Whether you have a fussy child who refuses meat, or one who’s made the conscious decision to not eat animals, it’s crucial to ensure they get enough nutrients.
Dieticians with One Handed Cooks, Jess Beaton is all over what kids need to stay well-nourished when not eating much meat.
“Iron and zinc would be the main two nutrients that kids miss out on and they’re so important for kids’ growth, development and also their energy levels, too,” Jess says.
Iron-rich vegetables and food that recommends includes;
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Nuts; nut butters and ground nuts (if there are no allergy concerns)
- Whole grains; quinoa, multigrain breads and cereals, fortified breakfast cereals
- Legumes; chickpeas, lentils, cannellini beans, etc.
Jess suggests introducing a lot of these vegetables at snack time, at a time when they might have more energy in the morning or middle of the day, and when they don’t feel so much anxiety or pressure sitting at the dinner table to eat them.
Listen to Jess on Kinderling Conversation:
“Sometimes when you’re out or at a different mealtime, they might approach the food completely differently and give them a good try,” Jess says. “Incorporating them in fun ways can be really appealing as well.”
“Often at the mealtime they’re so overtired from such a busy day and sometimes if they’ve eaten well throughout the day, they’re not actually very hungry at the dinner time, so finding little moments during the day can help too.”
Jess shares with us some of her favourite vegetarian snacks, a lot of which can be made ahead of time too!
“[These are] a really satisfying snack without too much refined sugars and too many saturated fats,” Jess says.
Makes: 18-20 biscuits
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Ready in: 20-25 minutes
Nutrition Note: Freezable, Wheat Free, Egg Free, Dairy Free, Vegetarian. Sure to be a hit with young and old, these are a fun and tasty way to include the goodness of legumes in your children’s diet.
- 1 x 400g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup 100% peanut butter*
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup sultanas
- ½ cup rolled oats**
* For nut free: substitute the softened unsalted butter for peanut butter (no longer dairy free)
**For gluten free: omit the oats
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Combine the chickpeas, peanut butter, sugar, baking powder and vanilla extract in food processor and process until well combined.
- Transfer the mixture into a mixing bowl and stir through the sultanas and oats. (Note: you can freeze some of the mixture at this point.)
- Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls, place them on the baking tray and flatten gently.
- Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool on a wire rack.
- Store the biscuits in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze individually.
Makes: 24 balls
Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 15 minutes
Nutrition Note: Freezable, wheat free, dairy free, egg free, vegetarian. These little apricot coconut balls are a wholegrain sweet snack packed full of fibre and vitamin C.
- 2 cups oats
- 1 cup dried organic apricots, chopped
- 3 tbsp raw honey
- 1 apple, grated (squeeze out excess juice)
- 1 cup desiccated coconut (check for additive free coconut)
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oats and toast for two minutes, stirring continuously to ensure the oats don’t burn. Once lightly toasted, remove the oats from the pan and allow to cool slightly.
- Place the toasted oats, apricots, honey, apple and ¾ cup coconut in a food processor and whiz until well combined.
- Remove the mixture from the processor and roll the mixture into teaspoon-sized balls. Roll each ball in the extra coconut and store in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap individually and freeze to eat later.
Makes: 12 nuggets
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 40 minutes
Nutrition Note: Freezable, Vegetarian. Zucchini made irresistible for kids.
- 1½ cups grated zucchini (around 2 large zucchini)
- ½ cup grated potato (1 large potato)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup multigrain breadcrumbs*
- olive oil
*Use quinoa flakes for a gluten free option
- Pre-heat oven to 200°C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
- Using your hands, squeeze grated zucchini and potato to remove excess liquid. Add the egg and flour and mix to combine.
- Place breadcrumbs and parmesan on a large plate and mix to combine. Shape teaspoons of mixture into small nuggets. Coat nuggets in breadcrumbs. Place on prepared tray.
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the nuggets. Cook for 25-30 minutes, turning nuggets halfway, until golden and cooked through.
Jess says, “Kids find [these] really appealing and they’re easy to eat, theyre small.” Once you know they enjoy the recipe, you can add some chopped spinach plus a tablespoon or two of quinoa to help bulk it out a bit too.
Makes: 24 mini or 12 regular
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Ready in: 35 minutes
Nutrition Note: Freezable, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Vegetarian. Eggs are a great inclusion in your child’s diet. They contain high quality protein, omega 3 fatty acids and 11 different vitamins and minerals.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 zucchini, finely diced or grated
- ½ cup finely sliced leek, white part only
- 5 eggs
- ½ cup ricotta
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese, loosely packed
- Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease or line 2 x 12 mini muffin trays. Alternatively bake 2 batches if you only have one mini muffin tray or 1 x 12 regular muffin tray.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook for 10 minutes or until it starts to soften. Add the zucchini and cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Combine the eggs, ricotta and parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Stir through the leek and zucchini.
- Half fill the mini muffin cases and bake for 8-12 minutes or until the frittatas have set. For regular size muffin frittatas bake for 15-18 minutes or until set. Note: You can freeze these little frittatas in individual portions. Just allow them to thaw in the fridge or defrost in the oven or microwave.
A crunchy, flavoursome snack everyone will love!
Makes: 1-2 cups
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ready in: 50 minutes
Nutrition Note: Freezable, Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Vegetarian. Kids (and adults) will find these irresistible and gain all the goodness of carbohydrates, fibre and protein that chickpeas have to offer. No salt required.
- 400g can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- pinch of salt and pepper (optional, depending on age)
- Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan forced or 180°C for a cooler oven) and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Drain and rinse your chickpeas, dry them on a paper towel.
- Combine the chickpeas, olive oil and spices in a small bowl and toss to coat.
- Roast for around 45 minutes, shaking the tray half way through cooking) or cook until they reach desired crispiness.
Storage: store in an airtight container and consume within 2-3 days.
“Cheese has got some protein and calcium," Jess says, and "[chickpeas are] soft, easy to chew and a good source of protein and iron." They're also easy to pick up with little fingers and munch on. You could even replace chickpeas with canellini beans.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Ready in: 5 minutes
Nutrition Note: Gluten Free, Wheat Free, Egg Free, Vegetarian. A nutritious, high protein, calcium rich, veggie packed snack to enjoy at home or on the run.
- 1 cucumber
- 50g tasty cheese
- 1 x 125g can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- Peel the cucumber, depending on the age of your children, and dice into 1 cm pieces.
- Dice the cheese into small cubes.
- Combine the cucumber, cheese and chickpeas and divide into individual portions and serve as a snack or on your child’s tasting plate (see p?). Alternatively place the mix into small, lunchbox friendly containers and pack in lunchboxes.
Storage: store in the fridge and consume within 2-3 days.
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