healthy food into a young toddler and you don’t need too much ice cream to make it delicious. If you prefer you could try frozen yoghurt or even regular yoghurt as the mixer.
Drink the Goodness
Quite often I’ll make a healthy drink in the blender for my kids so that once again they are taking in the goodness a different way. On weekends and school holidays I’ll set up a ‘Smoothie and Juice Bar’ in the kitchen for morning tea and involve the kids in making a delicious icy-cold drink that can contain several pieces of fruit and/or vegetables. They totally love it!
It sounds crazy but I found that the container that you serve the drink in and simply the fact that you include a straw make these drinks much more popular with the kids. I bought some of the old milk-bar stainless steel milkshake cups which are unbreakable and fun … It’s all about the experience to eat healthy in our home.