Do you feel like getting a panic attack when it’s mealtime? Do you pull your hair out when planning meals for the family? Are you on the verge of shouting “I quit!” every time you feed your toddler?
In Helping Your Child With Extreme Picky Eating, Rowell and McGlothlin explained the first step in helping a picky eater is to decrease stress, anxiety, and power struggles. Letting your child self-feed will allow him to make his own decision on whether and how much food to eat. In return, eliminate that power struggles otherwise commonly present with spoon-feeding.
I have to admit, at 20 months, we are still spoon-feeding baby Chunbao (please don’t judge- it’s a cultural thing😊). Most of our spoon-feeding sessions turned into force-feedings, and that’s the end of our happy, harmonious family mealtime. Realizing the importance of self feeing, I decided to incorporate more finger foods in baby Chunbao’s meals so that he can have a sense of “independence”.
Now with making finger foods, I give anything crunchy the highest priority. Most toddlers, including baby Chunbao, loves crunchy foods. Crunch gives them jaw resistance that makes them aware of where the food is. It just feels good to bite on crunchy foods because it gives them that much needed sensory input in their mouth. Maybe that explains why most junk foods are crunchy? 🤷♀️
I’m so glad that we live in a world where air fryer exists. It is like a conventional oven only that it cooks a lot faster. It is also like a deep dryer only that it requires little to no oil. Moreover, air fryers are the best appliance to make healthy and crunchy foods! Pleasantly surprised with my new air fryer, I was able to whip up a “5-course-meal” for baby Chunao in AND make some fried rice for the grown -ups on the stovetop in less than 30 minutes!
Why this meal is a total success
This nutritionally balanced meal includes carbs, vegetables, proteins, fats, and fruits. The kale chips, fries, chickpeas, tofu “dishes” were all made in the air fryer. Everything on this plate has a crunchy texture to satisfy my toddler’s love for crunch.
Prepping took about 10 minutes and I just let my air fryer do the rest of the work. Basically, I left the air fryer on at 375°F the entire time and prep a dish while the air fryer is cooking another dish. To get things going a bit faster, I marinade the egg tofu in the soy seasoning first. Then, move on to cook the kale chips. Once that’s done, cook the tofu and fries in the same batch. While waiting for the tofu and fries to cook, I prep the chickpeas.
To complete the meal, add in some grape and apple slices, Voila! Dinner is served!
Air fryer kale chips recipe
- Wash 1 kale leaf (about 2 cups loosely packed chopped kale). I used curly kale commonly found in grocery stores.
- Stem the kale. Do not skip this step! This is the reason why it’s just easier to use whole kale leaves instead of those pre-chopped bags of kales.
- Hand tear kale into small pieces.
- Pat dry kale leaves. This step is optional. I find that drier kale produces crispier kale chips when air fried.
- Drizzle or spray with oil. Avocado or olive oil works best!
- Toss in some salt and stir with a spatula to ensure the kale is evenly coated with oil and salt. Do not go overboard on the salt. It’s just healthier for the little bodies.
- Transfer to your air fryer and cook at 375°F for 4-5 minutes (no preheat needed), shaking after 2 minutes.
Note: I highly discourage using pre-chopped kale salads to make kale chips. Despite the convenience, pre-chopped kales contain stems that will result in uneven texture when air fried.
Air fryer chickpeas recipe
- Drain 1 cup canned chickpeas/garbanzo beans
- Transfer to a plate and dry with a paper towel.
- Spray avocado oil and sprinkle some Lawry’s seasoning. You can replace Lawry’s seasoning with any other seasoning or spices you like. Garlic powder, onion powder, curry powder, basil, cinnamon, and cumin are all good alternatives.
- Transfer to your air fryer and cook at 375°F until crispy, about 15 minutes. Shake chickpeas halfway through cooking.
Someone can’t wait to get his hands on the kale chips!
Air fryer egg tofu recipe
- Half a tube egg tofu or 1/4 block soft tofu. Cut into slices or cubes
- Mix 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon mirin, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl
- Carefully coak tofu in the soy sauce seasoning. Be careful, soft tofu breaks easily.
- Sprinkle a handful of cornstarch onto a plate.
- Using a tong, coat seasoned tofu with cornstarch. Make sure to coat all sides.
- Transfer to your air fryer and cook at 375°F until crispy, about 12 minutes. Flip tofu halfway through cooking.
Note: I got my egg tofu at our local 99 Ranch Market. Egg tofu is widely available in most Asian groceries. Replacing it with soft tofu is equally nutritious and delicious 😋
Since there’re still lots of room left in my air fryer, I tossed in some rosemary fries along with the tofu.
Add in some grapes and apple slices. The five-course meal is served!
Baby Chunbao is an extremely picky eater. He doesn’t eat veggies AT ALL unless I sneak them into his foods. Kale chips are literally the only vegetable he’ll pick up and eat.
Next onto the chickpeas!
Chickpeas are packed with protein. And since baby Chunbao doesn’t like meats (yes I know… he doesn’t like veggies and a million other foods either so what can I do?! 🤯), chickpeas are a great way to pump some protein in him.
Since I let baby Chunbao self-feed with finger foods, I eliminated power struggle and in return, boosted his confidence in eating. He even took a bite of my food!
Wow! Down to the last bits of fries. Baby Chunbao didn’t finish tonight’s meal but I don’t expect him to anyways. His picky eating is so extreme that he’ll only eat about 3 spoonfuls of food and call it quits. Tonight’s meal is a total success because he ate a good amount and most importantly, was in a happy mood throughout the meal.
Making meals for a picky eater requires patience and sparks of creativity. Who would have thought that making nutritious toddler meals in the air fryer is oh-so-easy!
Wanna share your air fryer kid-friendly recipes? Leave a comment below!