What to feed your toddlerAugust 29, 2012
When Danny was 11 months old, I wrote this post about baby’s first foods. I had received so many questions from new moms I thought it would help to simply give a peek into our dining room. Now that Danny is 18 months old, a lot has changed. So here’s Part 2!
We went to a BBQ restaurant recently and Danny demanded an entire sausage (which he proceeded to devour in big bites) and then surprised us by wolfing down forkfuls of collard greens.
Other days, he’ll refuse anything but bananas.
Strong opinions on this one.
So what should you feed your toddler? I think most moms of this age group instinctively know the answer: Whatever they will eat.
Feeding a toddler is a full contact sport. There’s a lot of “chugga chugga choo choo” and similar games to keep their attention. There’s a lot of following a tiny finger’s pointing gesture to unimaginable items in the kitchen. Boy, do they know what they want. If only we did.
It’s tempting to give toddlers anything and everything to keep them from whining. And I feel my job as a parent is to allow him the power of choice. After all, at this age he doesn’t get to make many decisions. (Though he desperately wants to!)
But it’s also my job to guide and limit the choices. That means if there are chocolate doughnuts sitting on the counter, he’s going to want chocolate doughnuts. But if everything in sight is real, whole food then it’s a win-win situation. He makes his own choices, and I know he’s eating well.
So in our house, meals go something like this:
He loves them scrambled with garlic and sometimes spinach, and eats straight from his bowl with a spoon. 2 eggs usually does the trick.
I’m talking plain, whole milk, organic yogurt. It’s what I eat for breakfast most days, and when he started gesturing at my bowl I gave him some. He has no idea that sweetened, flavored yogurt exists.
Granola or Musliex
I have found a completely sugar-free musliex and a wheat-free, honey-sweetened granola at Whole Foods. These aren’t my first choices because I prefer breakfast to be high in protein, but he often gets these with yogurt or whole, organic milk.
He usually wants a banana, no matter what else he’s eaten. What can I say? Kid loves bananas.
Smoked ham steak, sausage or hot dogs
I get our meat from a local farm with pastured animals. I feel confident even about their hot dogs! And these types of meats are super easy to grab and chop for lunch, whether we are eating at home or packing to take along.
Broccoli, peas, corn
I give Danny a lot of frozen veggies. They aren’t my first pick, nutritionally speaking (or for taste!) but he’s finicky. This way, if he goes on a broccoli strike for two weeks, nothing goes bad. I’ve tried frozen lima beans, okra, green beans, etc. and these are the only 3 kinds he goes for. So…we’ll stick with them for now.
Grapes and berries are big favorites. I should mention that if I’m going to give him fruit, I never let him see it before he eats the rest of his meal. Otherwise, it’s all he wants. Strategy, strategy.
I try to avoid too many snacks so that he’s actually hungry at mealtimes. But if it’s going to be awhile until lunch, he gets:
Pinto beans are a favorite. They’re good finger food and work well in those toddler snack cup things.
Organic and often raw, I chop cheese into cubes. He likes cheddar best.
Brown rice crackers
Though we are not gluten-free in this house, I try to limit his intake. Wheat is just…filler. Filler that can cause a lot of health problems! But crackers are a must, so I buy Edward & Sons brown rice crackers in flavors like tamari and sesame.
Unsweetened banana chips
Another non-wheat cracker alternative! I find these in the Whole Foods bulk bins. They are made with canola oil, which I don’t love. But there’s no added sugar, which I adore.
Nuts and raisins
Danny loves nuts. I don’t know what I’d do if he were allergic because he absolutely loves ‘em! He goes in the cabinet, pulls out the bag and hands them to me. Subtle, huh?
My goal is to have us eat as a family. In reality, Danny is usually climbing into his highchair fervently about an hour before Dad gets home. I feed him a version of whatever I am making for dinner, such as:
Steak, ground beef, salmon, chicken
Cut in small pieces and seasoned with sea salt. He likes to use his fork on these.
Brown rice, quinoa, millet, red lentils
With plenty of garlic, butter and sea salt for flavor I can add some kale or other veggie and he doesn’t notice. The trick is to mince the veggies extremely small and cook until it’s soft.
Carrots, bok choy, swiss chard
Limited success with these. Carrots work if I slice them thin and fry them up. Bok choy and swiss chard stems are the only part he’ll eat, steamed. Hey, gotta try anything to keep veggies on his radar!
Whatever he’ll eat
By this time of day, I’m usually tired of the guessing game. If he’ll eat beans, I give him beans. If he’ll eat cheese, he gets it. I don’t worry too much about making a proper “dinner plate” for him!
What’s in the sippy cup?
Usually, just water. Or milk. He loves to drink sparkling water from my glass too. Or herbal tea that’s cooled off. That’s about all he knows exists in the world of beverages!
And yes, sometimes he gets his hands on Cheetos.
Like at the gym daycare, until I was clear with them that he is not allowed extra snacks. Giving Cheetos out at a gym?? Seriously? But aside from the principle of that bothering me, I know Danny has and will continue to eat junk food. But he’ll also know what real food is.