If you have been following our feeding adventures with the baby number 3, you may remember the sardines and raw zucchini this kids has been gobbling up until recently. And how she gnawed on broccoli and cooked chicken before that, as a 6 month old. You can read more about how we introduced solids using a mixed approach and served her finger foods at 6 months.
I wrote about feeding issues that are really just normal milestones for a 1 year old here. Well, I have to say that things have been getting even more interesting now that she is 18 months.
But it does not make me feel like a bad mom. In fact, it confirms what I have been always saying: regardless of your feeding approach or the amount of spinach your baby enjoys from early on, chances are she will still go through some variation of a picky phase in her toddler years.
Here are some toddler eating habits we see right now:
Crazy shifts in appetite. She takes me by surprise almost every day. Most days she eats less than I expect but sometimes it is three times the typical amount. I always recommend to record what a toddler is eating over a week rather than judge their caloric intake and dietary variety based on a day’s observation, otherwise it is hard to get a true picture. Definitely true in my case.
Yogurt, plain rice/couscous and fruit please. These are her current favorites. I think she can eat them 5 times a day with no problem. From working with other parents I know that it is often the case with toddlers. So she is sharing her passion with thousands of others. Good for her.
Veggies? Maybe if I am still hungry later. Since we serve all food family style instead of keeping dessert for the end of the meal, she typically starts with the sweet bit, whether it is blueberries or apple sauce. Then, once the dessert is polished, she moves to the savory course. And sometimes she does not eat anything but her current favorite, which means that the veggies or fish are often left on the plate.
And although she may suddenly discover a new flavor that she loves, like freshly roasted brussels sprouts (not the warmed-up-from-last-night kind, thank you), I never know whether she will eat them next time.
Where did the adventurous baby go? I hope she is coming back soon. I miss her. She is still open to trying pretty much anything, but I see a big shift towards typical favorites. Because of this, it is hard to always remember that my job is to expose her to variety. It is too easy to stick to something that she typically eats.
For example, my 10 year old was eating a seaweed snack recently and I did not even think of offering it to the baby at first. Turns out, she loves seaweed!
I want a huge afternoon snack and no dinner! I feel that she may be too tired to eat a good dinner but she is really hungry when she wakes up after her nap, so I serve a big snack, a mini-dinner really, typically some leftovers from the previous day. When we all sit down for dinner, we get lots of charming smiles, bubbling and science experiments but very little eating. She still breastfeeds at bedtime so I do not think she is hungry at night.
If your toddler is a dinner-skipper too, a little bedtime snack or a bottle is a nice way to help them get enough calories.
I think this kind of eating behavior could easily drive me crazy if I did not know any better. But none of the mealtime mishaps discourage me from what I am doing. Neither do I consider my situation a feeding failure.
We still schedule meals and snacks, eat as a family, include new food from time to time and incorporate at least one “safe” option in a big enough amount for her to get her fill.
The “what” of her eating, or food selection, has narrowed since she became a toddler, as we expected.
But she is still really excited about mealtimes, she gives me clear signs when she has had enough or wants more and is able to choose from what is offered without a fuss. This means that the “how” part of feeding, or the strategies I use, work. So I know that the long-term foundation of healthy and balanced eating habits is in place.
Even if I have to finish her chicken curry again tonight.
I really do not mind, it is delicious.