The Terrible TwosIf I had a dollar for every time a parent told me “he ate everything until he was 2!” I’d be donating a lot more money to the food bank. It is a common turning point that baffles parents when kids seem to suddenly become fussy. It is also a crucial turning point to be clear about who is navigating the turn.

Around the age of two there are two things happening developmentally: tongue and terrible. Children are born with the innate ability to taste the sweet end of the spectrum. Just as the teeth develop on a certain schedule, so too the taste buds. When they begin to develop the other sensory flavours of bitter, sour and salty you can imagine the explosion. Even their favorite foods can start to taste differently as the other notes develop.

And then there is the “terrible” element. It is also at this stage that the toddler’s personality figures out how far it can go. Testing, testing, testing on every level to see how much you can put up with. It is crucial at this stage that we do not follow the less experienced human involved in the interaction (the child) down his or her rabbit hole. Remaining calmly in control of a two year old is a test of strength and wit. You will need to be creative. Giving in to only chicken fingers, corn and mashed potatoes will not serve anyone!

The trick here is not to get into a power struggle (experts will say the same thing about sleep, bath, bed, behaviour…). With food, you have alternatives and plenty of them. Do not fall into the trap of giving cookies or treats instead of food with the justification of “at least she ate something”. Sometimes “something” is not better than nothing, it sets up a negative expectation along with encouraging a sweet tooth.

Variety is your only friend here. Pushing the envelope on what you think is acceptable or weird is the first line of defense since your child’s palate is a moving target. Providing plenty of options at every meal allows the child some much desired control and you have a better chance of obtaining your goal of getting them to eat “something”.

Remember that you get to choose the “something” in question. I have seen many kids surprise their parents by loving the oddest foods. Here’s a list to try that can expand the palate…

  • Hummus
  • Baba Ganoush
  • Roasted red pepper dip
  • Pickles
  • Calamari
  • Shellfish
  • Stir fried vegetables-soy sauce or Braggs liquid amino acids for their saltiness
  • Blue cheese
  • Dark leafy greens or radicchio (bitter can be intriguing)
  • Lemons
  • Variety of condiments-become dips:
    • Apple sauce
    • Different mustards
    • Salad dressings
    • BBQ sauces

Honey Hummus
This hummus is loaded with good health but is a tiny bit sweet to engage a child’s palate.

Recipe By: Theresa Albert, DHN, RNCP (excerpted from Cook Once a Week, Eat Well Every Day)
Serving Size: 6
Preparation Time : 0:04

  • 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) — reserve juice
  • 1 clove garlic — minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup tahini/sesame butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey

Puree beans in food processor using only as much juice as necessary. Add garlic, and remaining ingredients and blend until desired consistency. To thin to a desired consistency, add water or sesame oil to taste.

Freeze in small containers so they are ready for snacks. Freezes for up to 3 weeks, stores in the fridge for 1 week.