Mealtimes at our house can be a fairly stressful affair at the best of times. I know the kids need a balanced and healthy diet, but when you have one child who literally only wants to eat white food, another with allergies and two others with incredibly fussy palates, it’s easy to give in and let them dictate the menu. The thing is though, these little people are my responsibility and I want them to be healthy and strong; I know that the UK has a problem right now with poor health linked to bad diets, and I know that the education has to start now, while they’re young. We need to get them into better habits! This is why the Think Toddler Size campaign is one that really resonates with me. I need help. I need to find ways to ensure my kids are getting the right balance of foods every time they sit down to eat. And, more over I need ideas for meals! A few months ago I wrote about toddler portion sizes and as a follow up to this, the Infant and Toddler Forum are now running a competition to try and source the best and most innovative ways to help parents plan, prepare and deliver balanced and nutritional meals for toddlers- using correct portion sizes for little tummies. Allow me to tell you about The Think Toddler Sized campaign, and the Feed My Little Pal app!
Parents are invited to submit an idea that will help other parents and carers to take control back when it comes to mealtimes. We can’t let this tiny terrors rule our kitchens any longer! Elsie has allergies so we’re generally really careful about what she eats, but having older siblings (without allergies) often means that she sees them eating things that she isn’t offered, and the results are usually LOUD. She can have quite the tantrum if she thinks she’s missing out on something delicious and forbidden. We have generally cut down on the amount of treats the kids have, but they still sneak in, especially at weekends, so I find myself searching for dairy free alternatives for her all the time. The thing is, as a result, the kids no longer want proper meals. They want to snack, and crave sugary foods All. The. Time. The challenge here is to find new and innovative ways to encourage kids to eat the right foods, and to help parents deliver the right portions too.
During the last campaign I was interested to find out the correct portion sizes for toddlers, and was actually comforted to see that I had it pretty much spot on for Elsie. However, its an ongoing thing and bad habits creep in (as they do with us all) so I think as parents we can all do with regular reminders on what should be going into those little tummies. While I was thinking about ways that I could improve the kids’ diet, I thought about my own. I eat very healthily, and I see a personal trainer once a week for a gym session which is always preceded by a weigh in. This weigh in takes into account various things, including total body fat mass and hydration. This helps me to keep track of my progress, and to keep my diet in check between PT sessions. I also use an app called My Fitness Pal to track calories and macros- the amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats I eat each day. It struck me that I could do with something similar for the kids.
I’ve submitted my idea for the Feed My Little Pal app, detailed below. I’d love to know what you think.
Meal planning is all well and good, but when your toddler has only a limited number of foods they will eat it can be really hard work! I’d like to create an app that helps parents to come up with balanced meal ideas so that they can plan their weekly shop and be confident that their children are getting both a balanced diet and the correct portion sizes every time.
Parents simply enter the foods that their child will eat into the app- either by choosing from a pre prepared list and/ or adding their own. The app then advises parents on the nutritional value of the foods, and suggests tweaks to ensure children are getting a balanced meal each time. For example if your child likes plain pasta with cheese on it, the app might suggest adding some ham or some cucumber sticks on the side.
The app will ask you to provide examples of foods that your toddler likes to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and next to each food you get a break down of the salt, sugar, fat, levels too, as well as letting you know with catergory the food goes into and which other categories are needed to complete the meal. You are then able to plan your wekly menu for your child, with each meal and each day receiving an overall rating for balance and nutrition. The app will generate a shopping list that you can print out, and you can also print out a colour-in place mat which promotes healthy eating for kids, and serves as a visual portion size reminder for parents when it comes to dishing up.
The app will also provide visual reminders of what your toddler’s balanced plate should look like with each meal and will link to external recipe sites to download nutritional information if you’re eating out. Ready made snack foods and meals are stored on the app and can be added easily through a search option. Recipes are also stored- saving parents time and ensuring favourite meals are balanced- and you can add your own recipes too, which the app will rate based on balance and nutrion. Then, other parents using the app can share your recipe ideas to create balanced and nutrional meals for their own children.
You can enter your own idea here, and be in with a chance of winning £1000. You can also vote for my idea if you’re feeling generous! I’d love to see an app like this made available for parents because I think sometimes meal planning can sound like such a good idea, but in reality (in my experience) it rarely works out. You can view my idea here and click on the thumbs up to vote. If anything else, taking part in this challenge helps you to really think about what’s going onto your toddler’s plate and I know that I for one have made lots of changes already. Are you ready to take the challenge too?