Something happens when a toddler approaches 1 ½ years old. It happens to the best of us: your formerly fantastic eater who previously dined on chicken, beef, lamb, and fish suddenly starts rejecting certain foods—especially meat! You may not have changed a thing about the way you’re preparing it. This new development may not stop at meat. The banana you served him yesterday brought tears of joy to his eyes as he devoured it. Today when you serve a banana, he squeezes it to mush in his palms as you watch apprehensively. The horror movie continues: the squashed banana-mush moves from his palms to your clean kitchen floor. He then peers at you, eagerly awaiting your reaction and next move.
What happened? As a parent, you may feel frustrated and concerned. What am I doing wrong? Is my child getting enough protein? Is he going hungry? Rest assured that you’re probably not doing anything wrong; this is likely just a phase that has to do with new, temporary texture and consistency preferences of food. The great news is, this too, shall pass! “What a Good Eater!” brings you 6 suggestions for meat preparation during this meat-fickle phase. Remember that these are tips—not guarantees—that are designed to make this phase more manageable. Toddlers are crazy little people with minds of their own. Keep in mind that something that doesn’t work today may very well work tomorrow, next week, or next month.
Tips for Preparing Meat During Your Child’s “Meat-Fickle” Phase:
- Pound it out, and I don’t mean with fist bumps. Take a rolling pin or meat mallet and pound the meat so that it’s thin and flat, no more than ¼ inch to ½ inch thick. If your baby or toddler gets a thick, tall piece of meat in her mouth, it might deter her during this phase. Let her slowly readjust to the texture and consistency of meat by serving her thin pieces that are easy to handle. Once she takes a bite of meat and doesn’t spit it out, pound it out with fist bumps to celebrate.
- Bread it. Once in a while, you can try serving the meat breaded. Try breaded chicken. Pound out the chicken breast, season it, and lightly coat it with flour, eggwash, and bread crumbs. The result is delicious, and it adds an interesting, crispy texture that your child may find pleasing during this phase.
- Immerse it in a delicious sauce. Bite-sized pieces of meat swimming in a delicious tomato sauce, for example, is often positively received! Two prime examples are Chicken Tikka Masala and Chicken Parmesan. The sweetness of the tomato sauce is often very appealing to babies and toddlers, and a sauce doesn’t make the meat seem like “the main event.”
- Slow cook it. I’m no slow-cooker expert, but I know many moms who are! They swear by their slow-cookers because the food is easy to prepare, delicious, and the whole family enjoys it, including their kids. Who wouldn’t enjoy meat so tender, it falls right off the bone? Our expert, slow-cooking moms swear by recipes such as crock pot lasagna, pulled pork, and chicken tacos: add chicken breasts, mild salsa, corn, and black beans to your slow cooker. Then, cook on low for 6-8 hours, shred the chicken with a fork, and optionally top with shredded cheese or sour cream. You can serve this plain, with rice, or in a tortilla!
- Serve it small. When you serve the meat to your child, cut it into pieces that are very small—slightly smaller than she’s used to. Getting large chunks of meat in her mouth may seem distasteful during this phase. Think small in terms of quantity, too. Start by placing only 2 or 3 small pieces of meat on her plate with the rest of her meal. Small quantities may help her feel less overwhelmed.
- Dip it. Toddlers love to dip! Serve the meat with a dollop of your child’s favorite dipping sauce, such as yogurt (regular or Greek), hummus, sour cream, mashed avocado, honey mustard, or ketchup. Show him how to dip the meat in the sauce and self-feed. This makes his dining experience more interactive, interesting, and enjoyable!
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