When serving veggies and fruits to babies, toddlers and young eaters - think color!
We recently featured various veggies and fruits of all the colors of the rainbow on our Instagram account. Our followers asked us to compile the charts into one printable document...so here it is!
A few things to keep in mind:
Scroll through to see the chart, and click the link below to download the PDF file.
Let’s talk about if babies and kids can eat “too much fruit.”
Recently in our Clients Only Facebook group, a mama asked if she should cut off her kiddo when he eats too much fruit. In general, we recommend the model “You provide, child decides.” This mean that you offer the food of your choosing and they decide how much of it to eat. Yes, that means they may eat much more than a child’s size serving of fruit. Is this OK?
Well, let’s look at the big picture. Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients (plant nutrients that have disease-preventive effects). It is hydrating and tasty. Many kids are interested in a meal because they see their favorite “familiar” food - fruit! It gets them eating other foods.
Yes, fruit contains inherent fruit sugar, but for many kids it’s their main source of key nutrients. We know that as a culture we have been taught that “all sugar is bad,” but even if we followed that line of thinking - we don’t - do we really think that fruit is the problem?
So, are there times when we would limit how much fruit we offer our kids?
How do you deal with a kid who only wants fruit?
Does your kiddo only want your food, even if it’s the same thing they’re eating? Why do they do this, and how do you deal with it?
I’m an OT specializing in feeding therapy and I see this type of behavior all the time in my clients. Your kiddo may be exercising their independence - “I do SELF” - and they want some control over their environment. They may not realize that the food on their plate is *exactly the same,* but it doesn’t matter - they want YOURS. They may also be testing limits and learning about boundaries. Fun, huh?
So, what can you do to encourage them to eat their own food?
Let’s talk tips for serving the same meal to everyone in your family when possible...and why it's sometimes not possible.
Before we start, did you grab our free Family Meal Toolkits for Dinner and Breakfast yet? (That’s where these meals came from!) Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter where great resources like these come out first.
Why do we want to eat the same meal as a family when possible? It’s easier, cheaper, and helps your kid learn to eat a greater variety of food in the long run.
The problem? Kids don’t always want to eat what we serve. It can take 20-30 exposures for a child to want to eat a new food.
So how do we serve what we’re eating to our kids and make it a success for everyone?
What we want you to notice on these plates:
“Do we all have to eat the same foods at a meal?” It’s not always possible!
We talked about the benefits of serving one meal to everyone above. However, we can’t always eat the same things for a variety of reasons:
We know its ideal to eat the same meals and serve our kids a variety of foods - even if they might not eat them right away. So, how can we make meals and snacks successful when we have to eat different foods?
Breakfast is sometimes the most difficult meal of the day. Kids are hungry, time is short and it's easy to get stuck in a rut. We created this free Family Meal Toolkit - Breakfast Edition to help you navigate the first meal of the day with a little less stress. Head to the link below to download it for yourself!
In this toolkit you'll find:
Traveling with kids - Part 1: Snacks!
Our number one suggestion for traveling with toddlers and kids? Bring snacks! No, seriously. All the snacks. The last thing you need on a long travel day is a hungry child, and sometimes meals aren’t nearly as regular when we’re away from home.
Shown are some unique snack ideas you may not have thought of, including freeze dried peas and strawberries, crunchy cheese (Moon Cheese brand - break apart for younger toddlers), sunflower seed butter cracker “sandwiches,” soft dried cranberries and chocolate chips. None of these require refrigeration, but if you bring perishable items you might want to consider a PackIt bag or small cooler depending on how you’re traveling.
When planning snacks for a trip, consider the following:
Do babies need snacks on trips? The most important thing for babies when traveling is breast milk or formula. Snacks are ok - but not required - for babies 6+ months. Small foods like O’s cereal can keep baby occupied; they just need a pincer grasp to pick up really small foods (10-12 months).
Traveling with kids - Part 2: Activities!
While bringing snacks is imperative during travel with kids, it’s also important to bring something for them to do! Our Feeding Littles team member Sarah, a former preschool teacher, travels very often with her kiddos (now 3 and 7) and has been using these activities for years. Again, head to our Amazon shop under Travel Activities and Snack Gear to get them for your next trip! We have lots of other activities and ideas in there too!
Shown are a variety of activities - keep in mind your child’s stage and abilities when choosing them for your kiddo. Many of these are especially good for plane travel.
Judy also recommends heading to the dollar store for little toys or trinkets your kiddo hasn’t seen before. Even something as simple as a calculator can keep them occupied since it’s novel and different.
Fold down the end of pipe cleaners to keep them safer, and always be careful with small objects kids may put in their mouths.
What about tablets or screens during travel? Well, for many families, screen time is much more liberal on long car rides or plane rides, especially since traveling isn’t an every day thing. Sometimes travel is about simply surviving while getting from one place to another, and an educational app, movie or show can really help with that. Kids usually have a longer attention span for shows or movies as they get older, and it can definitely make traveling a lot more enjoyable, but you’ll have to decide how much screen time is appropriate for your family during travel.
Want more travel activity ideas? Check out Susie’s awesome Travel Kit and Travel Ideas highlights over at @busytoddler.
Let’s talk about why it’s important to (at least sometimes) let our kids get messy when they eat!
Judy describes messy eating as a short-term nuisance that yields long-term developmental and feeding benefits. It’s so important!
The more a child can touch and feel a food in their hands, the more likely they are to eventually eat it in their mouths. If we discourage them from getting messy, they may stop eating altogether because they aren’t developmentally capable of feeding themselves in a tidy way until they get much older.
Plus, when we let kids get messy we are building their tolerance and acceptance of food on their hands and skin. Think about how a toddler bites into a PBJ sandwich - it gets all over their cheeks! If they can’t handle that feeling, they’re less likely to eat that food altogether.
Messy eating is also great sensory play that eventually translates to play, art and learning as kids get older.
How do you handle the mess?
What about manners? Head to our “Let’s Get Messy” section in the Toddler Course to learn about how to appropriately foster table manners.
What if my kiddo won’t touch messy foods? Get in there and get messy with them! Keep offering yogurt, sauces, soups etc for your child to self-feed as much as possible. If you find that your kiddo is really averse to new textures and it’s getting in the way of mealtime or playtime, talk to your doc.
Let’s talk low-cost protein options!
Many plant-based protein sources, especially dried beans and lentils, are nutrient-packed options that can help lower your grocery bill. In our online Toddler Course, we recommend some protein with each meal for blood sugar regulation, growth, satiety and building muscle.
However, kids’ protein needs aren’t crazy high, and when we’re on a budget there are some super inexpensive ways to meet those needs!
Of course, meat, poultry and fresh fish are great sources of protein, but sometimes they can be more pricey. Make sure to shop sales and freeze in bulk to get better deals on those foods!
Note: the images listed aren’t of portion sizes - just the food itself! Even though we have portion sizes listed for reference to protein values, your kiddo may eat much more or much less.
Prices via Walmart in Arizona.
How much protein is enough?
Do I need to count protein? No, not unless your child has a specific medical issue or is severely limited in their diet.
What do these numbers mean? Your child is very likely eating enough protein!
What if my child eats more than this? Very excessive protein intake can tax the kidneys, but as long as your child’s diet is balanced with other foods and they drink lots of water, we don’t worry if they eat more than the RDA.
Other nut butters and seed butters also contain protein - peanut butter may just be the most cost effective.
Lentil or chickpea pasta are great sources of protein; they’re just less accessible and more pricey (about $0.26 per 1/4 cup serving, providing 5 grams of protein). We showed whole wheat as a reminder that whole grains contain protein too.
Who loves pancakes?! This banana egg pancake recipe is a staple in our house that works well for eaters of all ages (babies included)!
We love this basic banana pancake recipe and hope your whole family will, too. My kids get really excited on pancake day!
You may see this recipe on the internet as just banana and egg, but we like adding rolled oats (or coconut flour) so it’s thicker and doesn’t fall apart as easily when cooked.
The recipe is super versatile and makes about 8 small pancakes, enough to feed 1-2 adults and 2 kids depending on how much you eat.
We love to double or triple the recipe, make a big batch, and keep the leftovers in the fridge (up to 3 days) for awesome fast breakfasts or snacks. They also freeze well! Just thaw and reheat in the toaster oven on convection or in the microwave before serving.
We added real maple syrup to the pumpkin variation because pumpkin can be a little bitter - you can omit it if you’d like!
What do you top these with?
Baby at home? Cut into slices they can easily pick up! Practice serving them cut into small pieces, strips, wedges or whole with toddlers and kids to practice different fine motor skills.
Egg allergy? We haven’t made these with an egg replacer, but Cookie and Kate and The Worktop have some great eggless pancake recipes if you do a quick search!
Does your child resist coming to the dinner table? Ask them to ring a dinner bell to signify the start of the meal - it can make all the difference!
A few weeks ago in our Feeding Littles Clients Only Facebook Group, one of our longtime clients and followers asked for some help with her 2-year-old: “As soon as we all sit down to dinner my two-year-old starts screaming at me so much that I can’t eat my food. She gets so hysterical that then she won’t eat. I’ve tried many different things for weeks and haven't figured it out. It’s not an issue at restaurants or if we have a floor picnic but I need to be able for us to have regular family dinners.”
Judy’s response? “Can you get her to be a part of the routine of the meal by setting the napkins, forks or spoons at the table? Then have her be in charge of ringing the dinner bell. Give her more responsibility and see if this helps. There may be a power struggle, and the more control we give her over the process the happier she will become.”
Guess what? From mama: “SAVED BY THE BELL! The only change we did was adding the dinner bell and magically she’s fine now.”
Sometimes just giving your child a job in the process - one that feels important like ringing the beloved “dinner bell” (any bell will do) - is a wonderful pre-meal ritual that sets the stage for a more positive experience for all.
Try it at home yourself! We put some bells in our Amazon Shop under the Dinner Bell category - my family owns two (the set that’s silver and copper) because it helps having two with two kids.
This is just one of the many ideas and philosophies we share in our Toddler Course, which has been used by thousands of families worldwide to help #takebackmealtime. It guides you step by step through a simple plan to prevent or manage picky eating and mealtime stress.