There is no shortage of theories on what makes a picky eater. I don't have a magic cure for picky eaters. What I do have is a non-picky eater- not a ravenous eater, just a kid who will try and likely eat most things. Always sitting down, with a napkin on her lap, and trying to coordinate enough to use her utensils. Somewhat naturally and somewhat purposefully, we focused on three things: developing taste, involving her in cooking, and leading by example.
A kid’s taste is an empty canvas- an amazing opportunity. Those tastes should have a chance to grow with real food made fresh with real ingredients - not frozen, not from a box, not made with ingredients you can’t pronounce, and not ‘cooked’ in the microwave. This does not have to be complicated. A perfectly ripe avocado has been the greatest lunch in a pinch for us- cut into slices with salt, lime, and paprika (Lulu says it makes it look pretty) – this is the easiest meal you will ever prepare. Glazed carrots and sautéed peas will take 10 minutes to cook and involve a total of 5 ingredients even if you count butter, sugar, and salt as ingredients. Rice with any vegetable will always be a quick meal that will work for the kid and perhaps the rest of the family and so does replacing the rice with faster-cooking orzo. The list goes on and it can be easy.
Ask for their help while cooking. Share part of your ingredients and let them pretend-cook along side you. Or let them actually add the ingredients to your dish as you go. An apron (we have matching ones- cheesy, I know), a butter knife, a cutting board, and an onion will make her feel like she’s making you dinner! Lulu’s kitchen tower (a god-sent Kidcraft creation) safely allows my little girl to be at counter-height, stirring and mixing and adding ingredients just as I do. She feels like she is part of the process and she loves it.
Show them what you eat and how you eat. They watch you constantly and want to see you try different things. They also watch your manners. Show them that broccoli tastes good- mmmm. Show them how you chew a tougher piece of meat – on your back teeth with more jaw strength. Show them that you eat with your utensils, that when you sit down to eat you place your napkin on your lap. Show them that sushi is a treat and a pleasure. They mimic so much. When we eat out, I always smirk when after we order my toddler hands the menu back to a waiter while simultaneously saying Thank You. They remember so much of what we do and repeat it.
10 Minute Toddler Lunch: Zucchini and Orzo
Ingredients: ½ cup orzo; half of a zucchini, diced small; half of an onion, diced very small; 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt.
Rinse the orzo under cold water. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Put the orzo in and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let it boil for about 8-9 minutes or until the orzo is cooked through.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and let it sweat for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini and coat it with the oil. Add a pinch of salt. Let it cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes.
Drain the orzo and add it to the vegetable pan. Mix well and serve.