My one-year-old is so big these days. She’s really almost 14 months and she’s awesome. She likes to carry All The Things around with her, laugh heartily whenever anyone else is laughing, and give hugs where she wraps both arms around your neck and squeeeezes and presses her face against your face (best.hugs.ever.). This is one of my favorite ages…so much more independent, but you can tell yourself they’re still a baby and it’s still kind of true. :o)
I’ve been wanting to do a follow-up to my previous baby food posts (you can read about how I made baby food at 6 months and 9 months if you missed them). I was planning to do a post with a bunch of pictures of her tray arranged with varied and balanced and beautiful meals, and for the last 2 months I’ve had “12 months post pictures” on my to-do list every week. The reality is that I’m usually tossing things haphazardly on her tray as I get them cut up, and there’s just nothing very photogenic about a smeary high chair tray with mangled banana and glops of oatmeal on it! Exhibit A:
This is one of the most attractive pictures I have. Yes.
So Plan B is to give you 10 tips for feeding a one-year-old – gleaned partly from experience, partly from research, and partly from texting my sister. :o)
#1: Our wonderful pediatrician (who we left behind in Raleigh – waaah!) pointed us to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding. Basically, the parent is responsible for the what/when/where, and the child is responsible for how much and whether to eat the foods that are offered. It’s a little simplistic, and we do require our older daughter to eat vegetables even when she’d rather not, but I like it as an overarching principle!
#2: Strive for balance over the whole day. If one meal is skewed towards
carbs whole grains and fruit (I’m looking at you, breakfast), I try to make sure the others balance it out with more protein and veggies. Snacks can be a great time to add in a “missed” food group! Which leads us to…
#3: Don’t think of snack time as snack food. This one is still hard, but I’m SO glad our pediatrician gave us this advice when my older daughter was little! I had jokingly said that she was a healthier eater than me (she was pounding veggie purees like a champ at the time), and our doctor told me that kids tend to get pickier when they get older, and when they pick the five foods they’re willing to eat, you don’t want three of them to be goldfish, crackers, and pretzels. She was so right – during the toddler years there was a steep drop-off in the number of foods our older daughter was willing to eat, and I was glad that she was used to eating yogurt/cheese/fruit/veggies as snacks more often than salty/crunchy things. (Also, an actual conversation Jay and I have had went like this – Me, regarding a large box of trash bags he had bought for yard work: Oh man, for a second I thought that was a box of… Jay: …goldfish, I know. I keep thinking the same thing. So it’s probably better for people like us not to have a lot of “kid snacks” in the house. #MSGisaddictive)
#4: Try starting a meal with less-loved foods. My older daughter would almost always start her lunch with roasted sweet potato or butternut squash bites when she was a baby. Our second child is less likely to have a specially made veggie at lunch (oops), but I usually give her her favorite things, like fruit, later in the meal so that she eats her main dish while she’s super hungry.
Whole wheat blueberry muffin recipe from Make Healthy Easy. I added salt and vanilla. Toddler approved! Bonus tip: Naked meals = less laundry.
#5: Keep offering rejected foods. This one is hard, since I hate wasting food, but research says we should, and so I do! My one-year-old, who used to eat avocado every day, hasn’t been eating it lately. Bummer. We’re still trying, though! I just try to pretend I’m a blissful optimist, and sometimes my kids surprise me by eating something I don’t expect them to.
#6: Offer a taste of whatever adults are eating, even if it doesn’t seem like a “kid food”. Some of our friends were surprised to find out that their daughter loved spicy foods, and mine loves hummus. (Or maybe she loves crackers and tolerates hummus. Hmm.)
#7: Keep a variety in the rotation. Unfamiliarity can lead to suspicion. It was so sad when my older daughter quit eating beans, and I think it was because we didn’t have them very often. We eat them regularly now (and at almost 4 she’s willing to eat them again), so I’m hoping they stay an easy part of my one-year-old’s diet. (Because opening a can of beans = Really Easy.)
#8: Add utensils partway through the meal. When our one-year-old starts squawking and signing “all done”, I hand her a spoon or fork and it often renews her interest in the meal! It’s good practice, and she’s not so hungry that they just frustrate her.
#9: Even if you can’t talk, you can still ask nicely. Babies who are learning to communicate, but don’t have words yet, can use sign language or a nice tone of voice to ask for more. It’s easy to get in the habit of handing something over when they point and grunt at you (“I’m ready for more of that banana, food lady,”), but it’s worth it in the long run for them to practice signing “more” and/or “please” or to point and grunt in a sweet and pleasant voice. ;o)
#10: You know your kiddo best. My girls both like to eat a decent variety of foods, but mealtimes can be a big struggle for some kids. If that’s you, stay tuned! Later this week I’ll have a post for you with some ideas for when the feeding struggle is so, so real.
BabyCenter’s age-by-age guide to feeding your toddler has good info, especially for figuring out serving sizes.
I love this article Help! My Toddler Only Eats *insert specific food here* from Yummy Toddler Food – and this one: Simple Ways to Help Your Toddlers Try New Foods.
This post 10 Tips to Raise and Encourage Adventurous Eaters from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe is super helpful and great for older kids, too!
My Pinterest board “Kid Food” has lots of other great links!
Share your tips in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts!
I’m not a doctor or a dietician, and highly recommend that you consult your child’s doctor with feeding questions. I’m just sharing what is working for us.
Okay, #7–the can of beans. I remember being at someone’s house before my first kid was old enough to eat people food, and she fixed a plate of kidney beans and shredded cheese for her toddler’s lunch and then looked at me apologetically and said, “I know it seems gross. But it’s really healthy and a nice soft food for her…” And it is SO easy to keep a little rubbermaid of beans in the fridge. Heating optional and I rarely did. It’s so true that a variety is important and even if it’s a food you would NEVER eat (I’m looking at you, cold beans from the fridge), it’s more likely an indicator of me needing more variety in MY diet! ;o)
Yes!! Just because I’m not going to eat leftover peas with my peanut butter sandwich doesn’t mean it’s not a great toddler meal… ;o)