Let’s Talk Healthy Toddler Food…

If you ask Maggie what her favorite food is, her answer will most likely be, “All of them!” (When her pediatrician asked her about her favorite food during her 3-year-old checkup back in April, she told her it was broccoli. Major mom score — ha!)

And the thing is, she DOES like most foods. (We’re very lucky, I know, but I also think we’ve done some things that have helped to make that the case.) She’s also not in preschool or daycare right now, and I do think that’s kept her from potentially developing some peer-influenced pickiness. She’ll go back to preschool part time in January, so we’ll see if that has any effect…

I shared some tips on helping toddlers eat healthy food and meals for one of my recent Zulily blog posts if you want to see those suggestions, and I thought I’d share some more thoughts on the topic here on MY blog. The Zulily post has more specific toddler-friendly meal suggestions, and this post is more about the mindset around that topic.

I think I’ll also write a post soon with some specific Maggie-approved (and EASY, which is key for me!) healthy toddler meal ideas. Would that be helpful?

For this mindset topic, let’s start with a book, shall we? Carla’s Sandwich is a favorite at our house for two reasons:

  1. The Storyline Online version is read by one of my favorite actresses, Allison Janney
  2. The plot features Carla, who brings very creative sandwiches to school each day and gets made fun of for it. The tide turns when a classmate forgets his lunch one day and begrudgingly accepts a “weird” sandwich donation from Carla. Lo and behold, he LOVES the sandwich and the whole class is now also on board with creative sandwiches.

It’s a great way for us to talk often with Maggie about how it’s not nice to make fun of what others choose to eat, and that it’s also really neat to do things that are different sometimes. Just because someone else doesn’t like a food, for example, doesn’t mean YOU can’t like it.

Maggie’s virtual preschool teacher, Ms. Jamie, shared a line they use at their house when it comes to respecting what others choose to eat, and we repeat this often at our house, too, in the hopes it will really sink in: “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.” (Isn’t that such a fun line?)

As always, Daniel Tiger (a favorite at our house) comes in clutch when it comes to just about any kid-related topic — picky eating included! His song about trying new food (because it might taste good!) is sung often by Maggie-girl.

Kevin and I both have always had an expectation that Maggie wouldn’t be a picky eater. (The jury’s still out on how Baby Boy will be as far as pickiness goes, but we’re grateful Maggie’s been so adventurous when it comes to food!) With that expectation in mind, we’ve never been a house that includes tons of typical kid foods (snacks included). For the most part, Maggie eats pared-down versions of what we eat — OR the same complete meal we eat. She’s usually fine with combined flavors and even spicy foods. (Meanwhile, I remember that as a kid I was okay with eating a variety of foods, but mostly wanted them all SEPARATE. Separate was a big thing for little Anna.)

We talk a lot about how different foods make our bodies feel, and why it’s important to eat a variety of foods to give our body different nutrients and energy. We definitely eat cookies and other treats at our house, too (many of these are things we bake together, which is one of our favorite activities!), and talk about how those are so delicious but that they fuel our bodies differently than other foods — like fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, etc. — and so we need to make sure we eat much more of those other yummy foods to keep us feeling strong and healthy.

Are things perfect at our house when it comes to food? OF COURSE NOT. Will Maggie eventually go through a picky stage? SHE TOTALLY COULD. I’m certainly not sharing this post from a smug, know-it-all kind of angle (I hope that’s clear!), but more as a reflection on things we’ve tried to incorporate when it comes to food at our house to hopefully instill healthy habits in Maggie and, importantly, respect and an open mind when it comes to food (both the things we eat and the things others eat).

Oh! And here’s a fun reminder (one I remember reading about while pregnant with Maggie): A pregnant and breastfeeding mom can influence her child’s exposure to flavors based on what SHE eats. Eating a variety of foods — and including lots of good-for-you foods — can help your kiddo avoid pickiness later on. (How’s that for an incentive to eat well during pregnancy?)

Fellow toddler parents: What’s food culture like at your house when it comes to your kiddos? Are you struggling with pickiness at your house? If so, what are some helpful tools you’ve found to combat that pickiness? And what are some go-to meals everyone in your family loves?

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