By now, your toddler should be enjoying many of the same meals as the rest of the family – and unless you’re planning to be restricted to a diet of bland nursery foods, now is the time to get her used to some more adult flavours.
This can be a challenging time for feeding your child, as she’s more likely to start turning down food in a bid to exercise her independence and willpower. Introducing new tastes takes perseverance, but getting your toddler used to eating a variety of flavours will hopefully prevent her from turning into a fussy eater.
Chilli for children? Yes, really. Okay, so you’ll need to go easy; add too much spice and your child might end up with an upset stomach or turn her nose up completely. But mild curry and chilli can be exciting new options for little tastebuds that have so far been used to bland foods. For a fresh take on pasta, serve it with a sauce made from fried onion and garlic, a pinch of chilli powder and some coconut milk, along with cooked veg and chicken.
Many of the vegetables that boast the biggest nutritional benefits also have a slightly bitter flavour that can be unpalatable to young children. But the vitamin content of veggies like broccoli, spinach and cabbage is so high that it’s worth encouraging your toddler to develop a taste for them. The key to getting your child to eat her greens is to serve them in toddler-friendly ways: try spinach mixed with cream cheese, or broccoli with a cheesy sauce.
Toddlers are often surprisingly receptive to sharp, sour tastes, and will grab the slice of lemon from your glass and suck on it without a second thought. Now that she’s got some teeth and is better able to chew, you can encourage her to eat citrus fruits like satsumas and tangerines, which are packed with vitamin C to ward off coughs and colds. You can also make tasty dips for veggies by squeezing lemon or lime juice into cream cheese or natural yoghurt.
Many favourite family meals – spaghetti Bolognese, lasagne, curry and more – contain garlic, so it’s an excellent taste for your toddler to get used to. Garlic becomes milder the longer it is cooked, so fry it slowly with plenty of olive oil before adding other ingredients, but don’t let it burn or it will taste very bitter.
Although you shouldn’t add salt to your cooking or your toddler’s plate, her kidneys are now mature enough to cope with a little extra salt in her diet. Most of this will come from staples such as bread and cheese, but you can also introduce small portions of foods with a saltier flavour, such as sausages, ham and bacon, although aim for her to eat these no more than once or twice a week.
Remember that all children are different, and some may take more time than others to accept a new food, particularly during the fussy toddler stage. But it’s well worth persevering; the more new tastes your child gets used to now, the broader her range of favourite meals will become.