Thanksgiving is a time to gather family and friends and share a delicious meal. You envision a table full of loved ones - or perhaps just your small family - and enjoying favorite dishes from recipes that have been passed down for generations.
Unfortunately, it's not always how Thanksgiving (or other holiday dinners) work. For parents with picky eaters, Thanksgiving may be stressful as you anticipate comments what family members will say about your kid's eating habits (and what they imply about your parenting). Perhaps you're doing Baby-led Weaning (infant self-feeding) and you worry that loved ones will not understand how your baby eats. The sights and the aroma’s might be completely delicious to adults, but for many children, especially picky eaters or children with special needs or allergies, this meal can cause stress to the whole family.
Remember, flexibility is important with all things, especially children and holidays.
We've laid out some strategies for keeping Thanksgiving fun and low-stress with your BLW baby or selective kiddo.
Tips for self-feeding babies.
Tips for selective eaters.
If your child has known food allergies, make sure to inform your host ahead of time. Always ask for ingredients in foods you didn't make, and consider bringing allergy-friendly Thanksgiving dishes your child can enjoy so they can be part of the celebration.
Tacos are an easy dinner that can be enjoyed by the whole family! We’ve put together some visuals for how to serve tacos to kids 6+ months to help them developmentally get to the stage where they can eat crunchy tacos! (Hard taco shells are technically a choking hazard for kids under 4!) These are simply ideas - if you’ve taken our online courses, you know that we encourage meeting your child at their current stage and challenging them to get to the next level safely.
In these images, you’ll notice that foods start soft and in larger pieces for new eaters to hold well and then actually get smaller as they develop more sophisticated grasps and techniques.
6+ months: Babies can have cheese - it’s just that if you’re serving shredded cheese with your own taco, it may be hard for them to pick it up!
10-12+ months: A 10-12 month old baby is just starting to learn how to bite and pull with front teeth (as these teeth come in), so it can be helpful to make serrated lines with a fork on a soft tortilla to give their mouths a place to bite.
15-18+ months: As they get a little older (on average 15-18+ months), toddlers can try eating very small tacos (basically mini burritos) to practice this bite and pull skill. Their little mouths probably aren’t ready for a full-sized soft taco, but it’s great to start getting them used to these types of foods so they can eventually eat sandwiches, pizza, etc. Note that the lettuce and bell pepper servings are small - around this age many toddlers become more particular, so it helps to keep less preferred foods in tiny portions so as to not overwhelm them. They can start to try crunchy lettuce at this time.
4+ years: As your child gets older (4+), it’s time to try a crunchy taco! Let them build it themselves from a topping bar - they’re more likely to try different foods if they serve it to themselves.
A few notes:
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What does this eCookbook include?
Need more of a step-by-step guide to baby-led weaning? Check out our infant course covering everything you need to know about starting solids with you baby at 6+ months old.
Ice cube trays add novelty to mealtime.
How do you use ice cube trays? My sweet hubby picked up these summery silicone trays at the Target Dollar Spot (I’m sure my 5 year old had something to do with it) and it got me thinking of ALL the ways ice cube trays can be helpful with kids - and adults - of all ages! Here are some of our ideas:
Spices are recommended for babies.
For decades parents were advised to serve babies plain, unseasoned foods. Dietitians and feeding professionals are now realizing that in order for children to learn to enjoy a variety of flavors, we have to serve them a variety of flavors!
Of course, it's important to go easy on salt - we do recommend avoiding salting baby’s food until after 12 months when possible, as their kidneys are immature. A little salt is OK - they’ll likely get sodium in naturally salty foods or restaurant/packaged foods anyway. However, all other safe spices are fair game!
Does that mean baby can have spicy food too? Yes, but start small. Some babies love spicy food and will take to it well, while others may not enjoy it for months or years to come.
Spices aren’t just for flavor - they have health benefits too! Cinnamon may improve blood sugar, and turmeric has potent anti-inflammatory effects! We love pumpkin pie spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom, usually available during the holiday season (but we use it year-round). It’s awesome in oatmeal, yogurt, muffins, quick breads and coffee for you!
Raising adventurous eaters involves offering all types of safe textures, food shapes, and flavors. That means serving food both with and without spices/herbs, cooking it in various ways, and presenting it differently as often as you can. If you have our online course for infants, make sure to check out the Baby-led Weaning Grocery List for all the ways to safely serve foods from all food groups!
Embrace the mess.
We love baby-led weaning (infant self-feeding), where you skip baby food and let baby feed herself whole foods from the start. Babies eat what the family eats (being mindful of choking hazards) and learn to integrate into the family's food landscape from the start.
To read more about the benefits of baby-led weaning (BLW), check out this free printable.
We’ve been teaching baby-led weaning from a dietitian’s and feeding therapist’s perspective - evidence-based, flexible (not rigid), and practical for busy families - for almost 5 years to thousands of parents across the globe.
Our fully online, self-paced baby-led weaning course takes 90 minutes to watch (no heavy reading!) and includes:
Go back to the course when you have another baby - it doesn’t expire as long as we are hosting it (which we plan to do for a very long time)! PLUS, as a client you will get access to our Feeding Littles-Clients Only Facebook Group!
Thank you for letting us join you on your feeding journey!
Great for the whole family!
You know those fast, easy, delicious dinners that you love but always forget to make? Yeah, this is one of them for me.
I play around with different tortillas, and this brown rice version from Trader Joe's was pretty good! We use their fat free beans, not because we avoid fat (we think dietary fat is waaaay important!), but because the other types at Trader Joe’s are kinda spicy and my girls haaaaate spicy still, despite numerous exposures! (We're working on it.)
Here's what you need:
Here’s how we made them:
Particular toddler at home? Let them build their own fajita and make sure to serve familiar foods with new ones so they’re not overwhelmed by unfamiliar options. We have more tips like this to help with your picky eater in our Toddler course.
Baby at home (6+ months)? Omit salt and serve deconstructed - shrimp, cooked peppers/onions, tortilla (soft), avocado strips, and refried beans plopped on the tray or presented on loaded NumNum GOOtensil. Looking to do baby-led weaning with your little one? Check out our Infant course.
A little salt is OK.
In our infant course on baby-led weaning, we recommend going easy on baby’s salt intake because babies' kidneys are immature and likely can’t handle large amounts of sodium. (Salt is made up of sodium and chloride, both minerals...so when discussing sodium we are indirectly referencing salt.)
It is believed that the adequate intake of sodium for babies is around 400 mg, which is about a pinch of salt per day. However, breast milk contains about 42 mg of sodium per 8 oz, so do we need to completely eliminate salt from baby’s solid foods? The quick answer - no.
A little salt is OK in helping baby’s body absorb water. As it turns out, sodium is considered an essential nutrient! Many foods naturally contain sodium anyway, so baby is already eating sodium when getting many foods in their whole form.
However...we don't have any data to prove that going over 400 mg is absolutely detrimental. It's more of a theoretical precaution.
To stay on the safe side we recommend not directly salting baby’s food when possible. When roasting veggies, avoid salting baby’s portion, or don’t put salt on the beef patty you’re grilling for baby to eat.
Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid sodium, like when you’re eating out or if you’re using packaged foods. As long as baby’s entire diet isn’t made up of salty or processed foods, this shouldn’t be a problem - no counting salt required.
Lastly, try to go easy on super salty foods like (quartered) olives, cured meats and pickles. These foods are fine here and there, we just wouldn’t serve them to baby daily due to their very high sodium content.
The adequate intake of sodium for toddlers is 1000 milligrams, so at that point we recommend salting your toddler’s food as you would your own to integrate them into the family meal. We love sea salt and Himalayan pink sea salt for its flavors and trace mineral content.
An easy way to get variety.
The salad bar can be your best friend in a pinch! This trick works for eaters of all ages too!
(If you’re unsure about how to let your baby feed themselves foods in their whole form like this, please check out our online Infant Course.)
Ideally, we serve ourselves (and thus our babies) a variety of foods every day, but sometimes life gets in the way and we end up eating the same things over and over again. One hack that has helped many of our clients is utilizing the salad bar to add variety to meals. Foods are already washed and pre-cut, and even though you pay more per pound, you may save money in the long run if you only need a few pieces.
This also works well for foods you need in small quantities for a recipe or for packing your older kiddo’s lunch in a hurry. We use the Whole Foods salad bar all the time!
Since babies new to Baby-led Weaning (infant self-feeding) need larger pieces of food that they can hold with their strong palmar grasp, you’ll have to find salad bar options that are cut into big enough pieces. We recommend starting around 6 months, when baby shows readiness signs including great sitting skills. As they get older and their pincer grasp refines, they’ll be able to manipulate smaller foods like peas, beans, chopped beets, etc. Make sure food is soft enough to pass the “squish test,” where it easily squishes between your fingers or cuts with a fork.
Start offering utensils at 6 months.
Let’s talk some of our favorite utensils! (You’ll learn much more about promoting utensil use in our toddler course). Judy recommends utensils with short handles made for little hands. Offer loaded utensils as early as 6 months (watch sharp ends), but always encourage your child to touch food with their hands and don’t get discouraged if they revert to “cave man/cave woman” eating. We never want to discourage use of hands, as many young children default to this and may stop self-feeding successfully if they are discouraged to use their hands.
Check out the utensils section of our Amazon Shop for a complete list of our favorites.
Shown, from the left:
Offer utensils often so your tot gets used to seeing them and eventually can stab, scoop and cut food herself! Start by loading them for her, and eventually you’ll see that she’s wanting to load it all by herself.
Megan and Judy, co-owners of Feeding Littles, bring you helpful info on food, nutrition, picky eating, and feeding young children. Megan McNamee MPH, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. Judy Delaware, OTR/L is an Occupational Therapist specializing in feeding therapy with children 3 and under in Boulder, Colorado. Megan and Judy are both moms of two and love helping families develop a healthy appetite for all foods!