Feeding young children can be tricky. Parents are often strapped for time, needing to prepare food quickly on demand, especially when there is a hungry and loud mouth to feed. There is a need to provide something healthy and satisfying, and the temptation to turn to junk food is frequently there. I am often seeking ways to get high calories into my energetic toddler without giving him refined, sugary foods high in saturated fat.
There are a handful of key ingredients that I keep stock of for my toddler at all times which serve the above purposes. I use these ingredients either on their own, as the basis of a meal, or as snacks. Here are the top 5 foods that we cannot live without in our house:
Avocados are fab. They serve as a portion of fruit which we know is important for providing vitamins, minerals and fibre. Avocados are packed with 20 different vitamins and minerals – this is astonishing, and essential for little growing bodies. The fibre in avocados will aid good bowel function – we don’t want constipated toddlers. They are fairly high in calories from the monounsaturated (good) fats, which are excellent for keeping energy levels up.
Above all, they taste great sliced, mashed (perfect for weaning baby), mixed into some full-fat Total Greek yoghurt for a healthy guacamole, added to salads, eaten on their own as a snack or added as an accompaniment to a meal.
I also saw this recipe recently which I am yet to try, but looks incredibly delicious for the summer!
Make sure you keep them in a dark cupboard if you’re ripening them at home, or buy pre-ripened ones from most good supermarkets. But don’t leave them hanging about for too long, or they will turn into horrible black mush.
Total Greek Yoghurt
Yes, not just any plain yoghurt – it has to be Total Greek Yoghurt and full-fat. This stuff is just so unbelievably tasty. It is naturally very creamy and rivals full-fat crème fraiche on flavour. Don’t be fooled into buying Greek-style yoghurt as it isn’t the same. I’m not a yoghurt expert, but I am aware that proper Greek yoghurt is strained, which makes it thicker, creamier and with a denser protein content. Protein is great for growing bodies and for feeling more satisfied. Yoghurt is also a fantastic source of calcium which young bones and teeth need.
As well as the health benefits, I mentioned before that this yoghurt tastes sublime. It can be enjoyed on its own (great for weaning babies as it contains no sugar), with fruit mixed in, honey, or walnuts – or all of the above! It can also be enjoyed in savoury recipes such as guacamole (hello avocados!), curries or salad dressings. See Total’s website for more recipe ideas. A personal favourite in our house is to mix with Nutella for a not-too-naughty chocolaty treat – and also a treat for our toddler without feeling too guilty.
I’m not sure there are any children who dislike grapes. What’s not to like? They’re sweet, juicy, bite-sized, soft, crunchy, easily portable and snack-sized. One handful is one portion of your five-a-day and they’re almost guaranteed to be devoured. They’re perfect for pudding as they’re sweet enough to be considered a treat. They’re also an easy option for a lunchbox snack as they don’t need any peeling or preparation (maybe just a quick wash).
In addition to the above yumminess, they are also great for hydration as they have a high water content (have I mentioned constipation in this post yet?) This is good news, particularly in the summer when little bodies are too busy to stop for a drink, but will happily snack on something sweet.
A handful of grapes are counted as one portion of your five-a-day, which is excellent news (hello vitamins, minerals and fibre). And who knows, maybe even you will be tempted to tuck in instead of reaching for the biscuit tin!
Peanut butter is a tasty, nutrient-dense, calorie-dense spread that goes a lot further than merely filling a sandwich. It is sometimes considered unhealthy, possibly as it is calorific – but this is great news for energy-hungry toddlers.
This cupboard staple contains a lot of protein – I think I touched upon the importance of protein – it is essential for building growing bodies, particularly muscles. Peanut butter is also high in the good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), and much lower in the saturated fat involved in heart disease. This means that the calories your little chicks are getting from the fats in peanut butter are significantly healthier than eating the equivalent calories from a chocolate or biscuit.
As well as healthy fats, peanut butter has a high fibre content (the benefits of which you’re all familiar with now), not to mention an impressive portfolio of 30 vitamins and minerals.
Above all, it is a super tasty, super easy and super healthy ingredient to give your toddler to eat. In our house, we offer peanut butter on wholegrain toast for a complete protein breakfast or pre-bedtime snack. We also use it in a multitude of oriental recipes, ranging from satay marinades for meats to easy, tasty and quick sauces for vegetable stir-fries.
Ahhh, the humble spud. For years this tasty tuber was absent in my kitchen in favour of rice, pasta and bread. I had it in my head that it was just a starchy, carby, pointless vegetable and it didn’t inspire me in the kitchen at all. How times have changed.
Potatoes contain no fat and serve as the most healthy, well-balanced way to add a portion of carbohydrate to your well-rounded meal. They are head and shoulders above rice, pasta and bread as they boast an array of vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium and the B vitamins. They also contain an extraordinary amount of, you guessed it – fibre!
They can be cooked as quickly and easily as rice and pasta and in a wide variety of ways. The healthiest ways are boiled or baked with the skin on, to preserve the vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Most importantly, potatoes taste great in any way they are cooked – perfect for fussy toddlers and children. I often simply cube and boil potatoes as an accompaniment to meat and vegetables, curries, stews, baked beans – they work with almost anything! Cover them in lemon juice and herbs for a low-fat, high flavour side dish or crush them, skin on, with some extra virgin olive oil. I also make wedges in the oven or sauté cubed potatoes in some rapeseed oil as an alternative to chips. These are usually popular.
I, for one, am a total potato fanatic now, and my cupboard is rarely empty of them. So go on, ditch the rice and pasta and switch to the delicious Desiree or the magnificent Maris Piper!
So there you go, that is my list of top 5 foods that we cannot live without in the Chick household. I would love to hear about your essential foods for toddlers.
Till next time.