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.
Did you know that the first cup Judy recommends babies learn to drink from is an open cup at around 6 months?
This Tiny Cup from ezpz (not sponsored) is one of our favorite new open cups, but you could also use a shot glass or a cup found in our Amazon store. Open cup usage helps babies learn to take a small amount of liquid in their mouth and successfully swallow. This is especially helpful for straw and other cup drinking, as sometimes babies don’t know what to do when the liquid hits their mouth. Judy finds that if her clients drink from an open cup first they’re more likely to master a straw cup or Miracle 360 cup. Plus, learning an open cup is a skill your child will use for life.
We have an entire guide to teaching your baby open cup, straw cup, and 360 cup drinking on our blog, plus find our favorite cup recommendations there! It’s actually one of our most frequently asked questions. We also talk about why teaching a cup in infancy is important and why it’s OK to give a little bit of water to babies 6+ months. (No, they don’t need it for hydration - it’s more to help them learn cup drinking, prevent constipation, and start to appreciate the flavor of water.)
Struggling with getting your kiddo to drink water or milk in toddlerhood, and wondering what to do about weaning from the breast or bottle when you’re ready? Perhaps you want to breastfeed into toddlerhood and aren’t quite sure how to make it work for you? Check out our Milk and Weaning eBook, which is also included in Step 4 of our Infant Course and Step 16 of our Toddler Course if you’re already a client. It will help you make the best decision for your family and includes info for breastfeeding/pumping families, formula-feeding families, those who want to switch to cows milk or another alternative milk, and those who don’t want to use milk in toddlerhood. It’s balanced and non-judgmental - just the facts from your favorite feeding pros.
Did you know that all of these “protein” foods are appropriate for 6 month olds who show readiness signs to eat?
Many protein foods like beef, poultry and fish are very high in heme (absorbable) iron and are recommended as a first food by the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and Health Canada. Yes, babies without teeth can chew softly cooked meats - the trick is to use moisture while cooking! The Instant Pot and crockpot will be your friend - try cooking with low-sodium broth to keep the meat soft.
Yes, babies can digest meats despite some saying that they can’t. In fact, most current digestive health protocols for adults like the GAPS diet and AIP recommend meat as a first food. There’s a reason it’s recommended for babies too! Of course, not everyone eats meat - see vegetarian notes below.
Eggs aren’t high in absorbable iron but are a highly nutritive food that happens to be an allergen. Early, frequent exposure to allergens like eggs, shellfish and finned fish is critical for allergy prevention according to current recommendations. If your child has a higher risk for allergies due to family history, eczema or breast milk/formula tolerance issues, talk to your pediatrician or allergist first.
Vegetarian/vegan? Many non-animal foods like beans, lentils, whole grains and leafy greens are good sources of iron too. You’ll have to decide if you want to introduce seafood, eggs and dairy - all allergens - due to the importance of early and frequent exposure.
Are you lost on what to feed your baby? Are you interested in BLW, or infant self-feeding? Join the thousands of families worldwide who have taken our infant feeding course, which provides expert help from two feeding professionals who have a combined 45+ years of experience. We offer practical, non-judgmental, non-rigid tips that can help this work for you. Plus, we teach you how to set your baby up for competent eating for life (with elements of eating disorder prevention)! As a client you will gain access to our private Facebook group, and your course doesn’t expire as long as we are selling it! Use it for your next baby too!
As we approach the New Year, many are thinking about going on a diet or changing their lifestyle. If you’ve been part of the Feeding Littles Family for a while, you probably know that we promote a non-diet, intuitive-eating based approach to eating. Does this mean we ignore nutrition and what helps us feel our best? No. We constantly discuss this on our Instagram account and stories.
I studied under the authors of Intuitive Eating in grad school and have been working with chronic dieters my whole career. (Thank you Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole!) Judy has always promoted joyous mealtimes with her clients. No matter how you approach food, please remember that your children are learning about self-love, body acceptance and healthy food relationships from you. You have such an amazing opportunity to model self-love and self-care.
Here are some simple things to do right now to promote a good relationship with food:
Want more info? Check out the book Intuitive Eating by Tribole and Resch, and consider taking our Toddler Course. We talk all about this in the first few steps.
One way to help broaden your child’s willingness to try new foods is to present popular, common foods in their diet in different ways. This teaches them that foods always look a little different and don’t need to be cut or presented exactly the same, which allows them to be more comfortable with new or unusual foods in the long run. More variety presented equals more variety (eventually) consumed.
We all tend to default to the same presentation of foods like bananas - it’s totally natural - but if you could change it up every other time you present that food, you’re slowly helping your kiddo become used to variety. If you need help with picky eating, please check out our online Toddler Course.
Side note: we get asked all the time in our Facebook Group if it’s “OK” to serve a banana every day. First off, whatever you want to do and however your family eats is OK! Bananas are inexpensive, portable, full of minerals and fiber, and delicious - they’re an awesome option! As long as they’re not causing constipation and your child is seeing other fruits too, feel free to serve them daily if you’d like - we just recommend presenting them differently when you offer them.
Here are some easy ways to vary how you serve a banana:
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.
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!