Help! My Toddler Won't Eat Meat
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We all know toddlers can be picky eaters. They can be downright impossible to feed at times and it can be a mystery why they choose the foods they will and will not eat. I have always compared picky eating toddlers to teenagers. They tend to have the same stubbornness and self-righteous attitudes.
My daughter, Lilia (almost 3), has been a pretty good eater for most of her days. However, she has also had her fussy eating moments. Currently, one food she almost always turns down is meat. I was vegetarian when I was pregnant with Lilia and also during the first two years of her life. However, when I became severely anemic with my second pregnancy, I added meat to my diet. So, my family eats meat about twice a week now. We have a pretty strict rule about eating the foods provided and eating shared family meals. We do not short-order cook in our house. So, the meal served is they only choice she has.
Although I feel confident in my rule, I do internally cringe a little when she turns meats down. It is such an easy source of protein. But, many toddlers find meats unappealing. They are tough to chew, they lose flavor after a few chews, and they can be fatty. Luckily, there are many alternatives to meats that provide adequate protein and other nutrients. Check out my article on Vegetarian Nutrition for Kids for a more complete breakdown of the nutrients vegetarian kids need.
Alternative Protein-Rich Foods
Cheeses: Cheeses are high in bone-building calcium and full of protein.
Beans and Legumes: Bean have protein and fiber too. Pair them with whole grains for a complete protein.
Nuts and Nut Butters: Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fat. Some, like walnuts, even have omega-3's. A handful of nuts is a perfect snack for kids and adults too.
Yogurt and Milk: These dairy foods have protein and vitamin D. If your toddler refuses meats, make sure they drink milk throughout the day.
Eggs: Eggs are excellent protein and have B vitamins as well.
Fish and Soft Meats: If your toddler refuses meats, try your luck with fish. My daughter loves fish and will occasionally eat soft meats too, like chicken salad (chopped finely).
Remember that most picky eaters will overcome their strange dislikes. Continue to offer meats and serve them when the family has them. Eventually, your toddler will come around and make them a part of her diet. And if not, a healthy vegetarian diet can be the answer.
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