Toddler Food and Picky Eaters

Whew!! This post has been a long time coming due to all the info I want to share! I was this close to posting this post as a Christmas special... :-)

I've been working hard these past few weeks documenting the things my daughter eats, tracker her eating habits, and really focusing on dealing with her picky-ness.

First things first...I am a new mama, and I'm pretty sure things will change with the next baby. Of coarse, I also believe some things will stay the same, but every child is different. So what works for one child, may not work for another. Also, the more kids you have, the less time available. Things will need to be quicker, faster, and easier than they are now...

I don't really know how that's going to happen, but let's pretend for a second I've got this all under control.

Ok, so if you have missed the previous entries of Kid's Food Week/Month/Decade then here are the posts so you can catch up:

Why and Where To Begin With Kids Eating Healthy

Stocking a Healthy Pantry for your Kids

Baby Food 101: 6-12 Months

And today we will be talking about Toddler Food and Picky Eaters! 

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So, I obviously can't discuss Every.Single.Type of food that your toddler/child can eat because there are truly so many options and creative ways. But I am excited to share with you a handful of recipes and tips that I have gathered over the past few weeks, along with the trial and errors of those foods!

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I'm not going to get into statistics because I'm not a doctor and I don't want to lead you astray, but I will touch base on a few things.

This is a crucial time in your child's life, in where they are needing the right components to grow strong and healthy bodies, and they are able and willing to learn and soak up healthy eating habits. If there is one thing that I have noticed, it's that my daughter notices and copies a lot of what I do. Now is the time to truly be an example and teach your children how to treat and respect their bodies, and help them love and understand healthy eating habits.

In general you want to make sure your kids are getting enough:

-Fruits and veggies

-Calcium

-Protein

-Healthy Fats

You want them to also eat a variety of foods so they can get a variety of nutrition from different sources.

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(Want to know what NOT to do....Keep reading).

 A few months back Baby Boo would barely eat anything...I'm talking maybe a handful of foods and that was it! I tried every type of food, dance, distraction, and creative measure I could to make food seem appealing to her...But no way, she just wasn't interested.

It wasn't till a visit with Baby Boo's NEW doctor that everything changed.

When Baby Boo went in for her 12 month checkup, her old doctor told me she needed to drink more sippy's (or bottles) of milk. He told me I needed to give her lots of glasses through out the day because she wasn't eating a lot. So I did just that, even though I wasn't sure. (If you read THIS post, I want you to know that by NOW I have learned to really listen to my motherly intuition...) But, being a new mom and trying to do what the doctor said, I started increasing her liquids. She drank soy milk, and sometimes whole milk. Pretty soon, if she didn't eat a big breakfast, I would give her a bottle with milk so she would have something in her stomach. Then following lunch and dinner, I would give her a bottle again...Mainly because I was worried she didn't have any thing in her stomach.

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At this point I was a wreck. Foods to Baby Boo were on the back burner, besides a few unhealthy snacks that outside family members had introduced to her, and she loved her Ba-Ba's...I knew I was doing things wrong, and I didn't know how to break the habit. I was supposed to be someone who enforced healthy eating, yet I resorting to giving Baby Boo the foods she would eat JUST so she would have food in her belly.

But I was soo soo wrong.

Finally after switching doctors, we went to Baby Boo's 18 month checkup. The doctor kindly shared with me a lot of information, and let me know that I am like a lot of mom's out there. That was really nice to hear, especially since I felt like the worst mom in the world.

First she told me to take away the bottles...So I did.

Then she told me to stop placing so many foods on Baby Boo's plate...So I stopped.

Next she told me to introduce foods slowly, and put 1-2 foods on her plate she likes, and one new food. If she doesn't touch the new food, keep introducing it often, and eventually she will try it...So we did just that.

What happened next?

Things changed dramatically.

Within days Baby Boo started eating all the food off her plate and asking for more.  And I felt a lot better that I wasn't pumping her stomach full of 'dairy' and that she was getting SO much more essential nutrients.

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-That being a first time mom isn't easy, but it's normal to make mistakes.

-I should always trust my motherly intuition.

- Not everybody is perfect, even for people who profess a healthy lifestyle..aka me! :-)

-Don't introduce unhealthy foods to your kids, because in the end, it's all they are going to want.

- Put your foot down when it comes to your children. I know how much grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren, and that's fine...But limit the spoilage. Make sure they get a variety of foods, not just the junky ones.

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Screen shot 2012-02-13 at 11.23.14 PM

First thing I did was make a list of all the foods Baby Boo liked to eat, and then incorporated those into her meals on a daily basis.

Here are the things Baby Boo didn't have a problem eating: (P.S. I am slightly embarrassed)

-Hummus

-Berries/fruit in general

-Yogurt

-Cheese

-Crackers

-Smoothies

-Avocado

-Rice

-Macaroni and Cheese

-Spaghetti

-Rice

-Pudding

-Muffins/Baked goods

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Screen shot 2012-02-13 at 11.45.39 PM

As you can see maybe a few items are healthy, and the rest are quick snack foods that she was introduced to and fell in love with. Next, I took the foods she loved, and incorporated them with new foods too. (I also said goodbye to those bad snacks, because to me there was no need for them.)

Baby Boo LOVES avocado! I truly believe that she fell in love because my husband and I eat avocados with practically every dinner during the week. She saw that we loved it, and wanted to try it too and fell in love!

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Veggie Guacamole

1-2 small avocado mashed with shredded cucumber, zucchini puree, or pea puree. Dash of cumin and tad or salt (optional).

I love mixing greens into her guacamole. Obviously I don't want to get in the habit of hiding everything, but adding veggies or other wholesome goodies to foods that children already love is a great way to give them extra nutrition that they need.

I paired this with barley (which is similar to rice, just a little fatter and chewier) that had cut of chickpeas mixed in.

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Veggie Avocado served with Barley mixed w/ Chickpeas

With this plate, I knew I had given her two options which she was familiar with and liked. Then I threw in some diced chickpeas just to get her familiar with them.

After I introduced chickpeas, I would roast them with a little seasoning and we would snack on them during the day and she loved this!

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As the weeks went on I started to slowly introduce more beans and legumes to Baby Boo.

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Her favorites so far are chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, and lentils.

Another favorite food of Baby Boo's was yogurt. Depending on what I had on hand, which was either an organic milk yogurt that was flavored or a non dairy soy yogurt, she wouldn't have a problem eating either. I decided that I wanted to stop buying the flavored yogurt because I knew it only came with extra additives and sugars, so I stuck with simple and plain, and our favorite happens to be greek yogurt.

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Yogurt Parfait

Bottom Layer: Plain greek yogurt, non dairy yogurt, or plain yogurt

Blueberry Fruit Sauce: 2 TB. blueberries pureed with 1 TB. Maple Syrup

Next top with banana chunks and chia seeds,wheat germ, or ground flax seeds

I quickly learned that Baby Boo loved cold and easy to eat foods on weeks when she was teething, because her mouth was in so much pain that it often took away her appetite. (We will talk more about this latter.)

Another thing I tried was incorporating flavors she loved into certain foods.

I knew she loved spaghetti and avocado, so I tried combining the two.

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Creamy Avocado Spaghetti Squash

For the sauce recipe, I used THIS amazing one from Ohsheglows and added 1/3 c. of Northern Beans to it and a little more olive oil. To bake the spaghetti squash, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wipe down outside of spaghetti squash and place the whole squash on a covered cookie sheet. Place in oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until outside of squash has browned and become soft and squishy. This is a great meal the WHOLE family can enjoy!

Obviously this was completely new to Baby Boo, so I was expecting a little bit of hesitation, but once she took her first bite she was sold.

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Whether she wanted to eat with her hands or a straw I didn't care...Just as long as she was happy and eating!

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Screen shot 2012-02-13 at 11.46.47 PM

A lot of times I became so frustrated that it would completely ruin my mood, and I know that Baby Boo could tell. Eating time had become a stressful event and a lot of times it turned Baby Boo off from eating to the point where she would cry the second I placed her in her high chair.

Since then I have learned to not worry, and that if Baby Boo doesn't eat something, then I should't freak out. Simply move on and try again the next time.

I've also really focused on talking with Baby Boo about the foods she eats on a regular basis, asking her questions about what eat one is and their color. Taking interest in the food has in turn made her interested in it as well.

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When I first introduced broccoli to Baby Boo, she was not interested in it at all. After a few minutes of talking about it 's name and color (all the while remaining happy), she tried it. After her first few bites I told her how happy I was, clapped with joy, and gave her a high five.

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This may sound ridiculous but...

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Eating that broccoli become a not so scary thing!

Here is another example:

Baby Boo likes chicken, and she is familiar with it enough that she isn't scared to try it. So during dinner one night I paired chicken with broccoli, which she was becoming comfortable with, and some seasoned and baked polenta cubes.

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I allowed her to eat at her own pace, checking to see if she would try the polenta. Then after a few minutes she picked a piece up and said, "what's this?"

:-)

So we named it, talked about the color, and told her it was made of corn and then she tried it. She only took a few bites, but it didn't bother me. Now she knew what it was, and each time I give her polenta, she will become more comfortable with it.

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Screen shot 2012-02-14 at 12.51.09 PM

A lot of things can put a damper on the child's appetite, and you have to take that into account on certain occasions. Here are just a few things that can change a child's eating habits:

-Teething

-Sickness

-Grumpy/Overtired

-Unknown? :-)

I threw the last one in there because sometimes for whatever reason your child may not want to eat a lot, or anything really. Unfortunately when they are so young they can't tell you what is wrong and what they want. Just do your best to help ease whatever the baby is going through.

When Baby Boo is teething she loves smoothies. They are cold and require no eating or using her gums. We don't have one smoothie that she drinks every time, we just kind of make it to include what I have on time. I always try to incorporate some sort of protein, grain, fruits, and veggies. Here is an example of a smoothie she loves:

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Toddler Breakfast Smoothie

I posted this recipe on my Facebook page. For the recipe click HERE. For other green drink ideas check out my recipe page HERE.

Another favorite for Boo is pudding. It's another sweet and cold food that easily requires no use of teeth or gums when she is in pain.

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Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Recipe HERE.

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Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Blend the following in a blender or food processor: 1 c. silken tofu, 1/3 c chopped banana(i used frozen), 4 tsp. cocoa powder, 2 TB. maple syrup, 2 tsp. coconut flour.

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One of the biggest things that has worked for me with Baby Boo is letting her cook with me.

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It's a great learning lesson for her because she sees me cutting, stiring, pouring, mixing, cooking, and baking. On top of that, we talk about each of the ingredients and a lot of times she will see me taste them, and in return she wants to try them.

I'm not sure if your child is a fan of PB/nut butter sand whiches, but Baby Boo wasn't. That was until one day we were making nut butter cookies and she wanted to try the peanut butter, so I let her.

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She made me repeatedly dip that little spatula into the jar asking for "more" each time. Now, if I tell her there is Peanut butter (or any other nut butter) in her sand which (her favorite is Almond/sunflower butter with bananas and chia seeds) she eats it right up, and sometimes licks the bread! Whatever works right?

:-)

Actually now she prefers pancakes topped with a nut butter rather than Maple Syrup!

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Chunky Monkey Pancakes

I usually always use pre-made pancake mixes because it's a lot easier and time saving. I always buy a 100% whole wheat, buckwheat, spelt or gluten free mix. Then, depending on the amount of servings you are making, add some non dairy milk, an egg (or chia/flax egg) a little bit of cinnamon and banana chunks. Cook on stove, then top with creamy nut butter and serve.

Another benefit to cooking with your children is that they are more likely to want to try the finished product since they helped bring it together. A favorite of Baby Boo's to make is muffins, which she is constantly cooking in her own mini kitchen.

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Chocolate Chip Blueberry Banana Muffins

I originally posted this recipe on my Facebook page. For the recipe, click HERE.

And lastly, don't be afraid to give them a bite of food that you make for yourself. A lot of times Baby Boo is so curious as to what the adults are eating and would rather try our food, which has resorted in her obsession with avocados and hummus.

Recently I let her try a cereal I was making for myself quite often, and now she is addicted just like her mama!

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Popped Amaranth Cereal

Sweetened with a drizzle of Maple Syrup and Fresh Blueberries

In a medium/high heated saucepan add 1-2 TB. amaranth. Put a lid on the pan and shake the pan around on top of the heat. Soon after, you will hear a popping noise like popcorn. After 15-30 seconds, the amaranth will have been all the way popped, it will look puffed and white, and then pour it into a bowl. Continue to pop more amaranth until you have reached the amount you wish. For better instructions on popped amaranth cereal check it out HERE from edible perspective!

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Screen shot 2012-02-15 at 7.42.59 AM

Everything on this page is nearly a suggestion, not something that works for every child. I've known mom's with kids who could place anything and everything in front of their children and they would have no problem eating it, and to those mom's I say, "You are so freakin' lucky!" :-)

Whether or not your child is a picky eater or not, the main thing I want you to take from this post are these few things:

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And more importantly....

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I hope this post what somewhat helpful to new mom's out there. I tried to touch base on lot's of information, but I couldn't hit everything. So these are the topics I feel have stood out the most to be and worked best for Baby Boo. Talk with your doctors first before anything, and take into account your own motherly instincts and your child's needs. You can't go wrong when your trying to do what is best for your child! :-)

Now..I'm semi glad this whole post is done because I am so ready to get back to regular posting and normal food....

:-)