Feeding a toddler is really really hard. Some days she’s hungry. Some days she’s hungry for a combined 12 minutes. And that’s about it. Some days she’s completely offended by what is in front of her. Food, that, in the past, she devoured. And other days, she is trying new things like a little gastronomist, connoisseur of fine foods domestic and international (these moments I can be found doing cartwheels nearby). Some days she throws ALL THE THINGS on the floor. Well, because gravity is cool, I presume (those are the days that Tiki, our pup, eats like an organic king).
So between her changing physical needs, her need for independence and making choices, and her changing palette, I try not to take her meal-time expressions too personally. Day-to-day I try to maintain the same goals which are: (1) exposing her to new flavors (we don’t really do variety well in our kitchen but we agree it’s important to introduce new flavors on, what ends up being, a mostly inconsistent basis), (2) giving her healthy choices. And the best way I’ve found to navigate this landscape is this: she eats mostly what we eat and when I make her special recipes, they must-must be easy.
Breakfast (between 8-9a in her high-chair):
This has been our go-to breakfast lately because it is quick and loaded with nutrients. Oatmeal, itself, is full of fiber, high-quality carbs, immune-boosting nutrients like beta-glucan, antioxidants (i.e. selenium), and magnesium. I buy the quick cook oats and usually make half of a serving (1/4 cup oats +1/2 cup water) in the microwave, then once it’s cooked I add cinnamon, 1 tsp of brown sugar, and 2 tsp of ground flaxseed (I keep these in the freezer for freshness). If it needs to be reheated or is just a bit dry, I add some whole milk to it. Then I rinse a handful of blueberries and place them right on top. They absorb the heat from the oatmeal and become slightly warm, tender, and extra juicy! As for the banana, we just slice this up for her and she uses her hands or a fork to feed herself. We like to have at least one self-feed item at every meal as she really enjoys practicing this skill. She also gets about 5 oz of organic whole milk. When we are on-the-go and need a quicker breakfast, these waffles are our favorite.
Lunch (between 11:30a-12:30p in her high-chair):
Lunch is typically a fruit, vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate. Being creative with protein sources is my biggest hurdle these days. Today the protein came in the form of cheese and yogurt. On the plate she has steamed, diced carrots, diced organic strawberries, organic full-fat yogurt, and finger-sized pieces of grilled cheese made with full-fat American cheese and whole wheat bread.
For the days that she is in daycare, lunch is catered. I haven’t been thrilled with the quality but she enjoys being part of the “lunch group” and I always meet my goal for variety on these days!
Afternoon Snack (between 3-4p at her toddler table)
Afternoon snack is pretty consistent around here: mozzarella string cheese (highest fat content we can find – usually made with 2% milk) and cut-up fruit like grapes, oranges, clementines, or peaches. If she is particularly hungry, we also offer her some crackers or cookies once she finishes the cheese and fruit. Pictured above is everything offered at once: string cheese, grapes, and peanut butter crackers. She goes for the crackers first which is why we have to offer it last. 🙂 Snack is usually served with another 5 oz of organic whole milk.
Dinner (between 5-6p in her high chair)
We had spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner on this particular day. This meal is a simple one for those nights I am in a rush and trying to get something tasty on the table. I cook up one pound of ground turkey meat in a large sauté pan and once it’s cooked I add a jar of marinara sauce to it and simmer while the pasta boils in another pot. We like to eat the meat sauce with whole wheat thin spaghetti. I steamed some broccoli on the side as well (not pictured, and most likely not eaten, but I have to give her credit for always putting those little florets in her mouth to see if maybe this time…). Dinner is served with water.
So there you have it! A full day’s worth of meals and snacks for 15-16 month old! What do you like to feed your toddler? Do you have success with a lot of variety or stick to the old favorites?