If mealtimes are getting you down, you need a few pointers from Joanne Gould...
For so many of us, kids’ mealtimes are nothing short of horrendous. If you’ve ever had a wailing banshee on your hands due to the crime of cutting toast into triangles instead of square – or vice versa – then you’ll know how incredibly stressful, frustrating and downright upsetting dinner time can be. But what if it didn’t have to be like that? Put your hand up if you’ve read French Kids Eat Everything or any other similarly smug feeding guide; whilst much of may feel like an impossible task, one of the key points to take away is that actually, children enjoy a vast array of unexpected flavours that we may think are too ‘challenging’ for them to eat. And it makes perfect sense that they would too; after all, would you pass up a prawn dopiaza in favour of some mushy old cereal? Thought not. Try this little lot for size.
It’s the millennials’ most loved fruit, and the good news is lots of little people rather like it too. Whether it’s spread on toast (remember to check for appropriate toast shape), mashed up with some finely chopped tomato and lime juice as a mini guac for dipping, or simply sliced into baby-led-weaning-friendly chunks, you may soon be able to add another green veggie to the list of toddler-approved foods. If the tiny dictator isn’t overly keen on it straight up, you could always whack some in a smoothie for a quick and easy way of getting those delicious essentially fatty acids, potassium and protein into them.
Please note we are not suggesting you give your little one an entire olive, which would be a major choking hazard, but he or she may surprise you by happily munching on some chopped pieces. In our experience, toddlers prefer strong flavours to traditional, bland nursery food, so the umami-rich taste of many olives could be right up their street. They’re perhaps a bit salty to start giving as a snack as a matter of routine, but a handy way to inject flavour and interest into a pasta dish and simply for them to experiment with foods and flavours.
It’s best to skip the raw fish element of sushi until your little one is around six and their immune system is up to scratch, but many toddlers will be excited to tuck into veggie and rice-based California rolls and the like – especially if you join them. Small hands can easily scoop up sushi rolls, or they might enjoy playing around with chopsticks too if you can get your hands on the kids type that Wagamama have. Look for avocado, cucumber, crabstick or cooked fish varieties; seaweed is nutritious too. Just keep them away from the wasabi!
It’s up there as the nation’s favourite dish, so why wouldn’t your little one want in on curry night too? Homemade, mild curries using a range of aromatic spices – not salt and sugar laden jars or pastes – should turn out to be a big favourite. Batch cooking a big pot of butter chicken, comforting dhal, a proper Bengali style korma (Bake Off’s Nadiya Hussein has a fab recipe in her first book) or a lamb rogan josh means you can all eat the same meal, saving you time in the kitchen and allowing kids to get to grips with their first taste of spice. Serve it up with all the trimmings (naan, poppadoms, Bombay potatoes, rice – and extra chillies for the adults to add if they like) and let them go wild with some cooling natural yoghurt if you can bear the mess.
A lot of adults are fussy about seafood and now is the time to introduce your offspring to their fishy friends to prevent excluding this as a food group down the line. Seafood is a fantastic source of lean protein and different varieties provide everything from zinc to omega 3’s, making it a nutrition-packed choice. Let them try shelled prawns, cooked salmon, trout, cod and other popular fish – not just their favourite tuna mayo sandwich. A fish pie of mixed firm fish and prawns with peas or sweetcorn and topped with cheesy mash tends to be a winner, but we’ve known small people to get excited about prawn pasta, prawn cocktail (lose the lettuce) and we even had to keep a proprietal hand over our Carluccio’s spaghetti alla vongole recently to avoid surrendering it completely.