This article is Part II in our series on “Promoting Healthy Habits”. If your child is heading off to daycare or pre-school this year be sure to check out our ideas for school lunches. Academic Season Shares start in late August, bringing you weekly deliveries of certified organic veggies through mid-November! Your CSA Share Box is a fun way to try new foods as a family! If you have very little ones at home (or one on the way!) Be sure to check out our post on “Promoting Healthy Habits – The First Year” . As your children enter the toddler years you’ll notice they have growing opinions about what they eat, how they eat it, and what they like and don’t like! (at least mine does). Food that they loved last week, they suddenly refuse to eat. It can be so frustrating! Here’s what worked for me.
When my son was a toddler, I decided that as long as he made a healthy food choice, it was not important to me what or when he was eating. I also gave him a voice in what he was eating, giving two clear choices, “Would you like carrots or tomatoes in your lunch?” I never write off any foods as something he doesn’t like. I keep offering him the same foods multiple times in a variety of preparations. For example after months of happily eating mangoes, for 6 months he would not eat a mango, and now he loves them again. It works best for me to not force him to eat anything, and when he makes good choices (like broccoli and those collards) I let him know how great it is to see him making healthy choices and how good it is for his body. I never use food as rewards or punishment, and never force him to finish something. I was lucky to participate in a workshop on nutrition for kids, and these tips were emphasized. Here is a link to some of the info that was shared, at myplate.gov Some of you might remember sitting at the table until you cleaned your plate, I sure do! There are a lot articles out there right now about the end of the clean plate club, I enjoyed this one.
Some families find it works better to start out with the expectation that everyone eats together at meal times, and everyone eats the same food. Whatever works for your family IS what’s best for you. When serving my toddler, he did best with small manageable portions that he could easily pick up. Gradually, he started using a fork and spoon along with us. Around this age your child might start going to daycare or playgroups. There are some great options for easy to pack and eat meals. We love the Lunchbots products, made of stainless steel and easy to manage. I started with this size and moved up. They also make a great thermos. These are a little more expensive than their plastic counterparts, but in my experience they last much longer. We are still using the first one we bought three years ago.
Make meal time fun! Get your child actively involved in the kitchen as soon as you can. Set up a station for scrubbing root vegetables, let them push the button on the salad spinner, and get a variety of child safe cooking utensils for them to use in the kitchen. Even a butter knife and a small cutting board is enough to get started, and you probably already have them in your kitchen. If you’re looking for some kid friendly kitchen items, we love this “crinkle cutter“.
Basic Roasted Root Vegetables
Variety of root vegetables like carrots, turnips, beets, potatoes, or winter squash
Olive oil or butter
salt + pepper
child-size knife and vegetable peeler
Cast iron pan or baking sheet
Preheat oven to 400°F
Wash and peel root vegetables. Get your little one involved by setting up an area where they can help wash and peel. Carefully dry each root before peeling and chopping. This will help to ensure that your vegetables roast instead of steam. Work alongside your child roughly chopping vegetables. If necessary, pre-cut them in to large chunks, and let your child help chop them into smaller pieces.
Place vegetables in a large cast iron skillet or spread across a baking pan. Toss with about a tablespoon of olive oil, and add a few small chunks of butter (optional). Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast at 400°F, for 45-60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. If you have a light in your oven, turn it on so your child can watch the cooking from a safe distance.
Variations: Add aromatic herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage. Lay rosemary or thyme sprigs over the top or add the minced leaves. Mix in smashed garlic cloves, big chunks of onion, or shallot. Try an herbed sea salt, coarse ground salt, freshly ground pepper, or spice blends.