Nutrition for Toddlers

“Toasties” are the kids’ name for my latest—and one of my greatest—culinary feats. These are created as follows: melt a bit of butter in nonstick skillet, break egg into saucepan and cook on both sides. Then the final step (my secret weapon) is sprinkle shredded light mozzarella on the top side… then, after melting the cheese a little, flip the cheese side down and press with spatula until the cheese is lightly toasted. Serve warm with cheese side on top. The end result is a thin egg patty concealed by a crispy, flaky layer of toasted cheese, with very little obvious “eggy” consistency or flavor. What’s not to like about that? And when my children devoured 3 each of these at lunch one day along with their usual dose of fruit, I was congratulating myself as the mom of the year for the rest of the afternoon. (Kids’ day to day acceptance of nutritious foods can really make or break a young mom’s confidence!) They’ve been eating toasties on and off ever since that glorious day.

Nutrition for busy, picky toddlers is a continuing struggle for me. They eat nothing green… in fact, they eat vegetables and chicken rarely if ever. Their diet is pretty simple: lots of dairy, lots of fruit, whole grain bread and cereals, some lean red meat, and OH SO MUCH natural PB and J. We don’t snack or drink much juice or else meals are ruined. This is very kid-typical and nothing to balk at, but I would like to add some variety.

So I’m asking for suggestions. If your children are good eaters, really good for you. Pat yourself on the back and go puree some pumpkin and avocado for tomorrow’s breakfast shakes. If they’re not, please help me. What are your tricks for smuggling in wholesome, varied foods or preparing them so that toddlers and young kids may entertain the idea of eating them? Especially veggies, meat, legumes, eggs. Here are some parameters:
(1) Nastiness factor: I’m not looking at using my extra-sour-curdled-unsweetened homemade organic yogurt as a vessel for smuggling in chopped spinach and broccoli (ahem, Texas Mommy/Mrs. Incredible). This needs to be palatable for non-superkids, not just Dash Incredible who would rather eat flaxseeds than M&Ms.
(2) Ease factor: “Toasties” take 4 minutes start to finish, and there’s almost no cleanup. Cooking is a means to an end around here, not a hobby.

A related question: how far do you go in catering to your kids’ tastes to get them to eat, especially at family dinner time? I think Red is more of the school where, if they don’t eat it for dinner, nothing else is offered, and then they see it again for breakfast. Her kids are great eaters. Maybe I need to get tougher. We offer them what we’re eating, but if (when) they don’t go for it, I usually offer other healthy, limited options like cheese, yogurt, cereal and fruit to supplement. Do you think supplementing with other options encourages them to remain picky because they know something else will be offered? I sure don’t like putting my tenth percentile kids to bed on an empty stomach!

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