Using Bento Platters To Encourage Your Toddler To Eat A Variety Of Healthy Foods
Helpful Ideas For Bento Boxes For Toddlers:
- Grapes (Consider cutting in half if too large for your toddler)
- Chopped strawberries
- Chopped cooked green beans
- Watermelon balls
- Cut Kiwi fruit
- Cut mandarin pieces
- Blueberries or other seasonal berries
- Grated salad
- Chopped baked potatos
- Small pasta spirals
- Small cheese squares
- Rice Crackers
- Dry cerial
* You can also try small pieces of apple, avacado and banana (But remember with these bento boxes your child may not eat the food immediately and these foods may brown quickly when left at room temerature).
* Choose 4-5 different fruits/veg per platter, in small portions, cut up small. A combination of 2-3 items will also suit a light snack meal, ideal for morning and afternoon tea for your toddler.
* Use a non-porcelain plate incase your toddler wants to pick it up. Even a lunch-box may suit.
* If you're not using a divided plate, why not arrange the food into the shape, or happy face or cut some of the food into shapes to make it look even more interesting!
Toddlers can be fussy with their diet and may not always want to try new foods. When my daughter first started eating solids, she wanted to live on mash potato and peas! She would often not try new foods just because she didn't like the look of them. As she has grown, she will eat a wider variety of foods but still proves fussy at times. Because of this I decided to try serving her food in Bento box platters, and it's worked very well for us.
While I serve her a plate of healthy foods at meal times, she won't always try everything on her plate when we sit down together at meal times. However, I've found if I leave her alone with new foods and a variety of healthy 'snack' options, she will decide to try them.
In her play room there is a small dresser and often after meals, particularly when she hasn't eaten a lot, rather than forcing her to eat everything on her plate at meal times, I let her finish her meal when she wants and I head back to the kitchen and create a small Japanese bento style platter before I prepare to do the dishes. I place the platter on her dresser with a sippy cup of water nearby and off I go to finish cleaning up. I've found she picks at what she wants and often will try everything on the plate.
A bento is a small plate which is divided into sections. Similar to an adult's dip platter, just smaller. Bento Box's are a traditional way of serving Japanese foods. For Children in Japan the food is sometimes arranged and decorated in the box so that the food forms the shapes of cute faces and animals. You don't need to use a traditional bento box though, you can simply arrange the food in patterns and different sections inside a lunch box or on a toddler plate.
For example, I may make up a platter of about 5 different fruit and vegetables, and may include some pasta. I cut them into small pieces and arrange them colorfully on the plate. Occasionally I'll add a biscuit or small cut sandwiches too. This doesn't stop her from eating her regular meals, and it's always a plate of cold foods, but I've found it does encourage her to try new foods and to eat more of a variety of foods. I've found if I presented this platter to her at the table, she isn't very focused on discovering the new foods then. She'll eat what she knows she likes, and then want to toddle off and play. I want to ensure she has a good variety of fresh foods in her diet so supplementing her regular meals with the little bento platters I make has been a fabulous way to do this. Plus, it's quick and easy and usually doesn't involve much preparation. I whip these healthy platters up in less than a few minutes! It's not expensive either, because the portion size is so small.
I ensure I only make a small platter with just a few mouthfuls of each food item, so that she is not over-eating and I've found she will stop when she's full, regardless of what's on the plate. At times she'll stop what she's doing and sit down with the platter and munch on something healthy and then get back to play. I ensure the food is cut into quite small pieces too, so that there is nothing on the platter that could cause a choking hazard as she is in the play room with her food and I may be doing the washing up and not sitting with her while she eats. The platters I make are 'finger foods' and so she doesn't require any cutlery.
I thought that I would share my experience using bento platters to encourage my toddler to try new foods as it could be a good option for other mothers to try if they also have kids who are fussy about what foods they'll eat at meal times.