I have a theory about why kids love chicken nuggets. It’s not because they’re the most delicious form of chicken according to the juvenile palette. It’s because when parents are trying to feed their kids on top of every other little thing that needs to get done, it’s really convenient to pull some chicken nuggets from the freezer, so that’s what kids get used to.
I’ve personally never bought chicken nuggets for my daughter, though I certainly have nothing against parents who do! For me, I just don’t tend to buy foods that don’t appeal to me as an adult and I can’t say I’ve consumed chicken nuggets in a good 25 years…
But that’s not to say I don’t need convenient foods to keep on hand for her! So when I’m grocery shopping, I keep my eyes pealed for things that look tasty, healthy and convenient. Trader Joe’s is my go-to store and these are some of my family’s favorite easy-to-prep products to stock up on.
One of my goals in cultivating my daughter’s palette is to help her appreciate international cuisines. For as much as I love Indian food, cooking it certainly isn’t my specialty. I love that these pakoras (made with potatoes, cauliflower, spinach and spices) help introduce her to the flavors of Indian cuisine in between our take-out orders.
Salmon Vegetable Croquettes
Regular fish consumption provides crucial omega-3 fatty acids to my daughter’s developing brain, and these croquettes are also packed with good stuff like edamame and broccoli. One caveat of these is that they’re a little pricy. I try to think of the cost in terms of the benefits of her regularly consuming fish and my not having to prepare it!
Organic Kabocha Squash
The best part about this product is that it’s pre-cut into cubes that are perfectly sized for little toddler hands. Oh yeah, and squash is super nutritious…but mostly the part about them being pre-cut! If your kid loves sweet potatoes, give these a try. I usually roast them on their own but they would also be great added to quinoa or pasta.
Wild Caught Crab Meat
Another slightly pricy one, but going back to the benefits of regular seafood consumption, this one is worth it to me once in awhile! We discovered that our daughter loves crab when we ordered some delicious French fries topped with crab and cheese from a food truck one day and she ate almost all the crab herself! I encourage her to keep up her taste for it by defrosting a little bit of this at a time, (although one of these days I’m going to make crab cakes for everybody).
Fully Cooked Falafel
Who doesn’t love falafel? These are the vegetarian equivalent of chicken nuggets as far as I’m concerned. The recommended preparation method is via microwave (score!) so they’re one of the easiest items to keep on hand for quick lunches.
Beets offer a pretty divisive flavor even among adult palettes and I’ll admit they’re not my personal favorite. So I never stocked up on them pre-baby but I picked up a package of these pre-cooked beets one day when searching for convenient veggies to pack in my daughter’s lunch. Wouldn’t you know she LOVES them! And I’m even growing to appreciate them myself…
Another convenient baby veggie. These are nice and soft for toddler teeth to dig into and provide a great dipping vehicle for hummus. Although I’ll admit it, we’re still working on learning to take a bite of the zucchini instead of just using it as a hummus spoon!
My theory on chicken nuggets extends to peanut butter sandwiches, but those get a pass in my house because…c’mon, it’s delicious peanut butter! We stock almond and cashew butter too, but I also like to spread this on toast for my daughter to switch things up. It’s slightly sweet from the red peppers and pomegranate juice and also a great way to introduce walnuts.
Apple Cranberry Bran Muffins
These things are a fantastic way to help kids get their fiber! I originally bought them for myself and make no mistake, they’re very…bran-y. But somehow, my kid loves them! I slice them in half and freeze them in individual zip-top bags to easily toss into her lunch. At 13 grams of fiber per muffin, I limit her to a half serving so she doesn’t get *too* much fiber at once (kids age 1-3 should get about 19 grams a day.)
Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets
Fortunately, this RD’s kid loves broccoli. They might take away my credentials if she didn’t! (kidding of course). She also loves crunchy things like crackers, so this freeze-dried version is a natural fit. The adult serving size is the entire bag, but I usually get 4-5 toddler servings out of it.
What are your favorite “unconventional” kid foods?