It’s one of the biggest challenges that parents of fussy eaters face: how do you get your child to eat protein if they have an aversion to certain meats or textures?
Kids need protein for a variety of reasons, such as growth, blood sugar balance and effective sleep patterns. For more information on how much protein your child actually needs, refer to this recent article I wrote here.
You may have noticed that fussy eaters tend to gravitate towards foods like chicken nuggets, deli ham and other processed meats.
The fibres in these meats have already been broken down in the manufacturing process. This means that kids with poor oral motor skills can easily chew them. They have essentially been pre-chewed through production, making them more palatable and texture-friendly to the fussy child.
In comparison, fussy kids will struggle to eat something like a steak, as the muscle fibres are still intact and a much greater amount of chewing is required. Now the worst thing you can do for a fussy eater is to overwhelm them by trying to force them to do something that they simply don’t have the ability to do.
So what’s the solution? Instead, you need to meet them where they are at with their oral motor skills. Finding protein-rich food sources that are easier to chew and digest.
Some great workarounds for quality protein sources for fussy eaters include:
Not only is oily fish like salmon high in essential fatty acids, helping fuel the growing mind, but it also requires very little chewing. This can be said for fish like tuna or white fish like cod and snapper too. Whether you bake, fry or roast them, they tend to fall apart easily making for an unprocessed high protein alternative. In essence, your flaky fish acts similarly to your processed meat varieties by way of texture, but is actually fresh and not processed!
Mince has similar quality protein content as something like a steak or a chicken breast but is already pre-chewed in a way to makes it easy to eat and digest, requiring little chewing on your child’s behalf. We recommend buying a range of different organic minces (there are so many to choose from – lamb, pork, chicken, turkey and beef – just ask your local butcher), and rotating through for different meals. The world is your oyster when it comes to cooking with mince, you can try things like meatballs, bolognaise, tacos, kebabs, patties, the list goes on. This way you are expanding your child’s meal repertoire and providing high quality protein with each meal.
3. Slow cooked meats
We all know that feeling of a good lamb shank where the meat just falls away from the bone. A great way to help with the tedious meat chewing is through slow cooking, a household must-have. Think meals like osso bucco, lamb shanks, chicken drumsticks, casseroles and stews. Slow cooking actually starts the digestion process during the cooking – the end result is meats are easy to chew and digest. Delicious, simple and fussy eater approved – it’s a win/win.
Eggs are generally well tolerated by kids and offer a great way to increase your child’s protein, especially at breakfast time. I love serving eggs scrambled or in an omelette so that the fussy eater can’t distinguish between the white and the yolk. But the options are endless. You can make savoury egg muffins or dice some boiled eggs with different salads and vegetables for lunch.
Similar to mince, lentils are incredibly versatile and their soft mushy texture makes for easy eating. You can use chickpeas to make falafels for lunch or add some lentils, vegetables and water in a pan and make a simple lentil Dahl. A great option for batch cooking and freezing, lentils also have the added benefit of helping to promote good gut bacteria growth in your child.
Some other good protein sources for fussy eaters:
- Nut butter
- Sunflower & pumpkin seeds
- Greek yoghurt
If you’ve got a fussy eater why not join my Fussy Bunch membership? Each month you receive a range of advice, fussy eater approved recipes, food science experiments and more straight to your inbox. Find out more here.