This is a problem for many parents. Many toddlers want only to eat the foods they know, such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs, or fast food burgers. Getting a toddler, the proper amount of protein may seem daunting and a huge challenge; however, with some sleight of hand, your toddler will get their fill of protein and maybe some extra vegetables too. Your toddler does not need to know all the ingredients. There are ways to include him or her that will involve eating the meat or other forms of protein.
The texture or the way the meat feels to the toddler is probably the number one reason that they do not eat meat. Most toddlers want their foods to be relatively soft. Meaning if it is hard to chew, they will not eat it. Avoid the tougher meats for now and focus on soft types.
Yes, the flavor can be a huge issue for a child. I have seen some toddlers who refuse any meat that has any seasoning added, and many parents have witnessed the complete opposite. Every child has different tastes. If you determine their favorite vegetable is carrots, take advantage of that. Carrots can be pureed or chopped to add the flavor to meatballs, or used in sauces and mixed with ground meats.
There are ways to mix foods up without the same thing each day. Change the variety of meat you are using. Beans, lentils, and nuts can be added to many different foods to increase protein intake. Rather than buying the frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks, make your own. Using bread crumbs and chopped nuts mixed with a little flour, egg, and seasoning(ranch or dried cheese powder work great), your toddler will be screaming for more. We know that toddlers do not like the idea of eating fish, so when made with a flavor they enjoy, it makes mealtime fun.
Spread the fun.
What child does not like nut butter and jam sandwich? Nut butter is packed with protein and comes in a wide variety of flavors. If you dilute a little, you can use it as an ingredient for making nuggets with any type of meat, as the liquid base for breaded items.
Acknowledge this a process. Don’t rush!
This is meant double wise. Do not rush to force your toddler to eat different types of meat. If at first, you do not succeed, try again later. It is all a matter of experimenting in recipes to find one that gives your toddler the desire to eat. Another way of taking your time is to slow roast or slow cook pork or beef in your crockpot or oven. Meat that is cooked for a lengthy time is softer and easier for the toddler to chew.
Have you considered dairy?
Dairy is another great source of protein. Cottage cheese, yogurt, and eggs also have great amounts of protein. Believe it or not, there are families where the toddler loves eggs; you have very little worries about protein. Eggs are a very versatile food and can be eaten in many ways or added to foods. For instance, your child loves scrambled eggs, go ahead and mix in finely chopped meat and your toddler’s favorite vegetable. All in one and filled with protein. Yogurt can also be used as a stir in or flavor boost for many foods.
Act like your toddler.
Have a day with all finger foods. Make a variety of dipping sauces for meats and vegetables, and do not forget the fruit. Toddlers love dipping their foods into sauces. Make fish sticks or beef sticks(same way as fish sticks). For the beef sticks, just grind the meat up so that it is easier for the toddler to chew. Make designs out of your foods, such as star-shaped nuggets, alphabet letters, or geometric shapes. Activities such as finger day will help get your child tasting new foods and give you all a bonding time in a healthy manner.
Allow your toddler to assist in preparing the meat.
It is widely understood that a child that feels a sense of accomplishment is more willing to try. The same goes for kitchen duties. When you include your toddler in the food preparations, they are likely to taste more of the food. All because they helped.
Include your toddler in menu planning.
Give your toddler a chance to pick out foods for one meal each week. Talk with them and make them understand it cannot be the same food each week that they pick. That variety is needed to keep everyone happy. One night a week they choose the menu, another night they help prepare the food.
Mix it up.
When you have a toddler that does not eat meat, you include it in some of their favorite foods. No different than when a toddler does not like vegetables. The vegetables find their way into other foods that are eaten by the toddler.
Again, do not force the issue with a toddler and meat. This could grow into a complete aversion. Offer the toddler a variety of foods for each meal and let them decide what they will eat. It does not take a long time before that toddler begins to try the other foods on the plate. We avoid the addition of treats or desserts on the plate until the toddler has made an effort on their own to eat. Just remember no pressure. The toddler will watch the others in the family and will see that they are eating the foods, soon they will too.
What’s the best meat for toddlers?
Using ground meat is the way to include other vegetables or added protein. All meat can be ground up. It can then be made into patties, sticks, shapes, or other fun ideas that may entice the child to try it. The softer the meats, the more likely they will eat.
Don’t be afraid!
The lesson is not to be afraid of trying new ways of preparing food. There is no reason not to enjoy and have a good time when preparing and eating a wide assortment of food.