As most parents would concur, toddlers objecting to their dinner is quite often part and parcel of daily life. As the child grows, these dinnertime dilemmas usually become less frequent, but for some parents this battle can reach well beyond the toddler years and encouraging even a bite of something nutritious becomes a daily struggle.

Vegetables tend to be the gauntlet most frequently thrown when a dinner objection is kicking off.

Sometimes, but not always, serving them differently can appeal to the fussier eater a little more. Most vegetables blitz perfectly well, as part of a sauce or soup.

Likewise, if the child isn’t so keen to eat pieces of fruit, they too can be blitzed and turned into a more appealing version of itself (to the child’s eye), in the form of a smoothie or milkshake.

As a way of limiting dinnertime disputes, it is difficult not to fall into the trap of only offering the same few meals to the fussier eater.

Extending the child’s diet may seem daunting, but even the small step of sampling something new is filled with the promise of easier mealtimes. Identify the foods the child likes, and then make a list of all the foods they willingly eat. Next, jot down foods and dishes which are similar in taste and texture to the ones on the list.

If there are certain foods a child likes, try introducing them to others that may be similar. For example, if they like mashed carrots, try adding in a little mashed sweet potato, or if they enjoy strawberry fromage frais, maybe try some fresh strawberries finely chopped or even puréed.

When time is on your hands, involving the child with meal planning could help to somewhat break the barrier they’ve built against food. Print out some easy recipes including whatever ingredients you know might appeal to their likes. They could then bring their shopping list to the supermarket, before helping with the preparation of the family meal.

Even a toddler can help by cutting up any soft fruit or vegetables using a child-friendly knife. This whole process is time heavy, and more suited to an older child, but if practiced regularly it can have long term benefits. The child will not only gain great satisfaction in carrying out the tasks but, hopefully, they’ll also eat some of the meal they’ve helped prepare.

Most children present with some form of picky eating tendencies in their early years, which thankfully become less of an issue the older they become.

However, if you have concerns about your child’s diet which are causing you to worry, make sure to discuss this with your doctor.

Hidden vegetable chicken curry

This is a mild chicken curry recipe but it is deliciously flavoursome. It is packed with so many different vegetables; all blitzed together in this hidden vegetable sauce. Serve with some naan bread and poppadoms, which children love to use as a little scoop for their curry.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tbsp garam masala

2 tbsp curry powder

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 red pepper, finely diced

½ courgette, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

125g mushrooms, finely diced

1 red apple, peeled, cored, cut into chunks

1 tin of tomatoes

250ml vegetable stock

100ml water

250ml coconut milk

4 chicken fillets, diced

1 bay leaf

  • 1 In a large saucepan, over a low heat, add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion, and stir regularly for about 10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  • 2 Stir through the garlic before adding the garam masala and curry powder. Season with a little black pepper. Stir continuously for one minute, allowing the spices to toast slightly.
  • 3 Next, add the red pepper, courgette, carrot, mushrooms, and apple. Heat through for about a minute before adding the tin of tomatoes, stock, and water.
  • 4 Leave to simmer for 25 minutes.
  • 5 While the sauce is cooking, in a separate saucepan, add the diced chicken and bay leaf, and top with boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  • 6 Once the vegetables are cooked through, take the saucepan from the heat. Using a hand blender, blitz the sauce until smooth. Stir though the coconut milk and return to a low heat.
  • 7 At this point the chicken should be ready, so carefully take it from the saucepan using a slotted spoon and add to the saucepan of sauce which has been blitzed.
  • 8 Simmer the chicken in the curry, over a low heat, for about 10 minutes.
  • 9 Serve with rice and enjoy.
  • Chocolate hazelnut shake

    Nessa's chocolate hazelnut shake.

    Makes two shakes

    This chocolate shake tastes rather similar to a chocolate hazelnut spread which is popular with children and adults alike. When frozen, the bananas add a delicious creaminess to the shake. Raw hazelnuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats, and they make a great base for this tasty shake.

    150ml milk

    2 bananas, ripe and frozen

    50g hazelnuts, roasted

    2 tbsp cacao powder

    1 tbsp maple syrup

  • 1 Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender and blitz until smooth.
  • 2 Divide between two glasses and enjoy straight away.