I introduced Jack to solid food when he was 6 months old, but he still got most of his calories & nutrients from breast milk. Now that he’s 14 months and fully weaned it’s really important to me that he eats healthy and gets all the healthy fats and vitamins & minerals that he needs. He’s a little young to eat everything that we eat so here are a few ideas for healthy meals & snacks for your toddler:
Healthy fats are so important for proper brain development. Chia, hemp & flax seeds, avocado, coconut & extra virgin olive oils, natural nut butters and fish are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. A few ways to incorporate them into your toddler’s diet:
– Smoothies with chia, flax, hemp and coconut oil
– Plain Greek yogurt with a spoon or two of natural almond butter (or other natural nut or seed butter) mixed in. I also stir in a tsp. of real maple syrup and a handful of blueberries.
– Chia Pudding Parfait: combine chia seeds with almond milk, and soak for a couple hours or overnight – add a natural sweetener like honey or coconut sugar and top with fruit
– A couple scoops of simple home-made guacamole (avocado, lime juice, cumin & a pinch of sea salt) on a brown rice cake or Green Monster Pasta – a green sauce with avocado, hemp seeds, spinach & extra virgin olive oil (recipe provided below)
– Canned sockeye salmon (make sure it’s MSC certified) mixed with Hummus Pasta (brown rice noodles with a couple tablespoons of hummus as the sauce)
Whole grains, legumes, root vegetables and squash should be the type of carbs that you give your kids. They’re high in fibre, and important minerals like zinc, magnesium and iron. A few healthy carb options:
– Brown rice or whole-wheat pasta
– Sprouted bread with grass-fed butter, coconut oil or natural nut butters (sprouted bread is made with whole grains & is rich in enzyme)
– Sweet potato mash with coconut oil
– Baked spaghetti or acorn squash with grass-fed butter
– Lentils & beans in a soup or home-made hummus (consider adding cucumber, spinach or broccoli to your next batch of chick-pea hummus for added fibre & nutrients!)
– Expand your horizons with ancient grains like amaranth, millet and freekeh
We all know that vegetables are so important as part of a healthy diet. They’re loaded with vitamins & minerals that your body needs to function properly and avoid illness. It’s no secret that most kids have a problem with eating vegetables. Is that our fault? Kids are smart, and have probably picked up on the fact that adults cheer and will reward them for eating vegetables. So what do they do? Avoid eating them. Vegetables should simply be treated as one of the food groups that we eat. A few strategies to help your kids eat their veggies:
– Serve vegetables at the beginning of the meal when they’re the most hungry
– Don’t hide veggies in a meal, instead provide healthy flavourful dips and dressings to spice them up (avoid store-bought ranch dressing & dips as they are full of sodium, bad fats and preservatives)
– Steam sweet potatoes, carrots & broccoli and stir in some healthy fats like coconut oil or grass-fed butter; this will improve the taste and the absorption of nutrients
Protein should be incorporated at every meal, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be chicken. There are lots of other options for protein (and I’m not talking about hot dogs, lunch meats or bacon. All of them include loads of sodium, and nitrites – cancer causing preservative):
– Falafels (home-made chick pea patties – Veggie Patch is a good brand if you’re in a pinch)
– Mixed bean salad with a healthy home-made dressing (add avocado or tahini to a dressing to make it creamy)
– Frittata or scrambled eggs
– Quinoa cakes (quinoa is a complete protein & gluten-free)
– Salmon or tuna cakes (combine canned salmon with whole-wheat bread crumbs, eggs and spices)
It’s also important to me that Jack develops healthy eating habits to avoid issues with food in the future. Here are a few strategies to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food:
– Avoid giving your child loads of snacks throughout the day; they should sit down at the table hungry so they’re interested in the healthy meal choices in front of them.
– Provide variety, but not too much. Provide your child with 2-3 healthy choices for meals. If they don’t like any of them than they’re obviously not hungry enough. Take it away, and try again later.
– Don’t force them to finish their plate. Watch for signs of being satisfied (playing with food, dropping food on the floor, easily distracted), and put away the rest of later. This will help them develop proper cues for being hungry & full, and potentially save them from issues with food, weight gain and over-eating in the future.
– Introduce a food at least 15 times before making the statement that they don’t like a particular food.
– Don’t applaud your kids for eating. Do we demand applause when we eat our lunch? Instead ask them questions about their food: what does it taste like? Is it bitter, sweet, creamy, or crunchy? What colour is it?
Transitioning from the baby phase to toddler phase can be tricky when it comes to eating. When our children are babies, we are programmed to make sure they have enough food so they grow and sleep properly. When our babies become toddlers they are transitioning into amazing, smart little human beings who are just beginning to discover the world around them, and this includes food. We need to fight the urge to just make sure they’re full by whatever means necessary (aka giving them unhealthy choices if they refuse to eat their veggies). It’s our job to guide them, and make sure they are getting everything they need to grow up healthy & strong and develop a healthy relationship with food.
Green Monster Pasta Sauce
3 cups organic baby spinach
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
¼ cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1/3 cup hemp seeds
1 large ripe avocado
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt & pepper to taste
Brown rice or lentil pasta
Combine sauce ingredients in a blender, and stir into your favoriate healthy pasta (brown rice, whole-wheat or lentil pasta).
Add chopped cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs for some colour & more veggies!