Did you know that a vegetable serving size for two-year-olds is just 2 tablespoons? Yes, only 2 tablespoons! (They can always have more of course!)
Parents always worry about vegetable consumption. Toddlers and kids don’t always tend to gravitate to veggies, but there are so many things we can do to help them learn about them in a safe, low-pressure way. (And also, your kid will survive if they don’t eat a veggie every day even if you serve them. Promise. Go easy on yourself, friend! Toddlers and kids are fickle about food - it’s NORMAL.)
What matters is exposure. Are you serving veggies at most lunches and dinners? (Maybe breakfasts here and there too?) Are you offering veggies as part of snacks? If your kiddo never sees a veggie, it will be harder for them to learn to love them.
Our full plan for getting eating back on track with your toddler or young child can be found in our Toddler Course. If you haven’t taken it yet, keep in mind a few things:
Need help with this? Want expert guidance from a dietitian and an OT feeding therapist (feeding behavior expert)? Check out our Toddler Course and join the thousands of parents worldwide who have taken back mealtime.
Most toddlers become at least somewhat selective starting between 12-24 months. It can be really frustrating, right?
The way we as parents respond to this selectivity is what matters most. The more we push, bribe, beg and cajole, the more our young eaters resist (and the more frustrated we get in response). In our online Toddler Course we talk a lot about how it’s important to bring mealtime to a developmentally-appropriate level. Kids prioritize learning, exploring and mastering new skills, sometimes above sitting at the table and focusing on food. When you bring novelty into mealtime, suddenly the experience is much more interesting because they’re required to explore a new tool or technique.
We love these heart measuring cups from Sur La Table (purchased last year for Valentine’s Day but can be used year-round!). They’re not only great for cooking and baking, but they also serve as super cute snack cups! Other great novelty choices include measuring cups and spoons, muffin tins and ice cube trays, miniature play cups and tea cups, etc.
Our Toddler Course contains over 100 ideas for utilizing novelty with your tot, as well as a step-by-step approach for taking back mealtime. It was created for clients of already selective toddlers and is even better when taken before picky eating sets in to prevent troublesome mealtime behaviors.
The first half was written by Judy, an Occupational Therapist specializing in Feeding Therapy with over 35 years experience working in this field (she also has 2 adult children who are now great eaters!). The second half was written by Megan, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with two young kids at home who specializes in maternal/child nutrition and disordered eating.
The course is great for parents of older babies preparing for toddlerhood all the way through kids ages 5-7 and can be watched and re-watched as often as you’d like. It’s video-based with helpful printouts so you just sit back, watch or listen, and enjoy! Check out what others are saying about our course - our goal is to set up your entire family to be intuitive eaters who love all foods.
Sandwiches are a simple, filling meal option that can help provide essential nutrients - like fiber, protein, and B vitamins - for kids. It’s very convenient if your child can eat sandwiches, as they’re a popular food in many parts of the world. Plus, they’re easy! Whether you’re filling them with peanut butter and jelly, smashed berries and almond or sunflower seed butter, chicken or egg salad, turkey and avocado, or hummus and grilled veggies, sandwiches are a simple option that works well for any meal.
However, many toddlers can’t quite figure out how to eat sandwiches because they require what Judy calls the “bite and pull” technique, where they bite off a piece of food as they pull it back and into their mouth. Some toddlers struggle with stuffing the whole sandwich in their mouth because they can’t quite feel the confines of the bread in their mouth as they eat it.
What are some ways to help your kiddo be more successful with sandwiches? Of course, you can just offer quartered/halved sandwiches at about 10+ months, but your child may have more success when you modify the sandwich to account for their current developmental stage.
Here's some considerations to keep in mind:
Do you have a toddler or baby that dislikes getting their face cleaned after mealtime? Did you know their reluctance to wash their hands after a meal can affect how they eat during that meal?
So much of mealtime success depends on the eating environment and how toddlers perceive the entire experience. If they get their face scrubbed after eating - which many toddlers perceive as a negative sensory experience - many toddlers associate the entire eating process with negativity.
One feeding therapy technique from Judy (as found in our Toddler Course) involves cleaning up using 2 bowls - one with warm, soapy water and one with clean water.
Sadie, Megan’s niece, is shown here playing with these bowls independently, but of course we recommend assisting your toddler in dipping their hands in the bowls while you very gently wipe their face with a separate wet washcloth. Of course, help them avoid dumping water everywhere or eating the bubbles!
This serves multiple purposes - it helps clean your toddler’s hands faster, it gets them used to washing up after a meal, and it distracts them with something fun while you gently wash their face. They may be more likely to come to the table because they see the end of mealtime as a fun thing!
Our Toddler Course is full of tons of feeding therapy and nutrition techniques like these that will help you feel great about feeding your family. No more mealtime battles, no more begging or bribing, no more frustration around food.
You’ll receive access to our course indefinitely (as long as we’re selling/hosting them) and you can go back and watch them as often as you’d like. Read the feedback our clients have given us about the course - we look forward to helping your family as well!
Do you have a child that wants to be independent? Perhaps your child is also becoming more selective about foods. Guess what? You can utilize their desire to do things themselves in a positive way to promote successful mealtimes!
Foodie Judy here, back for another feeding therapy installment! Incorporating a motor skill into the eating process can be a great way to interest children in food - kids are more inclined to eat what they created! Plus, children are hard-wired to practice, practice, practice until they master a skill, so even if they’re initially uninterested in eating a cutie mandarin segment (a wet, squishy food) when served, suddenly it’s a fun food to eat when they get to peel it.
We love serving cuties because they’re inexpensive, a perfect size for little hands, and contain a lot of vitamin C - important in absorbing iron! This is a great activity for kids 18+ months, as they start to utilize more bilateral coordination at that age (one hand holds the object, the other does the work). This skill is important for so many tasks as they get older, including playing instruments, cooking and creating artwork.
Here's the steps for teaching your child to peel a cutie:
If your child struggled to peel the cutie peel, start by having them pull apart the segments first. Get the peel started so they can more easily continue peeling it off. Check out Megan’s daughter Mia practice this exercise by swiping through this Instagram post. She happened to really want to eat the cutie because it’s a favorite food, but notice that she was adamant that she peeled it herself. The last video is my favorite. Show your kids the videos and try it together!
Here are some developmental goals of this activity:
Need more help with a picky eater? Check out our toddler course!
Have you heard of coconut butter, also known as coconut cream? It is made from pureed coconut and is similar to coconut milk - but it’s thicker and higher in calories! Coconut cream is made from 4 parts coconut and 1 part water, whereas coconut milk is 1 part coconut, 1 part water.
One tablespoon has 100 calories, so it’s an energy-dense food that’s great for babies, toddlers and kids, especially if they are struggling in the growth department and their pediatrician has recommended more high-calorie foods. This is the only time you’ll see us mention calories - simply just for comparison when talking about adding more calories to your child’s diet if needed for growth or medical issues. We do not recommend counting your child’s calories unless specifically indicated by your doctor or dietitian.
Coconut cream is a great way to add calories - and flavor - to your tot's diet:
Coconut is a great source of lauric acid, which has anti-inflammatory compounds, and it’s a delicious, satisfying option for those with dairy, nut, or soy allergies. I got this Nutiva brand at Sprouts, but there are many different brands you can try.
Fork and Beans has a delicious vegan fudge using coconut butter that’s awesome for those who can’t tolerate dairy:
In a heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chips with coconut cream, non-dairy milk, and salt. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts if desired and vanilla.
Spread evenly into wax paper-lined small square pan. Place more chopped nuts on top if desired. If using nut/seed butter, drizzle it over the fudge.
Chill 2 hours or until firm. Turn fudge onto cutting board, peel off paper and cut into squares. Store covered in fridge.
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.
We have so many favorite fast breakfast options, but frozen waffles are definitely top 5 lately! Our favorite frozen waffle brands (not sponsored) right now are:
These aren’t the waffles of your childhood (although nothing wrong with those either)! The newest waffles on the market pack more of a nutritional punch - including protein in many cases - so they help keep your kids full and their blood sugar in line. You can serve them with the traditional butter and real maple syrup combo, but we also love mixing it up with the toppings and serving suggested listed below!
Make sure to cut them in the right size for your child - babies 6+ months can eat them as strips or “sandwiches,” and older babies/toddlers can eat them as small pieces, strips, or whole using their hands! Just toast them first and make sure they’re a little crunchy for reluctant eaters!
Judy loves waffles because they have natural bite spots for babies and toddlers working on the “bite and pull” skill. We listed various waffle brands above that help satisfy different nutrient needs, as we know that some of you are dealing with allergies, intolerances or health issues. If the waffle itself is low in protein, make sure to pair it with a protein source like nut/seed butter, eggs, hemp hearts, chia seeds, or milk. As always, read labels carefully if you’re avoiding allergens.
Breakfast burritos are amazing for adults and kids alike because you can modify them to your tastes and dietary needs (see below for allergy/diet modifications), plus they’re super easy and delicious!
Sometimes babies, toddlers and kids are overwhelmed by burritos in their whole form and do better with deconstructed options, so above is one way you could present breakfast burrito ingredients to your tot - using an ice cube tray! (This is a silicone tray from Target purchased this past summer.) Shown here are tortilla, eggs, cheese, beans, guacamole and salsa (2 flavors). Yes, babies and kids can eat spicy foods - just start slowly! Some of these foods contain salt, so if you serve these to babies under 12 months just go easy on salty foods the rest of the day.
Since breakfast burritos from restaurants can be so filling, we’ve shown half of a burrito here. The most important thing is not rigid “portion control,” but rather eating until your body is comfortably full and satisfied.
The ice cube tray spaces are really small - the image isn’t to scale next to the full burrito so you can see it better. Each section has about 1 tablespoon of food. Keep offerings small for kids so they’re not overwhelmed - they can always have more than what you serve, and if they don't eat it you waste less food.
Here are some of our favorite breakfast burrito ingredients:
Need to modify your burrito for allergies or dietary concerns?
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:
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!