My bologna needs a second name...
May 30, 2007 8:27 AM   Subscribe

After being shamed by this article, I am looking for alternatives to the chicken nuggets I feed my two-year old.

What do you feed your toddler?

Our local super market serves hot chicken nuggets from a steam table and we usually cruise by for a snack to keep our toddler busy while we shop. We also buy a few extra nuggets to cut up for his box-lunches which he eats at daycare. We've been looking for alternative food items that he will eat. He's not all that picky, really, when compared to some toddlers, but chicken nuggets is one thing he's almost guaranteed to eat, so we rely too heavily on them as a food stuff. We're bored and want better food for our son, but we need something he can eat cold at school and won't put us out a lot of cash. Confounding factors include the fact that he can't eat rice or oats due to an allergy-like condition, and we also are avoiding nuts and seafood and other highly allergenic foods until he is three (on the recommendation of his doctors).

He likes berries and cheese and smetimes will eat peas or green beans, but we're mostly looking for meat-items. We do mix it up with ham or bologna sometimes, but are looking for still more ideas.
posted by mds35 to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I think Morningstar Farms does a veggie chx nugget- not too bad....
posted by mistsandrain at 8:39 AM on May 30, 2007

Best answer: My daughter's favorite lunch is a quesadilla. I just put some cheese on a whole wheat tortilla, fold it over and put it in the micro for 30 seconds to melt it. You can add chicken, spinach, tomatoes--whatever your son likes. It tastes just fine cold and you can even include a healthy dip, like fresh salsa, if you want.
posted by jrossi4r at 8:42 AM on May 30, 2007

Hot dogs.
posted by macadamiaranch at 8:43 AM on May 30, 2007

Yeah, we secretly replaced chicken nuggets with their veggie cousins in our household and the kids never flinched. Also, try 'broccoli bites' (cheese n broccoli nuggets) if you wanna be obvious about it.

Most supermarkets give free cookies to kids. Not that they're any better, per se, but they do work for the keep 'em busy task.

on preview, seconding quesadillas.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:47 AM on May 30, 2007

We make our own chicken nuggets that are a great success hot or cold.

1 chicken breast, chopped into 10 pieces, coated in egg and lightly seasoned breadcrumbs and baked for 15 minutes gives two full meals (5 pieces in each, with baked beans and broccoli as sides). Total cost? In UK money, about £2 total (~4USD) for two meals.
posted by mooders at 8:48 AM on May 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not addicted. Really, I swear. I can stop eating them any time I want.
posted by doctorcurly at 8:51 AM on May 30, 2007

My aunt makes rolls filled with whatever meat and vegetables they are eating for dinner for my 2-year-old cousin. They are kind of like mini-calzones. She buys pre-made frozen or refrigerated pizza dough and wraps it around the cooked meat, cheese or veggies that they are having for dinner and then bakes them.

She makes about 6 or 7 at a time and he loves them. Since the outside always looks the same, he will pretty much eat whatever is in the center without complaint.
posted by elvissa at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2007

I have a son the same age, so I feel your pain. His favorite thing to eat that's not a dog or a nugget is pasta salad:

1 pound tri-color rotini cooked up, rinsed and drained
1 mozzarella brick or a couple of balls of fresh mozzarella cubed
1 carton of grape or cherry tomatoes halved
1/4 cup basil (we use this basil in a tube for convenience, but you can chop up fresh too).
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix the oil with the cheese, tomatoes and basil, then dump in the pasta.

He absolutely LOVES this stuff, and it's very easy to make.
posted by Otis at 8:56 AM on May 30, 2007

This website provides inspiration for preparing toddler meals:

(Sorry I can't do the link. It won't work on my computer.)
posted by Soda-Da at 9:03 AM on May 30, 2007

Morningstar farms fake nuggets are soy protein.

Soy is an allergen. Might want to ask the doc first about that one.
posted by nat at 9:08 AM on May 30, 2007

I like that article and agree. And actually, I can't even tell you how many young adults I know who will basically eat chicken and fruit and that's about it, because they've been given "kid food" for the first 15 years of their life.

If it's the fried-ness you're worried about, then just grill up some chicken breasts, cut them into strips, and then freeze them for easy re-heating for snacks.

The thing about chicken is that, at least in the ways most people prepare or encounter it, it really isn't very flavorful and relies on fried-ness or condiments to be enjoyable. The actual meat is just a handy, bland vessel for high-calorie additives.

Teaching your kid to enjoy flavors can be really frustrating because of their mercurial and undeveloped tastes. However kids will be more likely to try things that they've actually helped to prepare, so that's something to keep in mind when your little one gets a little bigger.

In the meantime, rather than condiments try to serve your chicken well-seasoned; you can experiment with various seasonings to see what your child will eat, and they add far less calories than, say, ketchup.

Also, how about sausage? You can buy those packs of organic sausage and bratwurst that (in my experience) kids find tasty. They come in all sorts of flavors. Try preparing some for yourself and offer the little one some nibbles to see if they'll do.
posted by hermitosis at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2007

The Boca chicken nuggets are a hit with with my baby. As are yogurt covered pretzels and string cheese.

I second vegan lunch box. And would say you should consider staying away from processed meats for your toddler, they're like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get (yay melamine!). If you insist on giving your child processed meats, try Fancy Feast, it's the only thing my cat can keep down.
posted by valentinepig at 9:11 AM on May 30, 2007

And another thing my cheeky little baboo loves is tofu squares. Easy to pick up, great texture and no strong taste to turn her off.

If beans and peas are not a problem, then soy should be fine, also.
posted by valentinepig at 9:14 AM on May 30, 2007

Hardboiled eggs
Cheese sandwich
French toast sticks - either pre-packaged or made yourself
posted by FergieBelle at 9:39 AM on May 30, 2007

The Quorn line is phenomenal. Tasty, lower calorie than most other meatless meatesqueties and just as high in protein.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:03 AM on May 30, 2007

We do a lot of peanut butter for your 4yr old For places that require peanut-free foods, Whole Foods has a line of almond butter, soy butter, etc., that are good replacements for the ubiquitous PB.

Also, I wouldn't be too shamed by that article - the authors kids are 8 and 11! At that age I'd be ashamed if my kids were nugget addicts too - at age 2, I think it's fine.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:13 AM on May 30, 2007

Fun fact: most children will eat anything -- anything -- if you serve it with a sauce or dip. You could take a raw radish, french cut it and serve it with bbq sauce, and they'll chow down on it. Guaranteed.
posted by boo_radley at 11:11 AM on May 30, 2007

The Quorn products mentioned above are amazing. I am not a vegetarian, but I find the taste, texture and nutritional value of the Quorn nuggets to exceed those of most chicken nuggets.
posted by dbolll at 11:27 AM on May 30, 2007

Try putting vinegar on vegetables. I *loved* it as a kid. Asparagus (maybe -- I didn't try that until I was out on my own), cabbage, broccoli, turnips, potatoes, spinach, collard greens, kale -- all can benefit from vinegar. Or lemon juice.

I started with cabbage. Up to you whether you want to try it.

Asparagus could be fun, even cold.

I used to eat a lot of cheese and crackers as a kid, too. You could add cold cuts (soy cold cuts would be great, too). If you pack the crackers separate from the toppings, it will be better.

One reason the chicken nuggets work so well is that you have a crunchy part along with a softer part. If you think about it, you may come up with other foods like that. I think cheese and crackers qualifies.
posted by amtho at 11:43 AM on May 30, 2007

A lot of people are suggesting Quorn. I've read that mycoprotein (what Quorn is made out of) is itself a fairly common allergen (especially in people with mold/fungus allergies), so do some research before feeding it to your child.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:22 PM on May 30, 2007

Quorn is awesome, awesome, awesome (our household's addicted, too), but you might want to doublecheck with your child's allergist/doctor first, since it's related to mushrooms and some people have had allergic reactions.
posted by at 12:24 PM on May 30, 2007

Yeah, what needs more cowbell said. :)

It's too bad about the nuts, since there are some tasty lentil-loaf-y recipes out there that are GREAT cold -- bake one big pan and cut it up into "nuggets" and you'd be set for a week or more! All the recipes I'd ever made had walnuts in them but I bet you could experiment... and it would be a good way to work in extra vegetables, too.
posted by at 12:31 PM on May 30, 2007

My two year old loves:
- Quesadillas
- Beans
- Edamame
- Peas
- String cheese
- Apple slices (spread with peanut butter for extra protein)
- Chicken satay
- Yogurt
- Crab rangoons
- Crackers and cheese
posted by Ostara at 1:27 PM on May 30, 2007

while we're on the subject of "check with your doctor", i noticed yesterday that trader joe's edamame is... made in china.

given all the recent food scares coming out of china, i think we're going to pass on the TJ's edamame for now.
posted by joeblough at 3:03 PM on May 30, 2007

When I was a kid, we basically ate whatever my parents were eating, unless it was something very hot-and-spicy, in which case we would get a not so spicy version of it. My lunches growing up (and still are, in a sense) were essentially leftovers on a sandwich or dished up in a bowl if they did good cold. It has basically reached a point where my mum factors in the next day's lunch into how much she cooks at night. There's almost nothing that my siblings and I won't try as a result. We were in Fiji earlier this year, and there were people suprised that my younger brothers (14 and 16) were eating off the gourmet restaurant menu, rather than eating pizza like the other kids there. /derail

Some meals that work well cold: Beef ravioli with or without pasta sauce, chicken/beef stirfry with rice, Hokkien noodles, lasagne, thai green curry style chicken, chicken schnitzel (or parmigiana) on a sandwich/roll/wrap with lettuce and mayo, chicken cooked in prepackaged taco or burrito seasoning also does good for lunch the next day.

Theres also the option of cold meats and basic salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber) which you can mix up and play around with at will.
posted by cholly at 9:49 PM on May 30, 2007

If beans and peas are not a problem, then soy should be fine, also.

This is not always the case. You can be allergic to the protein in soy and not be allergic to beans and peas. Please do be careful.
posted by girlhacker at 12:41 AM on May 31, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, all. These are great suggestions.

I picked up some mini quiches and will try them out live this weekend before sending them in a school lunch. I also am making quesadillas tonight and will keep leftovers for tomorrow.

Thanks also for the Quorn recommendations, but I have never been able to stomach imitation meats, even veggie burgers. Wih the exception of prunes and baby formula, I try never to feed him anything I wouldn't eat myself. Even so, the crwid here seems tio really like it so if I happen upon a package at the market, I'll pick some up. The issue is more that I want variety for my son rather than to avoid processed or fried foods,. he eats tins of fresh fruits and veggies and good cheeses and yogurt, but we've been a bit limited in the meat department.
posted by mds35 at 9:01 AM on May 31, 2007

Response by poster: spellcheck!
posted by mds35 at 2:02 PM on May 31, 2007

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