A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food

A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food {via Octavia and Vicky}

Just recently, I felt like three to five times a day I was going into battle. The Toddler Food Battle. A battle of wills over the dining table. It started with forced smiles and over exaggerated excitement about delicious morsels of carefully prepared kid friendly food. It moved on to games and songs and tricks. It disintegrated into frustration and, yes, sometimes tears, as the food inevitably ended up on the floor. More often than not, it ended with one toddler waving his trophy above his head – the much coveted banana.

I have to confess during that time I was so busy with the DOING (the planning, buying, cooking serving, cleaning up) that before I knew it Rocky was almost exclusively eating two foods: banana and yoghurt. I was so concerned with filling his tummy before bed time or naps that I just gave him whatever he wanted. Of course this never actually helped him to sleep!

I could write about how I felt like a failure of a parent, but you know what? I’m not buying into that crap anymore. I was doing my best at the time. But it wasn’t working and it was time to reevaluate. I turned to my one of my favourite sources of advice – the child health nurse hotline.

I was a bit overwhelmed by the advice from the child health nurse that answered the phone that day (bless her, they are all angels, I love them dearly). She suggested good old fashioned grit:

  1. Offer the food.
  2. If rejected, offer the food again.
  3. If rejected, too bad, so sad, no food for you. Repeat at each meal.

Apparently it wouldn’t take long for the toddler to get the idea and start eating what he was offered the first time.

The only thing was that this advice pushed my freak-out-o-meter off the chart. It’s just not my style. I didn’t want to fight anymore, I wanted our dinner table and attitude towards food to be relaxed, for meal times to be happy. So I turned to my old friend, the internet. Other parenting bloggers and Octavia and Vicky readers on Facebook and Instagram had lots of advice for me that was so valuable. Above all the one thing that I heard loud and clear was ME TOO! I’VE BEEN THERE TOO! YOU’RE NOT ALONE! And that was like a big warm hug.

Advice for A Gentle Approach to Toddlers and Food

  • Let go of the guilt. If they’re eating healthy food, don’t worry so much about what that food is. Build meals based on what they do like to eat – Kate from Picklebums
  • Don’t let others push you into something you’re not comfortable doing. Keep offering a variety and don’t make a big deal out of food – Sarah from We Live We Learn
  • Keep offering a range of foods, ones they like as well new foods, never worry about what they do or don’t eat – Kate from Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids
  • If one child is a tricky eater and will only eat certain foods, offer those same foods to the whole family, so it doesn’t seem like they’re getting a special meal – Kate from An Everyday Story
  • Do what you’re comfortable with, try it for a few days or a week and if it’s not working think it over again. Smoothies, veggie muffins and frittatas are great ways to get veggies into kids – Bekka from Just for Daisy
  • Don’t blame yourself, many children are picky eaters. Don’t expect things to change overnight and find the small wins every day – Kate from Laughing Kids Learn
  • Eat dinners as a family, serving everyone the same foods and ask only that they try each food – a try might just mean ‘lick’. Make sure they have enough foods that they enjoy eating on the plate too. Encourage them to describe the taste and texture, rather than focusing on how much they’ve eaten. I often strategically serve the veggies first as they taste better when they’re hot, then serve the meat/carbs after a minute or two – Danya from Danya Banya 
  • If something doesn’t feel right try visiting a naturopath or chiropractor for advice and support – Chelsea from Moments A Day
  • Consider whether your child may have some sensory issues that might be impacting on meal times. Check out these strategies for encouraging sensory processing disorder toddlers to eat – Jodie from Mummy Musings and Mayhem
  • Try talking with a dietician, just for your own peace of mind. In some areas this service is offered for free – Nichole from you clever monkey
  • Focus on lunch instead of dinner – if they eat a good lunch don’t stress so much about what they eat at dinner time. Kids are often tired at dinner time and less likely to want to eat – Jackie from My Little Bookcase
  •  It’s your job to provide healthy food for your child. It’s their job to eat it. i.e. try not to stress, don’t argue with them or make it a battle, provide them with the food at mealtimes and let them eat it or not. They won’t starve themselves – Sara from Happiness is Here
  • We follow a gentle approach with our son. We make sure he’s getting a balanced diet and ask that he tries all the foods put in front of him, but he doesn’t have to eat it all if he doesn’t like it. It’s has been a slow and sometimes stressful road but mealtimes are now pleasant instead of battles, he calmly tries new foods and his tastes are broadening – Ness from One Perfect Day

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Making small, slow changes – and relaxing about food

So where are we at now with Rocky’s eating? We offer him a range of foods that he likes, alongside some new foods. I don’t make a big deal out of whether he eats or not. If he stops eating or starts throwing his food then that’s the end of the meal time and we try again next time. We feed him small, regular meals, to keep him hungry. Now he’s eating toast! He’s eating crackers! He’s eating meat! He’s eating lasagna! And yes, he’s still eating his favourite bananas and yoghurt. Just a lot less of them.

More on toddlers and food

These articles and blogs were also really helpful to me and recommended by readers and friends. I hope you find them helpful too.

Is your toddler a fussy eater? What has worked for you?

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

When I was in my twenties I had a love affair with Thai food. I fell head over heels for the delicate balance of flavours. Not just eating Thai food- I loved to cook it. I would visit our pokey little Asian grocery, over powered by strange smells and fascinated by all the bottles and jars. I’d load up with unreasonably cheap meat, herbs and veg, dreaming of the culinary creations to come.

I don’t make Thai nearly as often these days. Some might argue that kids can eat bold flavours and spices, and I don’t disagree with them. I’ve just been very slow to offer them to my already quite fussy kiddos. Perhaps Thai food will unlock the secret to their taste buds!

Our family dinner table sees a lot of meat and three veg, casseroles, pastas…. meat and three veg. Did I say that already? I do look forward to Friday nights though. For some reason I always seem to need a special meal on a Friday night. Something that says “Hello Weekend! Pleased to see you!”. It might be homemade gourmet pizzas or a rich pasta dish that we enjoy with a glass of wine (not the kids, obvs!). Lately, though, I’ve been firing up my wok and getting back to that fresh, hot, spicy, sour, sweet and delicate Thai flavour.

Last week I made these spicy chicken noodles and they really hit the spot. I love a big bowl of steaming noodles with a kick to them. This week I reinvented an old favourite. Years ago I used to make a rich, creamy Tom Ka Gai (Thai Chicken Soup) almost weekly. It was slightly sour at the back of the throat with a big punch of lime. Delish! I wanted to find that flavour again but ease up on the creaminess while bulking up the veg content. This is what I came up with.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Serves 4


500g chicken breast
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2cm knob of ginger, crushed
1 stalk of lemongrass, bashed but left whole
5 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 small red capsicum, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated
2 bok choy, thinly sliced
5 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 large red chillies, thinly sliced (optional)
1.25 litres of chicken stock
270ml coconut milk
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon palm sugar
the juice and zest from 1 lime
fresh coriander leaves


  • Heat the coconut oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Fry off the garlic and ginger until fragrant, then add in the lemongrass, lime leaves and vegetables and cook until just starting to soften.
  • Pour in the stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  • Throw in the chicken breasts and simmer until just cooked through, approximately 15 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts.
  • Add in the lime juice and zest, taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Remove the chicken breasts, shred the meat and return it to the pot.
    Serve with fresh coriander leaves.
  • This soup is packed full of flavour, but is still mild enough to offer to kids. The two chillies I used had hardly any heat, however if you’re concerned about the chilli just leave it out.

    What kind of food do you love to cook? Or do you prefer to dial for your food?

Chicken Satay Skewers with Snow Pea and Cabbage Slaw

Sponsored by Origin Energy

Chicken Satay with Snow Pea and Cabbage Slaw

Every Monday it happens. The dreaded meal planning session. I’m getting stuck in such a rut, and am so frustrated with kids not eating the dinners I make. Of course I do this to myself – I love cooking and love to try new recipes, so I’m often trying new things out on them. Anything to avoid the repetitiveness of meat and three veg. That’s the very LAST thing I want to cook or eat in the evenings, but unfortunately it’s one thing that both kids will have a good go at eating. However, I insist on trying out new things, so that they grow up to be healthy, well rounded eaters and so that I don’t lose my marbles.

I recently found a great new source of recipes to try out. They all looked really easy to put together but still interesting enough to keep me happy while meeting kids needs too. I tried out the Chicken Satay Skewers, which turned out beautifully. The chicken was moist and tender, the satay sauce was absolutely scrummy and the snow pea and cabbage slaw is a side that works all year round.

Chicken Satay Skewers with Snow Pea and Cabbage Slaw

Chicken Satay with Snow Pea and Cabbage Slaw

Serves: 4
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 10 minutes


600g chicken breast fillets, cut into 3cm pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup soy sauce
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
1 tbs sweet chilli sauce
2 tbs coriander leaves
For the coleslaw:
2 cups shredded wombok (Chinese cabbage)
2 green shallots, sliced
100g snow peas, trimmed and shredded
¼ cup lime juice
1 tbs sesame oil


Combine chicken, garlic and 2 tbs of soy sauce in a bowl. Toss to combine. Thread onto 8 wooden skewers.

Preheat a char-grill pan over medium heat. Cook skewers for 3 minutes on each side or until golden and cooked through. Place on a plate and cover to keep warm.

Place coconut milk, peanut butter, sweet chilli sauce and remaining soy sauce in a small saucepan. Gently heat and whisk until smooth.

Meanwhile, place wombok, green shallots, snow peas, lime juice and sesame oil in a bowl. Gently toss to combine.

Serve skewers drizzled with sauce and sprinkled with coriander. Accompany with coleslaw.

How easy is that? If you’re looking for some more recipe inspiration pop over to the Origin Energy website. You’ll find this recipe along with lots of other tasty offerings. We’ve also tried the Beef and Vegetable Stove Top Stew. I’ll admit that I have struggled to master the humble stew. Mine always turn out a little watery and less than tasty. This recipe was a winner and has become my favourite go-to recipe for a delicious, winter-warming stew.

Have you found any new favourite recipes lately?

Double Baked Cherry Cheesecake

Double Baked Cherry Cheesecake {via Octavia and Vicky}

I love, love, love cheesecake! Whenever I eat it I think of that episode of Friends, when Chandler and Rachel get a cheesecake delivered to their door by mistake, and…

I always thought I could make short work of half a cheesecake myself. Naughty!

This cheesecake recipe is a classic. It’s that gorgeous, rich, creamy baked cheesecake flavour, topped with luscious, tart, cherries. You can actually choose to keep the cheesecake plain, if you prefer, or top it with your favourite fruit or chocolate or caramel or nuts or…. you get the idea.

Thanks to my lovely sister in law for sharing this recipe with me. I love it when I get a tried and tested recipe passed on, I know it will be a winner before I’ve even begun! Of course I couldn’t resist tweaking it just a tiny bit. I assure you the result is to die for.

Double Baked Cherry Cheesecake

Serves 8 – 12 (or two greedy Friends)


For the base

  • 250g Yo Yo biscuits (or any sweet biscuit – eg. Nice, Graham Crackers), crushed
  • 80g unsalted butter, melted

For the bottom layer

  • 500g cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs

For the top layer

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 200g Greek yoghurt

The cherries on top: 

  • 400g Morello cherries
  • 2 Tablespoons caster sugar, extra
  • 2 teaspoons corn flour


Base: Mix together the crushed biscuits (I blitz them in the food processor) and butter until it looks like wet sand. Press into the base of a buttered spring form tin.

Bottom layer: Use an electric mixer to beat together 500g cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Pour on top of the base and whack it in the oven at 180 degress Celcius for 30 minutes. Allow to cool for five minutes.

Top layer: Now mix together the remaining cream cheese, Greek yoghurt and 1/4 cup sugar until nice and smooth. Pour on top of the cooled cheesecake and bake for another 10 – 15 minutes (it will still be just a little wobbly). Turn the oven off and leave the door ajar with the cheesecake inside, to cool. This helps to stop the cheesecake cracking. Once cooled the cheesecake can be kept, covered, in the fridge until needed.

Now for the cherry topping. In a small dish whisk the corn flour with 2 tablespoons of the juice from the cherries. This will help to avoid nasty corn flour lumps. Now combine this with the cherries, the rest of the juice and 2 Tablespoons caster sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the liquid thickens (approx 5 minutes) then leave to cool.

I popped the cherries into a lunch box for travelling to my friends house. Cheesecakes make a perfect travelling dessert and you can make them a day head. I’m all about fitting things in when I have the time! You just have to try your best not to eat the cheesecake before your event :P

Do you think you could eat half a cheesecake? 

Baking the Alphabet

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

The weather is turning cooler and I’m loving it. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the cold weather, the colder the better! I think perhaps I should have been born in a much cooler climate, Australia is too hot for me!

Cold weather means more comfort foods like casseroles, soups, dumplings, mash and PIES. I was inspired (yet again) by Beth’s yummy recipes and we made her chicken pot pies. They were DELISH and I’ll definitely be making those again.

Pebble was keen to help and loved placing the pastry on top of the pies and brushing them with milk. Each pie was lovingly topped with a pastry in the shape of our family member’s first initial, and Pebble thought that was the best bit ever. We had some pastry left over and made more letters, with me cutting out the shapes and Pebble painting them with milk.

I asked Pebble which letters she wanted to make as we went along and she delighted is seeing the shapes emerge from the pastry. She sprinkled a few with cheese to make them extra tasty. Then it was time to pop them in the oven and start baking the alphabet.

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky} Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky} Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Where was Rocky while this was going on? He was kept busy with the age old toddler distractor – the plastics cupboard! It never fails :)

Baking the Alphabet {via Octavia and Vicky}

Eight more ideas for learning letters and sounds in the kitchen:

Want more fun ideas for kids? Just download your copy of the Three to Five Playful Preschool ebook. Watch the 30 second video and buy your copy now or find out more.

Three to Five Playful Preschool ebook - 25+ Playful Preschool Activities
More literacy ideas from Octavia and Vicky:

Multisensory Activities for Learning Letters {via Octavia and Vicky}

Custom Alphabet Play Dough Mats