Mission Impossible: Feeding Toddlers a Balanced Diet

by Carrie Saum
2AppleQMinimuffins

Apple quinoa muffins

 

Feeding your child can feel a lot like an Olympic sporting event. You do your best to set up a successful meal. You have your gold, silver, and bronzemedal winning toddler-friendly foods. You create an inviting environment, complete with flameless candles and They Must Be Giants jamming out softly in the background. You buzz the spoon like an airplane. You do your best Mr. Miyagi impersonation. You pull out your old cheerleading uniform from high school (just kidding…that thing will never fit the same way again). You pretend to sneeze bites of perfectly steamed carrots into your baby’s mouth. You flawlessly execute a backflip-roundoff-triple-sow-cow whilst holding a spoonful of organic basil butternut squash soup clenched between your teeth. But your wee one looks past you, focused on the bag of snacks you forgot to hide. The one thing you did not prepare. The one thing that came from a package. The one thing you absolutely under no circumstances want your little to eat. Because you want them to eat something besides a Jammy Sammy or freeze-dried peas with a side of boob juice. And your kid just won’t cooperate. What is the deal?

Well, for starters, kids have minds of their own. From the time our babies are in utero, they constantly tell us what they want and don’t want. It just gets more complicated from there. We find all the tricks to get food into their bellies. My son went through at least 15 different self-chosen bottle routines when he was an infant. Some days, we spent all day trying to get him to drink his milk. He wanted nothing to do with it. He would rather play peek-a-boo or cuddle or learn how to walk than politely take his bottle. Other days, I couldn’t keep up with his demand and I pumped 12 times a day trying to keep him full. Eventually, I would dig into my freezer stash of donor milk, because when my baby needs to eat, I feed him. And when he thinks he doesn’t need to eat, I still try to feed him. Because I’m his mom and that’s what moms do. We feed our babies.

So, how do we keep our babies and toddlers well-fed? How do we balance all the crackers, granola bars, and dairy products with other foods?

For starters, let’s look at this like a big picture of overall health. Let’s not take our children’s nutrition one meal, or even one day, at a time. Let’s take it a week at a time. So, for instance, if your little love only wants to eat freeze-dried mango for three days in a row at every meal {ahem}, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is my child capable of eating other food?
  2. Is my child hydrated?
  3. Does my child often eschew other foods and then return to them later?

If your answer is YES, then stop worrying about it! It’s time to stop looking at each meal like a nutritional pass/fail. Think back to what your toddler ate over the last week. This week, keep offering all of the foods you normally do. Within reason, let your child choose what and how much they want to eat from the given options. Ideally, you want your kids to eat lots of healthy fats, veggies, fruits, whole grains, and protein. But that doesn’t always happen and that’s okay. Your kid will survive. Observe what they’re eating, what they’re drawn to, and watch for places where you can add in more veggie and fruit options if you need to. If they want to eat a big spoonful of coconut oil or nom a stick of organic butter, let them. (Their brains probably need the fat to keep developing and make their next big leap!) Look at the BIG PICTURE, the whole enchilada. Let go of the meal-to-meal, and day-to-day. Reframe your notion of a balanced diet by the week.

While you’re at it, consider approaching your own diet with the same mindset. If you’re still nursing your babe, be sure to keep taking your prenatal vitamins and Vitamin D emulsion supplements every day. Worry less about cutting back or cutting down on the crap you might be eating right now, and concentrate more adding in the healthy stuff. As long as you’re focused on adding in all of the good nutrient dense foods, the other unhealthier foods will eventually take a backseat. You know, that whole “what you focus on expands” concept.

One of my favorite, nutrient packed snacks to make are these Apple Quinoa Mini-Muffins. With just five ingredients, they’re easy for you to make and your kiddo to eat on the go.  These are also great if your child is gluten, diary, egg, soy, or corn intolerant. Confine your Olympic feats to organizing that crazy family calendar and getting in a good run, walk, or yoga class this week and enjoy a healthy treat.

 

 

 

Carri Saum Bio Pic 2Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical fields. She has a background in paramedic medicine and spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet the health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. She has coached countless clients on topics such as nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and blogs regularly about healthy cooking and nourishing the whole family with The Leaky Boob’s sister site  OurStableTable.com and Facebook page. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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