Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters. They have a mind of their own and would often rather blow spit bubbles or throw things on the floor than eat all of the healthy things well-meaning loved ones painstakingly prepare for them.
Unfortunately, there is not a tried-and-true menu to appease all the hungry little tummies and exasperated parents out there, but below are seven healthy foods to try that are cheap, easy and have been happily shoveled into the mouth of at least one persnickety little toddler.
Peas can be purchased frozen in bulk at your local grocery store. They last for months in the freezer and can be warmed up in the microwave in forty-five seconds. They are sweet, soft and are pre-made by nature into bite-sized spheres. They contain high amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, potassium and even a little protein. Your little angel won't care about any of this, but chances are he will gobble them up, filling their body with goodness and your heart with glee.
Cooked carrots are vibrant, easy to chew and swallow, and their flavor isn't as potent as some of the other, more unapproachable vegetables. Carrots can also be purchased in the frozen food section and are often found mixed with peas. Brilliant! These orange dreamboats are also high in vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, niacin and vitamin E.
3. Grilled salmon
Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids that aid in brain development, something toddlers will definitely benefit from as they learn new words and behaviors every single day. Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D, vitamin B12, and, of course, protein. Some may balk at the idea of feeding a toddler such fancy fare, but if cooked correctly, it is soft, easy to chew and breaks apart easily. The sophisticated flavor may become a life-long favorite. A great trick is to mix peas, carrots and salmon together into a lovely pile. It looks so pretty a toddler won't be able to resist at least picking some of it up. Once a toddler has something in her hand, it is going into her mouth eventually.
4. Mandarin oranges
This is another food that can be purchased frozen to ensure freshness and reduce waste. Frozen mandarin oranges are also free of all the sugary syrup the canned variety is soaked in. Serve right out of the freezer broken into halves or thirds. Pieces will still be firm enough to easily pick up for 15 or 20 minutes after being served. They taste just like little pieces of popsicle and contain vitamin A and vitamin C, perfect for fighting off those pesky toddler colds. It will take great restraint not to snatch a few for yourself!
Once again, buy these frozen and serve them straight from the freezer. They will get a bit messy about 15 minutes in, so only serve them if a toddler is stripped to his diaper, has an extremely good bib, or you'll be making some tie-dye designs with raspberry juice on his current outfit. The sweet, yet tart, flavor is something different that will surprise and hopefully delight a little one. Raspberries are a great source of potassium, dietary fiber and actually contain more vitamin C than oranges. Another plus is they will give your bouncing baby adorably kissable lips, which is great for getting the most likes ever on your next Instagram post.
6. Whole grain bread
Whole grain bread contains fiber, protein, magnesium and iron; all of these are great for growing little ones. It gives them the soft texture they love and is easy for little fingers to grab. Dress it up with a thin layer of peanut butter or almond butter. There are many different brands available at your local grocery store that are healthy and delicious. Make sure the ingredient list contains "whole-wheat" flour (or some other "whole grain" flour). Stay away from brands that contain high-fructose corn syrup or other sources of added sugar. If gluten intolerance is an issue, there are gluten-free options that are also great for little tongues and tummies.
String cheese is fun to pull apart or eat in one big chunk. It is a great source of calcium and protein. The taste is mild, but salty enough to satisfy a toddler's salt craving without handing them a bag of chips or a carton of french fries. It is soft and will keep them happily munching while you cry tears of joy over their new-found love of kid cuisine.