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tricky toddlers at the table: 100 finger food ideas in the making

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the mommyhood memos: tricky toddlers at the table: 100 finger food ideas in the making

Thursday, May 19, 2011

tricky toddlers at the table: 100 finger food ideas in the making

Is your toddler a picky eater? Do you struggle with finding the right balance of healthy foods at mealtimes?

Or perhaps you've cracked it - the magic code of the toddler mind, knowing exactly what makes a food "num" and what makes it "yuck". (Tell me your secret!)

Or maybe you're one of the lucky ones who has a kid who will shovel down anything? (Lucky you. I'm happy for you... and jealous.)


As much as I don't like to admit it, I have one of those toddlers who is selective about what he eats. (As a recovering "picky eater" myself I have come to loathe the word picky, so selective it is.)

And don't be fooled by the colorful spread of veggies in the photo above. Every last one of those peas deliberately ended up in the fold of Mr. Clever's bib. And the pumpkin chunks weren't far behind. (Sound familiar anyone??)

When Levi was a baby he ate anything spooned into his mouth (starting on solids at six months old). We pureed all of our own baby foods and he ate every vegetable or fruit that he was introduced to. (Although he has always been a painfully slow eater and not a shoveler!) Same with meats, pastas, curries, and plenty of other things. As long as they were pureed he liked them.

Then we started introducing finger foods. At first it was fun, but things have gone downhill ever since.

Flash-forward to the present:

My boy eats an enormous breakfast. A normal breakfast for him would be a scrambled egg, an adult-size bowl of shredded-wheat type cereal, a piece of fruit, and a big serving of yogurt. He eats three times as much as I do (and I'm not even joking). At lunch he will easily eat an entire sandwich on whole grain bread, plus some cheese, plus some fruit. (Again, he eats more than his mother.) But by the time he gets to dinner he will often just have a few bites, and of course this is traditionally when I would try to feed him veggies and meats and other things (whatever we're eating basically).

He would literally live on cereal, toast, sandwiches, eggs, fruit, and crackers if we let him. But veggies? He no longer likes veggies. Not a single one. I've even tried giving him dinner-type meals (with meat and veg) in the morning when he's most hungry. No dice. The only way I can get him to eat veggies at the moment is pureed in those expensive baby food squeezie things, because God forbid Mr. Independent would need to be spoon fed! (And he hasn't really mastered the spoon for himself yet either.) As for meat, he could take it or leave it. And pasta? He spits it out every time... even mac and cheese. (I didn't even think there was such a thing as kids who don't like pasta, much less mac and cheese!!)

I'm no dietician, but I'm pretty sure my child needs more than cereal and sandwiches to be in the best possible health.

So how in the world I give this kid a balanced diet is beyond me. But--in between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--I'm trying. And I know I'm not alone.

I want to compile a list of 100 simple finger food ideas for toddlers. My list is started, but not complete. This is where you come in. Will you leave your finger food ideas in the comments below? Once collected and sorted and edited I will make a PDF that can be downloaded and shared (and will include all contributors in the credits). I'm not looking for recipes, just ideas in bullet form will be fine (ie rice cakes with avocado spread or veggie burgers bites dipped in catsup).

I'm hoping this will make my job as head toddler chef in our household a tiny bit easier... and perhaps it will help some other desperate moms too. Because surely I'm not alone. Right?    Right?         Right?!

Ok friends, GO! What are your favorite tried and true toddler finger food stand-bys?

i ain't no masterchef but i do my best,



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18 Comments:

At May 20, 2011 at 12:00 AM , Blogger Jennie {Clover and Violet} said...

this is a great idea, my little one doesn't really like too many veggies either (probably partially due to the fact that he barely has six teeth at 16-months!). One thing that seems to work is veggies cooked into grilled cheese sandwiches. He especially likes tomatoes, but other soft veggies work well too. He can't really pick them out because of the cheese, and he loves the sandwiches so much that works!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 12:15 AM , Blogger amanda said...

Have you tried hummus...? It's a great dip, you could probably jazz it up with other blended in veggies, and then maybe he could dip his finger foods, carrots, celery cucumbers and the like...? :) I wish you luck and am not looking forward to the same... LOL :)

 
At May 20, 2011 at 12:52 AM , Blogger Jhen.Stark said...

Holy Cow I need this list. It sounds all too familiar! Although I think your boy eats a bit more than I do. But none-the-less, very similar.

 
At May 20, 2011 at 3:23 AM , Blogger TwoMuths said...

have you tried offering a puree mix? My 2nd wouldn't touch certain veggies, but if I pureed them and handed him a spoon, no problem (well, besides the mess!) applesauce + sweet potatoes or squash worked well, even as a sandwich filling sometimes.

I also pureed avocado with a little bit of salt (or seasoned salt) and handed over some whole grain soft tortilla wedges or crackers and it was GONE. I'd also try some smoothies - it's easy to sneak in some spinach! (you can mix veg puree into the yogurt sometimes, too)

My midwife and mom of 8 gave me some great advice - don't sweat it. :-) Keep offering the veggies and eventually they'll eat it (she was right!) Both of my kids eat veggies NOW but they went through some stages...

 
At May 20, 2011 at 4:03 AM , Blogger Jennie said...

Oh, my little punk is the same way about veggies! He only eats them out of those pricey pouches too :( The only veggie he will touch is steamed baby carrots if I give him ranch dressing to dip... but he loves cheese quesadillas, so I'm going to try shredding carrots or squash or something in there! Good luck - I'm excited to see your list!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 4:51 AM , Blogger JIll said...

My 13 month old loves pancakes. So I went with that and puree butternut squash and pumpkin and mix it into the pancake mix and then cook. I then freeze the pancakes at take out one as needed. I will break it up into pieces and he now has a snack that he likes and he is getting some veggie too.

 
At May 20, 2011 at 5:36 AM , Blogger A Little R&R said...

Robi likes pancakes and muffins (and you can make non-sweet muffins....corn meal with veggies mixed in).

We do chunky fruits
chunks of bread with various spreads
chunks of lunch meats and cheeses (he LOVES this)

I don't have a big list because Robi isn't fond of finger foods - he likes being fed. I think he loves having mommy do stuff for him. haha!

There are some great ideas above, though - I love the quesadilla idea with shredded veggies.

 
At May 20, 2011 at 6:11 AM , Blogger Nessa said...

We do the quesidillas with steamed veggies diced tiny mixed with cream cheese. This "recipe" is posting on Monday. We are having a hard time over here too - she will not let us feed her and she refused most veggies. I am hoping it is a phase.

 
At May 20, 2011 at 6:16 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

Oh, how I share your pain. Q's favorite foods include applesauce, yogurt, fruit, cheese toast, crackers, and, yep, those pureed pouches of veggies mixed with fruit (must be somewhat sweet). He will usually eat pasta and I'll try to mix the veggies in but he will sometimes discover them and leave them alone, and he was into pureed soups in the winter.

So, finger foods? He does enjoy veggie chicken nuggets dipped in ketchup but that's not the cheapest or healthiest option. He will sometimes eat carrots dipped in tomato basil hummus. Really, I need this list as much as you do!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 9:45 AM , Blogger cooperl788 said...

Ooh, I love this idea! We have lots of things that work one day and then don't the next, for whatever unknown reason. Toddler minds (and palettes) are funny that way. Mostly she hates anything meat-related. The only "acceptable" meats are the fake ones - chicken nuggets and hot dogs (gross!). I think it's a texture thing for her; meat is stringy and chewy sometimes.
Baby food mixed into Mac and cheese, ie: pureed squash mixed into the cheese sauce
dinosaur trees (broccoli) with mayo
apples with peanut butter
cut grapes with yogurt
grilled cheese with finely chopped veggies melted between the cheese
crackers with hummus
Bananas with a drizzle of chocolate sauce (yes, it's not great, but if it gets the banana down then it's not the worst, right?)

Again, thanks for this great idea!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 9:58 AM , Anonymous Yolanda (Blaggie Plaggie:Babblings of a Mommy Doctor) said...

alas, i don't know if any finger foods are surefire winners for all kids. each kid seems to be so different, and preferences keep changing. for a few weeks, blueberries were my son's favorite. then suddenly he went on a blueberry strike, just after i stocked up (i didn't mind eating them thankfully). then it was edamame or carrots. then it was cheese. it's so unpredictable. i've learned to just take a deep breath and go with the flow, offering a variety of foods over and over. i do make it a rule that he needs to at least taste everything before leaving the table, and no dessert (which is usually fruit that he likes) unless he has eaten some of everything. i've also learned to "overcook" the veggies so that texture is less of an issue but they are still encouraged to self-feed.

all that said and done, i totally feel your frustrations. it's been a long time since i have enjoyed dinnertime. i don't know if these would be helpful, but in addition to what others have mentioned, here are a few other things that seemed to work well for us to increase variety:
1. baked "mini" casseroles of egg, cheese, and very finely chopped veggies in mini cupcake pan
2. blend tofu or a little vegetable juice (and anything else you can think of) into a fruit smoothie
3. boiled cauliflower can be pureed with some butter and chicken stock to make something similar to mashed potatoes
4. chopped up veggie patties or black bean patties (can serve with mini hamburger buns)
5. chunks of cold soft tofu with honey or blue agave syrup drizzled on top (might need to feed him this one, unless he figures out the spoon)
6. asian style dumplings
7. olives (this one surprised me! the plain sliced black ones from a can)
8. baby corn
9. meatballs with chopped up spinach and zuchinni mixed into it (if old enough, serve on a stick so they look like lollipops)

the other thing that helped us is putting different finger foods in their own separate bowls or something with multiple sections. then they can empty food back and forth and rearrange the food. sometimes kids warm up to food once they play with it for a bit. really annoying and messy at times, but i just remind him here and there to eat it, not just play with it.

sounds like you are doing a great job and he's overall eating plenty! he sure is a handsome healthy boy! =)

 
At May 20, 2011 at 11:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great idea! Mia is a pretty good eater most days but she still has her moments. One kinda funny thing that has worked for us is buying the cherry tomatoes. If I put regular ones chopped, sliced, it doesn't matter she won't eat them. But she LOVES the cherry ones. I agree with sneaking the veggies into meals, spinach is a great one full of nutrients and once heated shrinks even more. Even if she doesn't know it she is still getting used to the taste of veggies. Also I have found letting Mia "help" me cook really does give her alot more interest in what she will eat. I think one of the most important things is to continue offering them foods they don't like. Most days what Mia won't eat is more about her mood then her palate. Love this blog and you so much and cannot believe how much Levi eats....WOW! Amanda

 
At May 20, 2011 at 11:29 AM , Anonymous Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I have a four year old who would eat nothing but Weetbix and salad if I let him. There are worse things, I know, but still...

 
At May 20, 2011 at 11:45 AM , Blogger Branson said...

We are just getting in to finger foods, but one genius idea I heard was banana pieces coated with graham cracker crumbs... Sounds much less slimy ;) A is one of those rate babies that eats anything we feed him (and I make my baby food so it is a huge variety), so I really hope that continues!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM , Anonymous rachel said...

I'm not quite there yet but it seems to me, as much as it pains me to say it, we have a picky eater on our hands. Everything except egg yolk, yoghurt and banana has been met with a definite "no". I'm not too worried yet because I'm thinking he knows his body isn't ready for most food. But as for toddlers, a few of my friends do green smoothies and their kids love them! I do too so eventually we'll give that a go. Try a blend of white grape juice, a few baby spinach leaves, a frozen banana and some frozen chuncks of pineapple and mango. You have to keep trying till you get the quantities right for your particular palate and start small on the greens side. One of my friends even puts a lime in hers and that was really yum! Toddlers can drink from straws so no need to be 'baby fed' with a spoon. Other than that, I'm interested in seeing what comes about here -- I want my baby eating spicy food!
I just read a review on this book this morning: Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father's Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater. Looks really interesting!

 
At May 20, 2011 at 2:06 PM , Anonymous Hanan @ Lilac City Momma said...

So I diddn't read through everyone elses but here is what we do...

- Pirate booty
- String Cheese
- Cherrios/Chex
- graham crackers with peanut butter
- frozen berries and grapes

Hope that helps =)

 
At May 20, 2011 at 3:09 PM , Anonymous Melissa said...

This is a really good idea, I'm looking forward to your finished list. One thing we tried with veggies is to stick whatever veggies (spinach, bell pepper, peas anything) in the food processor so they are not quite pureed, but chopped up REALLY fine, and then mix and cook that in with scrambled eggs and cheese, that way she couldn't pick/spit them out!

Here are a few snacks/finger foods that Riley likes:

-Hummus on toast/crackers/baby mum mums- she LOVES hummus.
-mini bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter
-toast with avocado and cheese
-savory mini muffins- you can add any veggies but obviously you still might have the problem of them getting selectively spit out :)
-sweet corn fritters
-quiche with ham or bacon, cheese, and tons of veggies

 
At May 21, 2011 at 10:23 AM , Blogger Kerry McCullough said...

I am SO right there with you! Niall used to eat anything I put in front of him (pureed veggies & fruits galore). Now he won't eat a single fruit or veggie and despises mac n cheese because I got busted trying to hide some peas in there. I can't even mask healthy food with cheese or bread or meat anymore. There is NO balanced diet. Cheese and crackers is all the boy will eat. And every day, I continue to try to reintroduce a fruit or veggie... and over and over, he shoves it off his high chair try. My best bets for something healthy are an orange in the "fruit feeder" (because it seems more like juice) or veggie quinoia (the frozen bag from Trader Joe's) drowned in butternut squash soup. It's really good!

 

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