2 January 2010

The Toddler Food Graph

I feel like I should be stood at the front of a training room with a pointy stick and an overhead projector.

Andy and I have often discussed the fact that the more effort I put into cooking meals for Presley and Cash, the less they eat. The opposite is also true. If I shove something from the freezer into the oven and onto a plate, they'll eat the lot!

For example the following meals are the most popular with the boys, yet they require little or no culinary effort on my part:

Pizza and sweetcorn
Fish fingers, chips and peas
Sausages, potato waffles and baked beans
(Shop bought) meat & potato pie and mixed veg

Whereas if I spend time cooking for them, from scratch, they usually turn their noses up. This includes:

Chicken casserole
Pasta bolognaise
House burgers
Fish Pie

There are of course exceptions that prove the rule. Anything that Grandma cooks is usually devoured greedily (casseroles especially), although I like to think that this is because we eat later round there and the boys are starving. Of course this actually does prove my rule as I spent no time cooking!

Another exception is that they like a roast dinner, which takes a bit of time to cook, but is also normally eaten by the whole family. If Daddy is eating it, it must be okay!

Does this graph apply to your family? Suggestions for recipes gratefully received!



  1. totally agree here! junk from the freezer is instantly devoured with cries of yummy. Porridge is also always a winner, anything i actually make is usually regarded suspiciously and pushed around the plate. the only thing I make that bucks the trend is shepherds pie -always a winner.

    Sometimes i think grandma could serve up raw pigs trotters and they'd eat them up. sigh.

  2. You can make your own more healthy versions of the shop bought things they like. Buy cod and dip it in egg then breadcrumbs and shallow fry instead of shop bought fish fingers (less salty) make your own wedges, chop up potato and sweet potato rinse and dry on kitchen towel, chuck on baking tray with a tablespoon of oil and bake. Again, cheaper and less salt.
    My kids love the soup we make together (recipe on my blog)which you can make thicker and stir through pasta or serve with garlic bread or cheese on toast.
    You can make a hdden veg tomato sauce and buy a pizza base mix then get the kids to add their own toppings. I find anything they have made themselves or had a hand in is always eaten with no fuss.
    You can also stir the hidden veg sauce through pasta. I make vats of the stuff and just keep in freezer. ring the changes by snipping ham up into it or stir in some tuna or add cheese sauce etc. Minimal effort required.
    My kids love cooking, when your boys are a bit older get them involved as it certainly helps.
    Quick roast dinner tip, next time you make a roast, freeze some yorkshire puddings and some of the gravy. Then you can just cook sausages or a chicken drumstick, microwave some frozen veg & the gravy and bung the yorkshire in for the last five mins of chicken cooking and you have instant roast dinner.

  3. I don't think you're doing too badly! My 4 year old has always been dreadful with food. He eats pasta, bread, fruit, breadsticks and yoghurt and that really is practically it. Don't get me started on the hours I've spent cooking various things to get him eating more widely. His younger brother is a bit better but he copies big brother in what he eats at the moment. Such a headache, I've gone through the getting stressed about it stage but a plan for the New Year is to get them eating a wider range of things. Somehow!

  4. Oh you and your graphs!! I have to say that the minute I stopped worrying and just cooked one meal things improved for us.

    I made sure that I always have fruit in and would serve extra bread, but now the boys eat what we eat, including curry, taccos, wraps, stews etc. I also find that letting them help is great and they will eat what they make.

    Also once they get a bit older then you can change mealtimes and all eat together. Now Maxi is at school, he is always hungry when he gets out, so healthy snack at 3ish and main meal at 6pm ish. We all eat together and as you say of Daddy is eating it then it must be fine

    Home made pizza - great fun, not to messy. Dumplings - children love them. My slow cooer is my best freind in the winter

  5. Little Miss A is a bit like this, so I have started keeping convenience foods in the freezer if I need her to eat in a hurry. She will eat anything at nursery but at home, forget it. She doesn't like rice at home but at nursery she'll happily eat it. We're having curry tonight so we'll see what she eats.

  6. Love the graph! I can totally empathise - the same stats apply in our house. Pasta with a blended home-made veg sauce is always a good one to get the veg into them. Mild curry with mini naan/poppadums is interesting for them. Add turmeric to water when boiling rice to make it yellow - novelty factor = eating (usually!). Good luck and Happy 2010!

  7. Loving the graph - I find that things like chicken nuggets which can involve Toddlergirl getting covered in breadcrumbs distort the correlation

  8. Oh it definitely applies here. Often the best meal for Monster is toast! not very nutritious though!!

    I agree on the roast dinner though - always a winner :o)

  9. No recipes or menu ideas from me - but I can tell you what we did w/Man-Child. We had a firm three bite rule (real bites; not nibbles). If there was something on his plate he didn't want - he had to have three bites and that was it. BUT, if that same item showed up again a few days later - the three bite rule still applied. This helped to ensure that he would try new things, helped him to realize that he liked things he didn't think he would and expanded his palate at an early age - plus it got those veggies down him! Good luck.

  10. Yes! And I spent all last year trying to change eating habits, and have made significant progress. At the time my were 3, 4 and 6.

    Eating later does help, as does right after swimming.

    I just kept at it, trying new things, until I hit on a few winners. Mine love spag bolog, any kind of pasta, cottage pie, mince and tatties, tacos, fajitas, caseroles, meat balls, jacket potatoes, and of course any kind of roast with yorkshire pud!

    Good luck!

  11. Glad to Hear, since by default; home from work/daycare, throw somthinf inthe microwave, is dinner a lot of the time. My kds do love my "grandmas recipe" chicken stew that I make and freeze in batches, though, and also pizza that we make together. I wish I could home cook more, but your graph reassures me that my kids wouldn't care, and would miss their boxed mac n cheese!

  12. Totally agree but thats kids for you! Happy New Year Sandy! I've tagged you into a meme over at mine..enjoy x

  13. Heather, I'm so glad it's not just me!!

    Juicytots, thanks for all the suggestions. I do make my own chips and they will eat them! I like the idea of them making their own pizzas too. Wish they would eat pasta - I'll keep trying with that one! Instant roast dinner - I like the sound of that :-)

    Emily, I've found that having something new on my plate makes them want to try it. It's hard when they turn their noses up at your cooking, but they won't starve - especially if they will eat bread, fruit and yoghurt. Mine have their fruit after a meal, they can always fill up on a banana.

    The Mad House, this is the last graph for a while! I try to be relaxed about their eating, but it is difficult when they refuse to even try a home-cooked meal. I'll definitely get them helping with the cooking. Great idea.

    Ang, I hope the curry went well. I can make exactly the same meal that the boys ate at their grandparent's house, but they won't eat it at home!

    Hot Cross Mum, I wish they would eat pasta, it would make my life sooo much easier! I'll try then with a curry, great idea. Happy 2010 to you too :-)

    Muddling Along Mummy, mmm, chicken nuggets. I'm going to have a go at making my own, surely they'll eat chicken nuggets?!

    Slim Lens, we're the same here. If all else fails I fire up the toaster!

    Gigi, I love the three bite idea. I think they're a little young, but I'll give it a try :-)

    A Modern Mother, thanks, it sounds like you've done really well. I'll just keep at it and like you say the later they eat, the hungrier they'll be!

    Geeky Mummy, I think you have to do what you can. I mix home-cooked with frozen ready-made. If I find something they like I should make extra and freeze it - good idea!

    Wife Of Bold, Happy New Year to you to. Thanks for the tag :-)

  14. It's not easy when you aren't a dab hand in the kitchen, I should know. I sometimes wonder what we live on. A chart sounds like a great idea.

    Best wishes, CJ xx

  15. Food time is a nightmare in our house too though toddler seems to enjoy the home cooked stuff more than things like chicken nuggets and fish fingers. He loves spaghetti and meatballs (made with lamb mince), mince and mashed potatoes, spag bol and chilli con carne. He's not a big chicken fan but will eat it off the bone. For me it's finding the time to cook the meals when I'm still nursing baby girl. It's a pain that he won't eat the freezer stuff as it's handy for time saving.

  16. CJ, Thanks, I'll keep trying! x

    Laura, it is difficult to find the time to cook from scratch every day. Perhaps we could both try to batch cook and fill up the freezer? :-)

  17. Same here! Top Ender hates my home made Chicken Nuggets, but will eat shop brough in a heartbeat. Luckily Baby Boy hasn't got to that point just yet...

  18. Pippa, I'm so glad it's not just me. I haven't tried chicken nuggets yet (I don't even think I've ever had one), perhaps I should start as I mean to go on and make my own! x


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