On Feeding a Toddler

Cari Faye requested a post about what I feed Gooplet so she could get some ideas for her own little one. Dear readers, if you would like to save yourself a lot of time, know this: by and large, Gooplet eats what we eat.

But if you have some time as you coast toward the weekend, read on, with the simple warning that this post is long.

I swore when Gooplet was born that this blog would not turn into a mommy blog, and I think I’ve done a good job with that. But this particular post is venturing dangerously close to mommy-blogger territory. So with it, a disclaimer. This is what I did for my kid. Because I’m his mom. And I know him best. It doesn’t have to be what you do with your kid. You know him best. This is working for us, so I share in hopes it gives you some ideas about what to feed your toddler, should you need them.

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And the second disclaimer is this: my kid is the worst sleeper who ever lived. The rules that well-meaning bloggers and sleep gurus everywhere list online (and they are largely the same) do not often work for him. I fully embrace that you might be in a similar situation with your child and food. You might have done all the things the internet says to do and still, it’s hot dogs or bust. I get that. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do, just like I know (in my finer moments) I am not the reason my kid is a horrible sleeper. He just is. I get it. I do. I promise.

Phew, that’s out of the way.

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Now what does Gooplet eat? Like I told you, whatever we do. But of course, it’s more complicated than that. First, let me give you some basics.

  • I try to make sure he eats a balanced diet over the course of the day, rather than meal by meal. Which means there are times when he eats all fruit in a meal, and all carbs at another. If he’s had a lot of milk to drink, we ease up on the cheese and yogurt, but if not, bring on the Stonyfield pouches.*
  • I put a lot of options on his tray, and none of them are ever dessert. If we are out and about, and he spots a cookie, he is going straight for it, and that is great. But at home, I have total control over what he eats, and so graham crackers and Honey Nut Cheerios are about as sweet as we get.
  • Once the options are out, I don’t care what he eats so much as I care that he eats. This is a personal decision. I have one mom friend who serves what she serves and that’s it. And that works for her. And it’s great. I can’t risk my kid waking up because he’s hungry, when he wakes up 800 times at night anyway, so if he’s not eating the two things I put on his tray, I will try something else…
  • ….and then I will put the food he didn’t eat back on his tray the next day. And maybe again in two days. And if he keeps saying no, I will keep putting it in front of him. But I won’t make it a thing if he still isn’t interested.
  • I feed him food I don’t like. Though I’m much less picky than I used to be, I have some serious food preferences. But where my diet may be lacking, his doesn’t have to be. Just because I don’t love blackberries doesn’t mean it’s not worth buying some for him to try.
  • And note to self, come back and post about deconstructed dinners. I am a firm believer in what Dinner a Love Story calls the deconstructed dinner. See Jenny’s takes on them here and here. See my take on them in another post because this one is long enough.

Now let’s get specific.

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Gooplet eats what we eat. But maybe not all of what we eat, and maybe not at the same time. Let me explain.

At some point during our move from single ingredient baby food jars (don’t even talk to me about making your own food) and foods that have texture and multiple ingredients, Gooplet became interested in what my husband and I were eating at each meal. So we just put pieces of it on his tray. Sometimes he went for it, sometimes he didn’t. But he kept showing interest, and even if we thought he wouldn’t like something, we figured, what’s the worst that can happen if we send some his way? (Answers to this question include: he doesn’t touch it at all; he drops it on the floor; he says, “No, no, no.”) And in just over a year of eating solids, Gooplet has gone from loving bananas, to detesting them, to loving them again. From only wanting avocados, to not touching them, to asking for, “More ah-cado.” From eating Chex by the cupful, to a preference for oatmeal for breakfast. From eating whatever meat we share with him, to not touching meat at all right now. But he’s growing, and if it’s anything like bananas and avocados, he’ll come around again. More than I want him to eat any one specific food, or type of food, I want him to continue to see a variety of foods in front of him.

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Here are our go-tos, meal by meal. Hopefully it’s obvious he doesn’t eat all of these at once, and that there are days, and lots of them, with copious amounts of Goldfish in between meals.

Breakfast: fruit, and lots of it (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas, peaches, pineapple, grapes, you name it), pancakes, toast with peanut butter, cheese, overnight oats, an English muffin with avocado, or if he’s truly lucky and I need something sweet, Nutella, yogurt, lots of green smoothies from a sippy cup with a straw (though I hate cleaning them), egg bakes in which sometimes he goes crazy, and sometimes I pick out the veggies and meat in the egg bakes and he only eats them, toast with peanut butter, and cereal by the handful when we can’t think of anything else.

Lunch: this shouldn’t even be its own category because lunch is whatever little bits of food I have saved in the fridge because he didn’t eat them at breakfast or dinner the night before. I have been known to rip apart a good cheese or turkey slice here, but nothing fancy happens.

Dinner: risotto, any sort of pasta with sauce (sometimes he just eats meat sauce), grilled chicken galore, salads, especially if they are drenched in dressing, green beans, broccoli, tacos and taco-bowl-type situations, mac and cheese (duh), Mediterranean chicken and couscous (yes, the little grains fly everywhere), pretty much anything that has pesto, meatballs, pulled pork, pizza, um, and lately we’ve had a million barbecues and he straight up eats the rolls because he wants nothing to do with hot dogs or hamburgers. Also I can’t stress enough that we eat a ton of chicken around here.

*But if you can find me a flavored yogurt without sugar as the second ingredient, I’ll switch to what you use!

In Which We Are Not Going Back to School

But it is no longer summer.

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Time for an experiment: can we make the feeling of summer last all year? (Or at least till December when THE HOLIDAYS come to drown us all?) Here is the plan…

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We will make time to splash in puddles.

We will continue to read and hit up every story time inside the Beltway.

We will keep one day a week free from any and all obligations and just see what happens.

We will get outside at least once a day, every day. Bonus points if that includes a walk in the stroller. Triple bonus points if that involves Gooplet walking himself somewhere.

We will cook and bake together.

We will not be afraid to make messes.

We will clean up those messes as best as we know how.

We will visit as many playgrounds as we can.

There will be play dough.

I Want to Remember [a winter goopdate]

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I want to remember… how much you love when we roll the red kickball back and forth.  You flap your arms up and down and squeal until I send it back to you.

I want to remember… that you are always in motion.  I can’t take a picture of you that isn’t blurry.

I want to remember… you want to read all the time.  You’ll find a pile of books (we keep one in every room), pick up your favorites, and flip the pages endlessly.

I want to remember… that you have been sick for over a week.  We are all doing the best we can.  Being cooped up in the house is not great for either of us, and we’ve quickly exhaust our favorite toys most days.

I want to remember… the noises you make when your dad goes to get you in the morning.  You are so happy to see him and you babble incessantly while he changes you and gets you ready for the day.

I want to remember… the rhythm of our days.  Breakfast, coffee (oh, how the Starbucks team loves you and is so, so good to you), nap, whatever the day’s activity is, home for lunch and another nap, and playing till we start texting your dad to beg him to come home.

I want to remember… that you don’t like to be pulled apart from me.  Deep down inside, I love this so much.  In the minutiae of our daily lives, I don’t always.  Deep breaths.  You won’t always want to be attached to my right leg.  And I’ll probably miss it when you don’t.

I want to remember… that you’re learning to clap, wave and high-five.  I swear you’re trying to say “Mommy,” “Yes,” and “Again.”

I want to remember… that you love looking at photos.  We have our holiday cards up on the wall, and every time we go up and down the stairs, you have to stop to “talk” to some of our friends.