My toddler boy was such a joy to feed when he was a baby. I made lots of healthy recipes, and he gobbled them right up! It was so much fun to make him new things and have him always instantly like them! But then my sweet little easy to please baby turned into a 2 year old toddler, and all of a sudden he was not so easy to feed any longer. He started refusing foods that he once loved, and there were some days he would refuse to eat anything other than a peanut butter sandwich. I decided that if my child was going to eat a peanut butter sandwich every day, I would need to find ways to change it up, so that he was still getting somewhat of a variety of foods and to add in some extra nutrition. Here are some of my ideas, and I hope they will help some of you out there who may also have children in a peanut butter sandwich rut!
1. Start with healthy bread!
I am thankful that I started my son out eating whole wheat bread, which is more nutritious than white bread. One easy way to change up a peanut butter sandwich is by making a sandwich on a whole wheat English muffin or a whole wheat bagel. If your child is hesitant to try whole wheat bread, try cutting it into a fun shape with a cookie cutter, or making peanut butter and jelly sandwich rolls. (Flatten bread, spread with peanut butter and jelly, roll up, and cut into slices.) My toddler thought these were a lot of fun!
2. Try other nut butters or spreads.
There are so many different types of nut and seed butters in the regular stores these days that you switch one for another, and your child may not even notice. I regularly see peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower seed butter, and cashew butter at many different stores. I have used peanut butter and almond butter interchangeably, and my little boy is none the wiser. I bought a container of sunflower seed butter today to try out, and I imagine that will also work well for us. If you have a high powered blender you can make your own nut and seed butters as well, though I have not tried this myself. This is a simple change that will give your child a sandwich that is just a little different, and it requires no extra effort on your part (aside from buying an additional ingredient). Another option to add another dimension of flavor is to add a little smear of plain cream cheese onto the sandwich. I usually mix it into the peanut butter slightly, and my son really enjoys it.
3. Use fruit instead of jelly.
By using fruit, you know your child is getting the goodness of fruit on his or her sandwich without the added sugar that is usually in regular jams, jellies, and preserves. A peanut butter and banana sandwich is a classic, and my son still calls this "peanut butter and jelly." I line up thinly sliced banana on one side of bread and mush it slightly with a knife to give it more of a similar consistency to preserves. You can also try sliced strawberries or apples if your child will accept different textures in his or her sandwich. Pureed fruits will also work. I have used unsweetened applesauce on peanut butter sandwiches with no complaints from the toddler. A drizzle of honey or agave syrup is a healthier way to sweeten up fruit purees if they are not sweet enough for your child's liking. If you have the time, making your own jams or preserves is also a great idea. I have seen some great ideas for chia seed jams which do not take very long to make such as. I plan on trying this soon, so you can expect more on that in a future post! If you do use store-bought preserves or jam (which I certainly do from time to time), just check the ingredients. Look for something with fruit as the first ingredient and real sugar or honey instead of high fructose corn syrup. You can even mix some plain fruit puree with preserves to cut down on the sugar. I have done this mixing mostly mashed blackberries with some blackberry preserves, and he loved it!
4. Sneak in a veggie.
This was my main goal when my boy first started his bout of pickiness. I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Super Healthy Kids (a wonderful blog for kid-friendly recipes by the way) for Beet Berry Jam. I thought this was a wonderful idea to add veggies into my little boy's diet without him even noticing. I'm going to make a confession though. I was pregnant when my toddler was going through this, so I did not make my own jam. Gasp! I know. I know. It's true that I do prefer to use fruit on his sandwiches, but realistically that is just not something that is going to happen every day. What I did instead was I steamed and pureed beets and froze them in ice cube trays (similar to making baby food purees) and added in to small amounts of store bought blackberry preserves. And can I tell you he has never noticed the beets are there. The color is exactly the same as that of the preserves, and when I taste it I can barely tell myself there are beets added. I think this would also work with cooked pureed carrots and possibly even summer squash. I also think the filling to these Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins which is a Berry and Sweet Potato Puree, would work well, though I have not tried it yet.
5. Add on a healthy "sprinkle."
Sprinkling a healthy ingredient such as ground flax seeds, wheat germ, or chia seeds is an easy way to bump up the nutrition in a regular peanut butter sandwich. I would say even if you don't take any of the above-mentioned suggestions, you should try this one. I have been sprinkling ground flax seeds onto sandwiches for both my husband and my son, and I have had no complaints. I sprinkle the flax seed onto the side with the peanut butter and use a knife to press it in slightly so none falls off.
These are just a few suggestions from the mother of a child who eats a peanut butter (or almond butter) sandwich almost every day of his life. In my opinion there are worse things he could insist on eating, and at least his daily sandwich is guaranteed to have protein, whole grain, fruit (and sometimes vegetables), and all of the heath benefits that come along with flax seed (there are too many to list). I hope this has been helpful, and if you have any others that I haven't shared here I'd love to hear them! Also for those of you who have a toddler who is refusing to eat foods they usually love, just be patient, it is probably a phase. Toddler food strikes seem to be normal for the age group. It was a few months, but my son did start trying more things again, and he now eats much more of a variety of foods again. I can tell you that my son still eats a peanut butter sandwich most days (it is an easy, quick, and healthy go-to meal in my opinion), but if I switch it up and give him something else he is perfectly happy with that.
For more toddler and kid-friendly food ideas, visit my Pinterest board! Follow Kara O'Neil's board Toddler and Kid-friendly Food on Pinterest.