Getting your toddler to eat healthy, nutritious food can be a battle some days. It can be even more stressful when you are working to a budget, and feel your money (blood, sweat & tears) are going to waste. Here are my top tips to make life a bit easier for everyone!
Have in the back of your mind that fussy eating can be a sign of something more serious to be aware of (ADHD, Autism, GORD, Asthma)…or it can simply be a toddler being a toddler! If you do feel you should have a professional see your child because you suspect any of the former, trust your instincts.
Some of my best tips to overcome fussy eating:
Set the example:
Model good behaviours by eating healthy, nutritious food at regular meal times
Eat together – family meals show kids how to eat & interact at meal times
Don’t attach emotions to food:
Avoid using food as a reward, bribe or punishment
Don’t refer to food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Instead you can talk about everyday & sometimes foods, and talk about foods that give energy and help you to grow (keep it simple & use words they will understand).
Understand that children need a lot of exposures to get used to a food:
It can take up to 15 exposures to a food for a child to become ‘used’ to a taste or a texture. Be consistent and keep offering the food, but don’t force a child to eat.
Avoid battles over food – if a child is really hungry, they will eventually eat. Getting upset about a child not eating is actually going to discourage them from eating, and a bad association can be formed with that food, with negative emotions attached to it.
Look at the variety and nutrients your toddler is getting over the course of the week, rather than each day. Don't get caught up on having a bad day - move on, offer better options tomorrow, and cut yourself some slack, because kids are bloody hard sometimes!
Make eating healthy food enjoyable:
Try making food fun!
Once kids are old enough – get them involved in making food. They love it, and it keeps them busy.
Some fast, easy & most importantly budget conscious meal ideas:
Oats with milk & banana
Weet-bix with milk & banana
Yoghurt with strawberries
Baked beans (salt reduced) on whole meal toast
Avocado, cheese & tomato on whole meal bread
No meat bolognaise – tinned chick peas, tin of diced tomatoes, tomato paste, crushed garlic, grated zucchini & carrot on whole meal pasta
Traditional bolognaise (great for freezing) – mince, tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, grated zucchini & carrot over whole meal pasta
Omelette – 3 eggs, handful shredded cheese, diced vegetables (peas, carrot, mushroom, zucchini
Fish & veggies. If using frozen opt for no crumb or coating if possible, and try for largest fillet size possible, particularly if crumbed or coated (ie. More fish, less crumb). Frozen veggies are great & retain a lot of the nutrients of fresh, but are often cheaper.
Vegetable soups – pumpkin, potato, butter, onion, garlic cooked in stock or water then blended.
Smoothie – milk, banana, yoghurt
Whole meal toast with nut butter
Hummus – with cucumber & capsicum
Ideas for shopping on a budget:
Some supermarkets offer produce that doesn’t look perfect, but is actually no different to the other produce available, at a discounted price. Look out for these specials on your next shop.
Frozen veggies are fantastic – the freezing process locks in nutrients
Look for items that are on special because of short use-by dates. Some supermarkets will have a specials section where you can grab a bargain if you are planning to cook that night
When buying meat, opting for minced meats will allow you to make lots of different meals that you can then freeze, for use later, so it actually works out quite economical as you can get quite a few meals out of it and it allows for variety. Opt for the leanest version you can afford.