Eating with my Toddler

When people look in my son’s lunch box, they often ask me in surprise “will he really eat a chunk of cucumber, or broccoli?” and I always reply with a resounding yes! People seem shocked when they watch my son eating vegetables and other mothers around me talk about strategies for hiding vegetables.

My son loves food and is happy with any plate in front of him. It can mean making dinner is hard, because he rushes in and grabs a bowl wanting to be fed immediately, pronouncing “up a day” in an effort to get in his high chair.

My husband and I have been very deliberate in the way we feed him, which we hope has helped him become his happy eater self today.  We do however note that our son has not reached the age where children become naturally fussy (and we do anticipate that there will be a day he wont eat everything), but we hope he will have set him up to get through that stage still eating healthy food (even if some is refused).

Here are some things we have done (its by no means prescriptive or guaranteed advice, the correct way, or nutritional advice (I have no qualification in this area) its just what has worked for us):

  • We embraced baby led weaning. We gave him a range of textures, shapes, and tastes from his first mouthful. We started feeding him at 6 months and did not ever make purees.
  • Our son has always eaten with us and watches us eat. And for the most part he ate what we ate and eats what we eat. (In the early days my husband and I went through a phase of eating steamed vege sticks as part of dinner). We do this so he models good eating from us and eating becomes something we do together as a family
  • We also ask our son to sit to eat and at the moment he knows that to get  food he needs to sit down to eat it.
  • There are always vegetables served at lunch and dinner and as part of snacks (see below for snack ideas). I also try and incorporate protein and good fats in snacks and I use wholegrains over refined grains.
  • We do not hide vegetables. Whilst I make a tomato vegetable sauce with hidden veges in it, when I cook a meal using this, I always add chunks of vegetables because I want my son to get used to eating vegetables as part of life.
  • We do not worry about feeding our son fats (and think its a good think for his growing body and brain, helping absorb nutrients and filling tummies), but we do consider the type of fat we feed him. We avoid processed vegetable oils (found in many processed foods) and give our son a range of fats through dairy, eggs, animal proteins (including stock), some coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado
  • We also offer our son a range of protein and incorporate that in meals and snacks (again for good development and filling tummies), including meat (free range and grass fed if possible) free range eggs and dairy.
  • We don’t make a fuss if he does not want to eat something or finish his dinner. We trust his natural ability to stop when he is full
  • We keep offering things he refuses. My son went through a phase of not wanting to eat cucumber, after happily eating it. After another few weeks of offering it, he is now happily eating it again.
  • We have never given our son refined sugar or food with refined sugar in it.  We figure once he knows about it, he will want it and while he does not know about it he is not missing out. The other day we visited our neighbors who had a plate of biscuits out and our son completely ignored it because he did not know what it was. Even for his birthday he did not get any refined sugar. In fact here was his birthday cake (which he loved):
  • IMG_2647
  • We have never given our son take away or deep fried food for the same reasons above. On the occasion we are desperate for a night off cooking, we usually feed our son early from the freezer and get some take away after that.
  • We have avoided all processed foods for our son (as we are mostly doing for us), from breakfast cereals (we usually have oats and occasionally eggs), to snacks (I make them in bulk for the freezer) to meals. We have saved lots of money in the process too.
  • We stick to two serves of whole fruit (ie, not juice) a day (unless there is a special celebration like a birthday). My son loves fruit because it is sweet to him! But we are aware that too much fruit is not a good thing, that is we think its only good for you in moderation, not as a limitless snack. We also do not count a whole piece of fruit as a serving for him, (as that is an adult serving), so he usually gets a bit less then half a piece of fruit per serve.
  • We have created an edible garden and my son knows to and enjoys picking food off the plant

Savory Snack Ideas for Little Ones

-See the links and make these in advance and freeze in small portions (some can be made from left over dinner)

On the go:

  • Natural yogurt
  • wholemeal bread/sourdough with labneh, avocado, hummus or peanut/nut butter (100% peanuts)
  • vege (such as cucumber, tomato, or avocado) and cheese sticks (prepared at home) (you could add guacamole or other homemade dips to make the vege sticks dippers)
  • hard boiled eggs
  • polenta chips