Q: I’m looking for advice on post nursery/pre-bedtime snacks for my almost two year old. Recipes would be great but a general idea of what sort of foods she should eat at that time would be amazing.
They have their dinner at 4 pm so by bedtime she is hungry – however, I obviously don’t want to load her with unnecessary calories, unless needed. She is a monster for dairy (sorry!)… so yoghurt and milk seems to be the General go to. I’ve read porridge is great but that gets thrown at the walls. Any ideas please?
A: Great question! My little ones also eat like grasshoppers, all day, everyday so I can just imagine that your little crumpet would be peckish by bedtime! Kiddies have sooo much growing to do and this requires oodles of energy, so don’t be too concerned about calories as long as they are coming from nutrient dense foods and not empty calories, in which case they would be unnecessary (like a rye sandwich vs a take away burger on white bread). The general guideline for toddler meals (up until age 5) is the following:
- Meals should contain more good quality fats than adult meals (so your avo, coconut oil, salmon, nuts, seeds etc). I always advise people, in general, to avoid low fat anything because fat adds taste and when that is removed from a product they usually add sugar to compensate. YUCK! The exception to this would obviously be with overweight individuals or children (in which case low fat is necessary in cases).
- I never advocate removing carbs! EVER! Sticking to the slow release carbs like sweet potato, legumes (like lentils and chickpeas), quinoa, oats and brown rice are regulars in our house! Don’t be scared of these.
- Fibre is as important for littlies as what it is for big people but too much can actually slow down absorption of some minerals. Fruit and veg contain perfect amounts, so you are safe if their intake is balanced.
- Dairy- My kids didn’t inherit my vast array of allergies, thank goodness, so dairy is a feature in their daily intake. I always feed them full cream products, Greek yoghurt, white cheese like mozzarella and milk (unfortunately both loooooove milk way to much!). If your littlie gets snotty or coughs after dairy, then rather keep intake down.
- As for protein, it helps the body repair and supports muscle development. Fish (hake, salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout), turkey, chicken (not our own hahah) and lean mince are what we use and what I recommend. Red meat is tough on our digestive tract and this makes for lethargy and gut distress, so I steer clear of it.
- Children definitely don’t need sugar. Full stop. So cereals freak me out a tad. I would avoid that as an option. Unless its oats. 🙂
- Salt is just as dangerous and most foods are loaded with them. The fact that you are making your own meals for your squishy face is perfect because you can control what you put in them! Salt should not be added in there. Herbs are great for extra flavour and vegetables actually have their own natural levels of salt. Himalayan salt is very different from table salt! Table salt is bad for anyone especially children, whereas himalayan sea salt in moderation actually does the body good (kiddies too, small amounts)..it balances electrolytes, strengthens bones, helps nutrient absorption in the gut, can prevent constipation and even help with metabolism..so its actually considered a super food by many. Not the same as table salt which is awful
- Never ever trust any prepared, store bought meals! Ever…fish fingers? EW! nuggets, GROSS! They should be called little tidbits of toxins. Rather prep a bunch of these freezer friendly options ahead of time so you can literally take them out in the morning and heat them in the oven at night!
- Steer clear of juice at night. Juice in general is gross and so bad for their teeth but my give at night and this just coats their teeth and accelerates decay.
Right, after all that blah blah..here are a few options I LOVE using for my kiddos dinners (I have so many that I love but these are the easiest). As a side note, I like to make sure dinner is eaten at least an hour before bed to give them time to digest properly so that the body can focus on repair and growth!
- Platters of finger foods – my kids love platters and I love them because they are super easy and I can just plop a few tasty options on a plate and they can pick. (I never force them to eat everything either, when they are full they are full, but that is the only food they get then.) I love adding grilled chicken strips (2 is usually enough), halved baby tomatoes, sliced avo, plain rice crackers with a dollop of cream cheese or hummus. Cucumber slices and Olives. My kids adore olives, I just rinse the brine off well!
- Sweet potato hashbrowns – I love these because they are quick and easy and sweet potato is KING when it comes to vitamin and mineral components. To make the hashbrowns you need,Grate 3cups sweet potato, Add 2 whisked eggs, 3tbsp chickpea flour (or rye or wholewheat) and Herbs. Use coconut oil for shallow frying and fry lightly till golden brown. I usually combine these with tiny burger patties made from mince, eggs, onion, tatsoi chopped until invisible and quinoa or oats (these are great because you can make a whole whack of them and then freeze them!). I roll tiny little balls and then squash them with a fork before I fry them up in coconut oil. Then we build a burger. Or I use the patties and add some steamed corn on the cob AKA MIELIE if you live in South Africa! Even baby corn goes down well!
Fish cakes – such a winner in our house! I use white fish (and if time is short and I haven’t been off the farm for fresh ingredients then I use tinned mackerel). I grate carrots, chop red peppers, finely chop broccoli and add quinoa or puree’d lentils. I mash it altogether in a bowl and then shallow fry in coconut oil. I love adding sweet potato and beetroot chips to this dish. Cut sweet potato in nice thin strips, cut beetroot into thin slices grill or bake in coconut oil in the oven at low heat (110deg) until they brown nicely. Delicious and nutrient dense!
Egg in the window – I love eggs and my kids love eating eggs! This is soooo simple and yet so nutritious. Use a slice of 100% rye bread, spread coconut oil thinly on top and on bottom of slice and then lightly fry it for a few seconds. Then using a cup or cookie cutter, cut a circle in the middle of the bread and plop an egg into the middle and fry it. Once it is fried, dish it up into a plate and place the circle back on the plate with the egg in the window! I chop up peppers, tomatoes and avo as a side dish.
Egg muffins – In a bowl I whisk eggs, add in herbs, chopped veggies like cauliflower, tomatoes and finely chopped green beans. To that I add turkey bacon chopped into cubes (msg free) and grated mozzarella cheese. Pour the mix over into a muffin tray and bake until they are firm. These freeze well! I usually put one on their plate and combine it with potato salad that I make with baby potatoes (skin on) chopped into small blocks, some smooth cottage cheese and hellman’s mayonnaise (or homemade mayo, I’ll be adding the recipe soon!). Obviously any veg combo will do here!
Guacamole and veggie sticks – I like giving them veg and ‘dips’. I usually chop up lengths of carrot, cucumber, broccolli ‘trees’ and cauliflower ‘trees’ and put a bowl of guacamole (I just mash avo and add some diced tomatoes (I am Italian, have you noticed the tomato trend hahaha, Mediterranean all the way haha). You could even use some of the sweet potato or beetroot chips here! Hummus works well here too!
Sneaky wheat free PASTA! I love pasta sauce because I can hide so much in there. I puree lentils, I add peppers and teeny tiny blocks of all the veggies they often refuse. Especially my daughter, she is like a sniffer dog! Add this all to lean mince and serve with wheat free pasta shells. Delicious, filling and nutrient dense! I sometimes swap out the pasta with brown rice or quinoa!
Meatballs and sweet potato mash – I make a bunch of meatballs and then freeze them in portions so I can just whip them out and defrost them! I use lean mince, egg to bind, blended oats into a fine powder, finely chopped onion and garlic, veggies and then shallow fry or bake! I use sweet potato mash often. I find it far more nutritious and a naturally sweeter taste that the kids love! I steam sweet potatoes, mash them up, add coconut cream to it and a dash of Himalayan sea salt.
Other foods I like to give them are baked lasagna with lentils instead of mince (I make the bechamel sauce with rye flour and milk and butter). Eggplant roll ups (where I steam eggplant slices and then roll them up with shredded chicken and cottage cheese filling..yuuumy!). I love making them wraps.
The things to avoid at night in terms of food options are anything sugar laden! I don’t give my kids fruit at night! I don’t give them juice, flavoured milk, horlicks (actually I never give these) or ice cream or anything with sugar. That just jacks them up and affects their sleep! If your child has a sweet tooth then try avo mousse (this is also not a bad option if they aren’t too interested in their food!). 1/2 avo mashed, 1/2 tsp honey and 1 tbsp cocoa. Blend till smooth and you can add coconut cream to it to make it smoother aswell!
I hope this has given you a few ideas for some healthy, nutrient dense options for your poppet (and the rest of the family too ofcourse hahah)! I will try make a point of adding more of our dinners to the page as ideas!
- Live wholesome!