Monday, December 16, 2013

Healthy, nutritious, and delicious to a 2 year old?!?

It is pretty darn hard making food that is healthy and nutritious when you are working 80 hours a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or 50 hours plus commuting in clinic. Add to that the eating preferences of a 2 year old and you have very stressful situations at least several times a week.

Before, I get into what has worked for us, I raise a question to my fellow MiMs and readers: what has worked for you? Please share recipes, links, prayers, spells, themes or anything else you have found useful. 
With the ever rising obesity and dental caries epidemics, O and I are always trying to provide Zo with healthy options. When I have patients in clinic with body mass indexes (BMIs) consistently over the 70th percentiles and disturbing rates of weight gain, and the parents report the child’s favorite foods as “pizza and chicken nuggets,” I cringe. I know it’s hard to get your kid to eat what they need, but it’s worth it, their lives depend on it. And as a doctor, and especially as a Pediatrician, I make it my job to practice what I preach.

Here are a few of our favorites here at the Beehive:
- we prepare what we want to eat (tuna salad, stir fry, slow cooker beans and rice, chicken noodle soup, etc) and then we chop it up, add a bit of cheese, pan fry it on a tortilla and make a toddler-friendly quesadilla that Zo can dip into his favorite Trader-Joe’s garlic-chipotle salsa
- breakfast: greek yogurt with raisins and honey, oatmeal with raisins and molasses, handfuls of raisins (theme = Zo loves raisins)
- lunch: turkey sandwiches with baby spinach, hummus with crackers and grapes
- anytime: hummus by the spoonfuls, oatmeal, Greek yogurt
- when all else fails: his favorite smoothies (said by Zo as a “I want smoo-deeeeee”) option 1 with ripened frozen bananas, a few apple/pear slices, a heaping handful of spinach, milk/ice, and a drizzle of honey or option 2 with ripened frozen bananas, 2 heaping tablespoons of organic peanut butter, milk/ice, ½ cup of raw old-fashioned oatmeal, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla

Hope you enjoy some of our favorites and I look forward to hearing what works for you.


  1. What works best is feeding our daughter what we eat. Unfortunately we're not home in time to eat with her most nights, so that doesn't usually happen. The rest of the time, our au pair serves her something from each food group (protein, vegetable, fruit, starch) and if she doesn't eat it she doesn't eat it. She is going through a similar phase of pickiness, and I honestly can't remember the last time she ate a vegetable we served her. I refuse to hand wring over it.

  2. We recommend the book Hungry Monkey. The guy summarizes actual research on picky eating (and he interviewed a bunch of famous chefs about their kids, and it's hilarious), and there's biological reasons and patterns to why kids do what they do in terms of picky eating, dealing with things like categorization and mobility. It passes normally if you don't make a big deal about it, and on average they get the nutrients they need over the course of a week.

  3. 70% makes you cringe? perhaps it's my career [ped endo] or maternal bias coming through [my toddler rocks the upper edge of the weight-for-length chart, despite eating a very healthy diet], but 70% is still normal. and as for pizza being the fave foods of some of these kids -- it's a favorite food of mine too, and my BMI is not high. i'm quite passionate about feeding kids right, but i just found some of the wording in this post a bit alarmist. definitely recommend checking out some of ellyn satter's books ('how to get your child to eat - but not too much' and others).

  4. Hummus is a huge staple in our house. Also,she likea mimicing what we eat, so we try to properly sit down and eat at the same time whenver possible. Oatmeal in the morning, lunch is at daycare, and fruit/carrots throughout the day as snacks. For dinner, wild rice with beans and vegrtablea (sauteed pepppers, tomatoes, celery) works well bc we can make it into a color game. (Eat two reds! One green! )

  5. I have a weird child. Most recently after preparing a dinner of chick peas and cous cous, root vegetable stew and sautéed spinach and kale she declared - "Mommie! This is da best dinner EBER!!!!!!" She loves veggies, chooses water over ice cream, berries over cake, etc. She embarrasses my husband and I regularly since her food choices are often better than ours! However, her one weakness is chocolate milk (a.k.a choca-milk). She will do anything for chocolate milk. So my trick of dealing with the constant desire for chocolate is to literally put a microliter of chocolate in her milk and let her mix it. As long as she sees me squeeze the chocolate syrup over the milk then it qualifies.

    My daughter is also a smoothie junky, and as long as I can make the color look purplish or pinkish she's all about it. I stuff broccoli, kale, spinach in the smoothies and she LOVES them! tricks for pinking and purpling up the smoothies - blueberries and cherries!

  6. I'm confused about what your concern is---from what you wrote, your kid eats a pretty amazingly healthy and varied diet for a 2 year old (the WORST time for picky-eating in my n=2 experience).
    And I agree with Sarah, 70th percentile on the weight chart is---normal. And pizza is the favorite food of 3/4 of us in the family (the other, 2 year old, will say "candy"). Favorite food does not equal most frequently eaten food, generally.
    Overall, I think you are doing a great job, you are lucky to have such a good eater, and there is absolutely no need to stress!!!

  7. Thanks for all of the comments. I think the sleep-deprivation makes "mountains out of molehills" as the elders in my family say. I agree, when I step back Zo eats great, but on the days he doesn't, it can be pretty bad and pretty stressful.

    As for BMIs of 70%ile, I agree, totally acceptable, but when coupled with a rate of rise in weight gain that shows obesity will be reached very shortly, it worries me. Plus, these very common favorite foods of pizza (mine too!) and chicken nuggets were eaten multiple days of the week. And I had numerous patients with just those trends in my resident clinic last week.

    I totally agree. I LOVE LOVE LOVE me some pizza, but I eat it infrequently, unlike many of the patients I referred to.

    Thanks again for the comments, book recs (Hungry Monkey, such a cute name), and encouragement.

  8. it sounds like your kid is pretty un-picky compared with so many that i know. one of my partners brought her 2, ages 18 months and 3, to our thanksgiving potluck at work AFTER feeding them lunch because she figured they wouldn't eat anything there! and one of my friends has a 2.5 yr old who will only eat yogurt, cheese, fruit, and (sometimes) crackers. both of these women are doctors and very interested in nutrition, so their kids' nutrition is particularly shocking to me. it's not that i condone this behavior, but that i hope you can see that you are doing great!

    my son (2.5 yrs) is a pretty good eater, though has always been on the skinny side, so we err on the higher-calorie side for him. he loves frozen fish fillets, which probably aren't better than chicken nuggets health-wise, but the exposure has made him receptive to eating homemade fish when i have time to do it. he also loves an easy version of creamed spinach that i make for him. we try to keep a bunch of cut-up veggies (cucumbers, peppers, etc.) in the fridge, and we have also found frozen fruit to be a god-send--he loves mango, pineapple, and blueberries, which he eats out of a bowl simply thawed--so much easier than making sure we have a good variety of fresh fruit and so much healthier than the processed or canned stuff. and i make a lot of grains for him--quinoa, rice--he will eat them plain or mixed with some leftovers, but when i'm lazy i make up a box of one of those mixes.

    overall, we just make sure that we don't make a big deal about liking or not liking foods. i am fortunate that i have been in private practice for 6 years and have a lot more control over my schedule than you do now so that i can make sure that i'm home early enough to make dinner most nights, so family dinner is a big deal in our house. our son knows that he is expected to taste everything on his plate before he is excused (he also knows that he has to stay in his booster seat until he asks to be excused and that we don't eat on the run--it's always a work in progress, but i think table manners foster a greater respect for what's on your plate). i know some people frown on that, but the reality is that he ends up eating a lot of healthy foods that he wouldn't otherwise try because of this rule. on a few occasions that rule has prompted him to eat a huge serving of kale. one other thing is that i try to make his plate look as much as it can like ours--the food might be cut up a bit smaller, but otherwise, it's almost identical. i think it's helped him move away from the mentality that he only eats certain kinds of foods. last night he told me that his caesar salad was "yummy yummy," so you never know what you'll get when you put "grown up" food in front of a kid.

    good luck! just remember that the more variety you expose your kid to, the better. never assume anything about what a child will or will not eat because that changes on an hourly basis!


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