{GUEST POST} Meat! Why don’t my kids eat it?

By : | 1 Comment | On : June 3, 2016 | Category : Blog, Fussy Eaters

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Meat! Why don’t my kids eat it?

By Simone from Play with Food

Meat aversion is relatively common for toddlers and pre-schoolers.  Let me break down some of the reasons for you (in toddler speak) as to why this can be so…

  1. They are still caught up in the activity they were doing before sitting down to dinner.  In their mind they are saying “I’m going to see if the lego man can jump down from the new tower I built and then over to the window.” Without even acknowledging the meal (let alone the meat) they say “No, I don’t like it”.
  2. The large portion of whole meat is very hard to process from a sensory point of view.  In their mind they are saying “Hey, this grilled chicken breast is all dark brown over here and then it’s white over there.  When it’s cut up it’s REALLY white on the inside. AND it’s looking a bit stringy.  Will that get caught in my teeth?  Why is the smell so strong?  Is it the green specks of herbs – what are they?  What is this even going to sound like in my mouth?  Well, I think this is all too hard to process right now.  I think I just want a cracker.”  What they actually say: “No, I don’t like it”.
  3. It can be presented in a way that is too big for their mouth.  In their mind they are saying: “Hey, how am I supposed to put these huge meatballs in my mouth, get them under my big teeth, chew them and form a neat little bolus ready for me to swallow? It’s just that they are too large and my mouth is only comfortable opening about 1.5cm high, given my size. I would prefer the crackers.”  They actually say: “No, I don’t like it!”
  4. The meats can be mixed up with other foods with other textures.  In their mind they are saying: “Hey, what do you call this?  Confuse the toddler day?  I don’t even want to start trying to work out how to put these things on my fork – some are slippery, some are hard and some are just plain … I don’t know what!  Once they are on my fork then what?  Some of it could slip off, go all over my shirt or face and then you’ll just come at me with that terrible wipe.  If it makes it in my mouth, then am I supposed to deal with something that is sloppy and something that is hard at the same time?  There is just too much going on right here in this bowl for me to even start processing it!”  Yet again, they actually say: “No, I don’t like it!”
  5. It looks like it’s going to take me too long to chew.  In their mind they are saying “Hey, that looks really tough and seems like I would have to chew for too long to get that into a manageable enough state to swallow. No offence, but I just don’t have the inclination to spend that much time doing such a rewardless activity right now when I just want to play with my new lego”.  What they actually say: “No, I don’t like it”.

Strategies to help them with this internal dialogue and help you work out which scenario it actually could be.

  1. Prepare them for dinner.  Use a pre-dinner time routine to engage them and get ready for the task at hand. Letting them assist with something leading up to dinner is great too.  It’s important not to think of dinnertime “help” as necessarily having to be helpful.  My children love sorting out the peels and scraps for me – do they need to be sorted? No! But they are engaging with them on their terms and they are being included.
  2. Let them serve themselves their own meal from the middle of the table.  Children love to have control and this helps stop feelings of sensory overwhelm.
  3. Be their role model and eat with them as often as possible.
  4. Let them have options for engaging with their meat.  You can help them cut it “hand-over-hand” on your plate first and then choose a few pieces for their own plate. They have to have a safe opt-out strategy if they still get overwhelmed by the meat.  This could be a learning plate off to the side or letting them put it back on your plate.  (Remember that play and engagement in a neutral environment is better than not seeing it at all.)
  5. Try presenting meats in different ways.  Mixed texture foods are often the most difficult for children to process, however, they are also fun for children to investigate and learn from.  Try a simple one-pot-wonder like this one along with some side dishes that are preferred foods (eg. cucumber and crusty bread are 2 faves for my girls and hence why they are in the picture)

Smoky Beef and Chorizo One Pot Wonder

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Saute 1 medium chopped carrot, 1 celery stick and 1 diced chorizo sausage in 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add 200g beef mince and brown thoroughly.  Add 1 large chopped capsicum 3 ripe diced tomatoes, 1 tbsp smoked paprika and 500ml reduced sodium beef stock. Give this a good stir and add 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 45 min.  Stir every now and then to avoid sticking to the pan.

Serve with some chopped cucumber, baby spinach leaves and crusty bread.

A bit about Simone

Simone is a mother of 2 little girls and lives in Sydney. She runs Play with Food alongside part-time role in feeding therapy. Access her free video tutorial on helping kids overcome a food rut via her website www.playwithfood.com.au. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

Simone has previously written for One Handed Cooks:

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