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I recently became full time caregiver to my 18 month old daughter. My ex has had her on a junk/processed food diet.as if all she knows is snacks. I would like to implement a healthy consistent diet of real food but I'm struggling. I'm willing to spend a day a week preparing her meals but would like some insight. I'm limiting her meat intake and would like to introduce more veggies. Any meal suggestions or plans would be helpful. Thanks everyone who helps!
 

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We've always had the philosophy that the toddlers & up eat the same things the adults eat (or at least the healthy options), just sometimes cut up smaller or otherwise made safe. We never made any production about kids getting "kid food" unless what we were eating was not appropriate somehow. Experts say it takes 15 introductions (on average) for a new food to seem "normal". That's a LOT of iterations of green beans! The trick, we've found, is to put a small helping of everything on their plate- whether they think they like it or not- and they must TASTE (sometimes this means just putting their tongue on it) everything. They are NEVER forced to eat anything. I try to always have at least one healthy option I know each kid likes, so they can eat mostly that. If they don't eat what I fix, they go hungry. Trust me, kids won't starve themselves to death as long as food is in front of them. It's hard to stick to this somtimes if your kid refuses to eat, but really- it won't hurt them, as long as it's their own choice. But don't ever make food a big fight. Simply put it in front of them & let her know it's her decision & you will leave the plate there in case she gets hungry later. This has so far worked beautifully for our family with 2 boys (9 & 4.5). People would ask "what will the boys eat?" and I was always confused- they'll eat whatever is fixed- or if they don't like everything, they'll eat something that's fixed. Sometimes they'll eat the spaghetti noodles without sauce, or I'll separate some chicken from the casserole because they prefer it plain, but they still get sauce or casserole on their plates to taste & if they're hungry enough, they'll eat what's in front of them.

So, I don't have any great recipe suggestions for you (well, I'm happy to share some great recipes, but nothing kid-specific) because we don't do food that way in our house. Food should be nourishment for family gathering time, not an exercise in getting what one person wants, or in cajoling and manipulating. Don't make it a big deal, and eventually it won't be.

Hope that helps.
 
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Wait, why are you trying to limit a toddler's meat intake, and replace the meat with vegetables? Meat is great for your daughter - it has fats and proteins she needs. You can't replace that with vegetables, because most vegetables are mostly dietary fiber. There are exceptions, but winter is long and full of under-ripe avocados.

The way I would handle this is kind of a middle road. You don't want to be a slave to a picky child, but nor do you want to find yourself making post-tantrum sandwiches an hour and a half after lunch every day.

Your daughter's life has recently undergone a drastic change - she lives with you now, instead of her mom - and she may be off-balance as a result. Stripping familiar foods out of her diet will not make this adjustment easier. If you seriously disapprove of the way your ex fed her, you can make a complete change by gradually tapering off the familiar stuff over a few weeks. There is a chance, however, that longer consideration will reconcile you to at least some of your ex's food choices, so don't write them all off yet.

I would keep a stock of things that require no prep on hand. Chopped cooked chicken, carrot sticks, cheese - simple, bland things she can eat with her fingers. At each meal, I would put a selection of things in front of your daughter - some of what you're eating, and some of the no prep things. Try for no more than one new thing per meal - a hungry toddler with a plate full of strange new things is likely to just cry. Put a washable floormat under her chair. Sit down and eat your own meal, while pretending that whether your daughter eats or not is of no interest to you. Chat about something unrelated to food. If you say anything about food, it should be positive - "Wow, you like the salad, huh?" When mealtime is over, scoot her along to play, and clean up. Put anything salvageable away for next time, and note what she did and didn't eat. If she finishes everything she was served, ask if she'd like more of anything (at this point, she can pick which of the items she was served she'd like more of). If she doesn't finish everything, she doesn't get more. If she finishes everything, and is done with seconds on the main part of the meal, offer a treat. Most of the time, the treat should be acceptable but unimpressive. Apple slices. Toast and peanut butter. Every now and then, the treat should be something enthralling, like ice cream. Don't discuss the post-meal treat in advance. It's always nice, it's sometimes really nice, and it is not going to even be mentioned unless the plate is empty.

The easy food goes back in the fridge and is available for snacks (there's a school of thought that it's good for toddlers to graze, and there is absolutely no percentage in denying a hungry toddler food - hungry toddler tantrums are epic).

Some days you will convince the toddler to eat kale. Other days, you will have mac and cheese and carrot sticks. That's kind of life.
 

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Lots of good advice. But if you do need some veg rich toddler meals to have in hand, for a toddler who likes meat, braises are the way to go.

So... make two dishes a week and rotate your freezer.

Stews are wonderful mixed with starch if choice.

Chicken soup with lots of veg and barley, or beans ir noodles.

Braised lamb and white beans with lots of veg and herbs.

Undercooked burger crumbed with quinoa and chopped cook veg

Black beans and rice

Roast chicken and potatoes

Avocado plain or avocado mashed with a bit of garlic salt and lime toddler guac served with anything.

In all honestly we are pretty heavy handed with veg and it works for us.
 

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My son is a picky eater but what he eats is mostly meat... He'll devour bacon and eggs, turkey meatballs or hamburgers, anything with beef and cheese lol, (homemade) fried chicken, breakfast sausage, sometimes hot-dogs.. And that's about it! I'd really wish he would eat fruits and veggies (life he did from 6 months-1 year) but he doesn't. The only thing you can do is put the food in front of her and be positive about it and hope she will go for it! I'll "trick" him sometimes and bread the meatballs in chia seeds, flax seeds, wheat germs and he won't notice and gobble it up :grin:
 

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What about unsweetened applesauce? One of mine loves the taste of apples but hates the texture and work of chewing them. Or adding veg purees to dips, pasta sauces or baked goods?
 

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You can find a lot of hidden vegetable recipes. I made some meatloaf muffins this week that were just as much vegetables as meat. I didn't add any sugar and they actually came out a little sweet. You can sneak vegetables into chicken nuggets, hamburgers, etc. You can also sneak beef liver into hamburger (start small). There are quinoa-based pastas that taste a lot like the real thing. You can use cauliflower and zuchinni and sweet potato in some baking. Zuchinni brownies, Cauliflower pizza crust. Just some jumping off points.

Cutting vegetables into super small pieces (puree/grate/mince/etc) is a way to put them in sauces so that your kid will actually eat them. Bolognese is a lot like spaghetti sauce, but made with vegetables- if you make the vegetables super small, your kid can't pick them out and the taste will blend together so be less difficult. BIL spent years eating bolognese with mushrooms while insisting he'd never eat a mushroom thanks to this trick.

In the frozen section, I've seen at least one company that's making hidden vegetable versions of kid favorites. Homemade is better, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to have some of them in the freezer for days when you need something you can just throw in and go (also a reason to freeze your own meals!).

As she gets older, let her help you in the kitchen.
 

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I recently became full time caregiver to my 18 month old daughter. My ex has had her on a junk/processed food diet.as if all she knows is snacks. I would like to implement a healthy consistent diet of real food but I'm struggling. I'm willing to spend a day a week preparing her meals but would like some insight. I'm limiting her meat intake and would like to introduce more veggies. Any meal suggestions or plans would be helpful. Thanks everyone who helps!
Hey, its awesome to hear that you are wanting to give your daughter better foods!
Healthy eating is as much (if not more) about how you introduce foods than what type of foods you will be giving.
Try not to think about healthy foods as 'not kid friendly'. The way you introduce healthier food options to you toddler will impact what she tries and ultimately ends up liking. It takes about 10-15 times for children to develop a taste for foods, so keep trying foods she seems not to like the first, second or even 10th time around.
I write a blog based on this www.walsnutrition.com - there is a lot more information there than I can write here, your welcome to go do a bit of reading and then contact me if you need more advice.

The fact you are interested in learning about how to feed your toddler healthier food shows you are a real attentive dad. You wont get it right all the time, but keep going. Your impact on her and her health will be worth the effort.

Wal
 

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We are mostly vegetarian and our son doesn't seem to want meat much. He is 20 months old and suddenly very picky but simple veggies are his favourite.

I was told to try to give him something he liked at every meal. These days that's whole wheat pasta, spinach/ricotta ravioli, green beans, peas, apples or eggs. He also loves beans cooked in a vegetable bouillon, quinoa sticks, and flax bagels with cream cheese. And pizza. And marinated sweet and sour tofu. But that's about it. Little else gets touched so we serve him something fromthe above along with anything new.

Interestingly he eats more variety at day care so I think it is good to use a day care that provides good vegetarian food.

Every morning we give him omega-3 fortified oats (unsweetened) with some good plain probiotic yogurt and frozen wild blueberries. He loves it! I think the fact that we don't change his breakfast menu and try to make it really l nutritious helps. It's his biggest meal of the day.

That's about all I can offer. Cooking is such a struggle as a parent so I say do the best you can.
 

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Hope your doing well!

Spaghetti bolognese is always a crowd pleaser for little ones and you can hide veg in it grated carrots courgette (zucchini) my son doesn't eat he's obsessed with formula but I can get him to eat spag bol.
 

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Hope your doing well!

Spaghetti bolognese is always a crowd pleaser for little ones and you can hide veg in it grated carrots courgette (zucchini) my son doesn't eat he's obsessed with formula but I can get him to eat spag bol.
+1 for this! Spaghetti is super easy to make! I like to throw in a little ground beef, tomato chunks and carrots! :grin:
 
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