I’m going to go against the grain here and suggest focusing on getting small children used to the idea of trying new foods rather than getting them to like specific ones.
Little kids’ tastes change randomly all the time, and what they love one day might be “Yuck!” the next. Getting them used to trying new foods and experiencing new flavors and textures as a matter of course (and them knowing they don’t have to eat it all if they don’t like it) will go a long way towards raising kids that will eat fruits and vegetables and try new things and not just stick to mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.
If you can tie new foods to whatever their current fascination is, that helps (for example – baby spinach leaves “just like the Very Hungry Caterpillar”) or to foods they all ready like (had a kid who wouldn’t eat lo mein, but was delighted with “Chinese spaghetti.”) We also had a “three bites” rule in our house – you didn’t have to finish anything, but you had to take three bites of everything, and we’d do it along with them when they were apprehensive about something.
Of course, raising adventurous eaters has its downsides – one kid turned into a fan of sushi (not cheap) and the other one went through a phase where her favorite snack was dipping apples and carrots in ketchup, so.
Oh I’m actually qualified for something! I own a small school lunch business and have a degree in early childhood education.
Here are a few meals/foods that most kids seem to like but not seem obvious:
• low/no heat chickpea Tika Masala with carrots and cauliflower.
• yellow squash Mac and cheese. I essentially purée blanched yellow squash along with the cheese sauce and kids are none the wiser
• kids love broccoli
• basically any fruit
• if you can make dumplings, you can stuff them with basically anything and kids will eat them
I know it’s not exactly what you asked for but hopefully it gives you some ideas.
A few good rules of thumb that I have learned:
Kids can only control a few things in their life and food is one of them. Don’t make feeding a battle because you will lose. Instead tell them what is offered and stick to it. Kids won’t starve themselves. If you have the time include them in the preparation as that provides some level of ownership over the food.
Variety and consistency. Don’t just make the same pasta dish because they like it. Get 5-10 meals in rotation and then slowly add more in. You’d be surprised what children will eat if they are comfortable with it
Hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions 🙂
I’d prioritize texture over nutrition at that age. Texture ends up being the issue for a lot of older kids, so good slimey foods and sauces will open a lot of doors later on.
A lot of things that kids stereotypically do not like are leafy and green. But these are products which are really beneficial, kale, broccoli, brussle sprouts, other cabages. These are all healthy, containing lots of good nutrients and fiber.
Most red and yellow things are also sweeter and therefor are liked much more. They are also really healthy, but are not repulsed against so much.
Also, a thing I would introduce early is fish and nuts. Fish and nuts are packed with good fats necessary for healthy brain development. For fish, look up what types of fish contain the least amount of contamination (I believe generally, the smaller and more short living the fish, the less polution). Heavy metals, which are present in fish, are extra dangerous for small individuals, but I believe general guidelines on fish in children will be present online.
If they are really picky, a little is better than non. And you can always just blender it and add it to a sauce which the kid likes. In that way the vegetable is not visable, so the taste will not be present much (taste and visual senses strenghen eachother, especially when strong emotions are in play)
Also, early introduction of some foods could lead to allergic senzitization, but the science is I believe still on the fence on when to introduce new foods (especially foods which are known to cause allergy more in kids like eggs, milk and nuts). I believe you should only introduce new foods like once a two weeks or something, to see if allergies develop)
Broccoli, kale, most things leafy and green. Also, eggs.