I’m a Registered Dietitian, and I spend days educating people on how to eat healthy (or “healthier”). Yet, when I think about the last seventeen months of my life, since I became a mom, the most stressful part of my new job has been anything to do with nourishing and feeding my daughter. I wrote about my trials and tribulations with breastfeeding, and I wrote about my experience with Baby Led Weaning, but what may not have been clear to my readers is that both of those periods of my life were extremely stressful (ok, perhaps the breastfeeding post made that clear!). It may be that my anxiety over what Paige eats (or doesn’t eat) stems from the fact that I’m a dietitian, but while this might be partially true, I firmly believe that most parents stress about the same things. Today’s post focuses on what I’ve learned about feeding young toddlers in the past four to five months, in addition to an updated look at what Paige eats.
- No matter what your idea of “perfection” is, your child may not abide. After age one it’s pretty clear that your once infant is now a toddler. Whether or not they are walking, they will be soon. Once that happens, a whole new set of changes starts to occur and your toddler now wants to be more independent than ever before. With the need to be independent comes some serious issues at the dinner table! They want to feed themselves one day, or have you feed them the next. They want to eat on the floor, they want to eat in your arms, they want to eat on the table or under the table. They want to do and eat what they want to do and eat! This might mean they won’t eat the perfect meal you’ve made for them. No matter what you think, this will happen. To work around this, setting ground rules at this stage is so important (read below).
2. There will be days your child simply doesn’t eat. During the first couple years of your child’s life, they are teething. Honestly, for me, it feels like they are teething forever, and I find myself wishing they were just born with teeth! There have been weeks at a time when Paige would only drink milk and maybe eat some Cheerios and a couple bites of fruit. I would still sit her down for normal meals, and offer her food, but she would rather feed me than I feed her (see below!)
If you are ever worried that your child has gone too long without eating “balanced” (ie: not getting enough iron, in particular), talk to your doctor about supplementing with a multivitamin (I bought this on Amazon and gave to Paige for a few weeks when she simply ate very little).
3. When they are young and teething, it’s ok to give them what they want (ahem, dessert??!!). No, I’m not saying it’s ok to let your toddler eat whatever they want and walk all over you! But, remember my point above, about how they will have times when they just won’t eat? Well, if you can find something they will eat, give it to them (within reason). For us it was pumpkin pie (with more pumpkin puree added on top, and sans the the crust) and frozen blueberries. This was, for a few days, the only thing she would consume other than her milk (which, might I add, is very important for toddlers until age two. Breast milk or whole milk, at least 16 ounces a day). She was in so much pain getting teeth (canines, incisors and molars, maybe?) that the frozen berries felt great, and the softness of the pie and pumpkin puree was just what she needed. Notice: both pretty healthy, although not very balanced. After a few days and after the teeth broke through, she was back to normal.
No, she didn’t eat as much as it looks. She probably had 1/4 of a cup, for two days, total. She also really enjoyed my homemade cranberry sauce. It was very low sugar, and actually quite tart. I was happy that she enjoyed it, actually. Again, notice the fact that her “Miss Independent” style had her eating out of the Tupperware container (similar to my first photos with the yogurt!). Not something I allow often, but this one week was just really rough and I gave in, I just wanted her to eat! I’m glad she was still consuming fruits and vegetables.
You can get the double sided spoons that we love, on Amazon (and I’m sure you can get them other places, but in our household Amazon is the only place we “shop”. No joke).
4. Don’t EVER stop offering certain foods, even if they refuse once, twice or three times. I learned this with clementines, bananas, and eggs. For a week Paige would be a huge banana fan, then for three weeks she would hate them, then she’d eat them again. Just keep offering! If he/she refuses a food, don’t make a big deal about it, just offer it again at the next feeding. I’m a firm believer that you have the power to prevent your child from being a picky eater. All toddlers are picky eaters at some point, but it doesn’t mean they need to grow up and continue to be picky. Just don’t make a big deal if he/she throws something on the floor, don’t stop offering new foods to your child, and don’t show your child that you are stressed or angry with anything they do (or don’t do) at the dinner table. Here are some more tips about how to handle that picky eating stage.
5. Practice what you preach. Want a healthy eater? You need to eat healthy too! Want your child to eat at the table rather than in front of the television? You need to do the same. Need I say more? Don’t eat crap and expect your child to eat healthy. It’s not going to happen.
6. Try to offer two to three food groups at each meal. There is no scientific evidence behind this statement, but I’ve found two to three food groups is just the perfect number (not too overwhelming, but just the right balance of nutrition). I tend to overload her on vegetables. Why? Because I feel if I offer her a few vegetable varieties at each meal, there is a better chance she will eat at least one of them. Sneaky, ehh?
So, what does Paige eat each day as a seventeen month old?
Breakfast: Typically a grain, a fruit and sometimes a protein. Grain is normally a frozen whole grain waffle, toasted, with peanut butter (protein), and then for fruit either a clementine or some type of fresh or frozen berries (NOTE: If your toddler isn’t eating much animal protein and you are worried about iron, think about adding citrus fruits to his/her meals, as the vitamin C will help them absorb the non-heme iron found in grains and green veggies).
Late morning snack before nap: This is the time when Paige practices her spoon feeding skills. I mix old fashioned oats with cinnamon, yogurt, and pumpkin puree and she goes to town (and makes quite a mess).
After Nap: 8 ounces of whole milk, roughly
Lunch: Two to three food groups, typically a vegetable, a fruit and a protein. Often I offer two to three vegetables; carrots (raw), cucumber, cooked spinach, cooked brussel sprouts, raw broccoli with hummus (she loves dips!) or sweet potato fries (not homemade, I’m not that good, I buy these). Fruit is really anything, I try many, and protein; scrambled egg, cooked cod or salmon, salmon patties (I use this recipe but sub salmon for tuna. I keep it simple and just do egg, panko, some seasoning and salmon).
Snack: Cheerios or graham crackers or Goldfish and a fruit (she loves apples, pears, clementines, and of course, blueberries). She also loves Good Greens bars, this one in particular. She typically has another 8 ounces of whole milk during this time too.
Dinner: See lunch above
Snack: More Cheerios, sometimes cheese, plain, chunks. That’s my girl!
What are some tips you’ve learned since having a toddler in the house? Or, what are some questions you have?