I have wanted to write this post ever since Tyson turned one and am now finally finding the time! I get a lot of questions about what Tyson eats (and doesn’t eat) every day. I have posted recipes here and there but I haven’t really talked about the day-to-day basics of feeding a one year old. For moms who aren’t at this stage yet, hopefully this will give you some ideas to start with!
Tyson just turned 14 months old and he is almost completely weaned from breast-feeding. I am still nursing twice a day (before bed and in the morning), but I don’t think there is much milk left in there so it is not a significant source of his nutrition anymore. Which means he is getting almost all of his nutrition from other sources now, and it takes a lot more planning and effort to make sure his diet is healthy, complete and well-balanced. I admit, being a nutritionist means that I probably spend a lot more time analyzing Tyson’s meals than the average person, but I’m still like most moms – I always have a million things on the go everyday so meals still need to be quick and easy. I will be writing another post soon with my tips and tricks for keeping baby food prep as simple as possible.
Tyson, like his mom and dad, seems to be quite the foodie. Despite his small size, he has the most ridiculously voracious appetite. We recently taught him the sign language sign for “more” in an attempt to deter him from whining for more food after each bite. It works well, but almost too well as he signs for “more” anytime he spies a morsel of food – he always wants “more” of what I’m eating, “more” of what I’m cooking or baking, or “more” just because he can ask for it. It’s cute, but sometimes I feel like I’m spending the whole day feeding the boy!
That being said, I usually try to structure his eating around 3 meals, and two snacks per day. Obviously if he is still hungry in between that, I will feed him, but I find that this works well to make sure he has enough “fuel” to keep him going throughout the day.
There are so many factors that I consider when planning Tyson’s menu, but the three most important to me right now are:
- Making sure he is getting enough fat and protein
- Making sure he is getting a good variety of vitamins and other micronutrients (iron, calcium etc)
- Exposing him to a variety of foods and flavours (salty, bitter, sour, sweet)
I typically try to focus on what Tyson is getting in a day or over two days, rather than per meal. For example, if he doesn’t get a lot of protein or fat at breakfast, I make sure to get plenty in at lunch and dinner. And if he has a lot of fruit at lunch, I try to have a veggie-heavy dinner. Things like that. I try not to over-think his menu TOO much, which is easier said than done for someone who is an over-thinker by nature!
I obviously try and make sure our eating habits align with what Tyson is eating so that I am cooking for everyone at the same time. My favourite things to make are big batches of soups, stirfrys or roasted veggies.
Here’s how an average day of eating looks for Tyson right now…
Tyson is always starving when he wakes up. Lately his wake-up time is 5:30am (ughhh…we are working on this), so even though I nurse him right away, he is still usually cranky and wanting food within an hour after waking up. I usually alternate between “sweet” and “savoury” breakfasts. Here are some typical breakfast foods:
- Oatmeal, buckwheat cereal, quinoa flakes or quinoa cereal with blackstrap molasses, almond butter or coconut butter mixed in
- Gluten-Free pancakes, made with a combination of oats, rice or quinoa (recipe to come)
- Fruit – he loves bananas, oranges, pears, grapefruit and frozen blueberries in particular
- Diced avocado or cherry tomatoes
- Eggs with veggies or “Green” Eggs
- Fish (salmon, tilapia) with steamed veggies (peas, broccoli etc) – who says that you can’t have this for brekkie?!
- Fruit & veggie smoothie
- Goat milk yoghurt with fruit puree or applesauce
Lunch typically depends on whether we are at home or on the go. If we are at home, it resembles more of a meal (similar to dinner). When we are out and about I try to bring a variety of different items that are easy for him to eat with his hands so that I can feed him throughout the day. For example:
- Steamed or roasted veggies – carrot, turnip or sweet potato spears, peas, broccoli florets, cubed squash, cucumber, beets etc.
- Diced cherry tomatoes
- Fruit – diced apple, pear, kiwi or clementine wedges
- Fruit & veggie smoothie (such an easy way to pack in nutrition when on the go)
- Homemade muffins (recipe to come)
- Healthy Snack Cookies
- Rice puffs
- Cooked black or adzuki beans or chickpeas
- Fruit or veggie puree in a squeeze pouch
- Rice cakes with almond/sun-butter, hummus or tahini
- Bean or chickpea patty cut into cubes
- Dried apricots (soaked) and cut into cubes or soaked raisins
Usually we are out and about from after Tyson’s morning nap until his afternoon nap, so lunch and snacks are pretty much a combination of the list above. I often save some of his smoothie for after his afternoon nap as he wakes up cranky and it is usually a good way to calm him down. If we are at home for snack time, we often share an apple with sun butter or some hummus and veggies. Some days Tyson wants to eat all afternoon, and although I try to stick to specific “snack times”, this often goes out the window. I think the fact that we live in a condo and our kitchen is in plain sight most of the time has something to do with it. He can see the bananas on the counter and will walk over to them, look up and sign “more?” Who could resist that?
Dinner tends to be a combo of leftovers in the fridge (I make LOTS of extra of everything I cook), and something thawed from the freezer. I still make a lot of large batches of food and freeze it for Tyson just so I always have food that is easy to grab and thaw. I really want to work towards eating dinner as a family, but Tyson is hungry by 5:30 and I just can’t get dinner for Jon and I organized by then with a toddler at my feet. That means Jon is usually on Tyson’s dinner duty as soon as he gets home, while I prepare the adult meal. Some examples of Tyson’s typical dinner foods:
- Fish cakes (recipe to come)
- Soup, stew, or some sort of curry or chili – I particularly like using coconut milk as a base for extra fat
- Steamed, roasted or puréed veggies – Tyson has tried pretty much every vegetable out there, and of course he likes some more than others
- Quinoa, rice, rice pasta or millet mixed with a combination of lentils, veggies or a veggie puree and/or tomato sauce
- Diced avocado or cherry tomatoes
- Bean or chickpea burgers, or just cooked beans on their own
- Chicken or pork (organic, free-range), cut into cubes or puréed with veggies and/or rice
- Stir-fried veggies and beans or tofu, usually slightly puréed
A couple of things that I wanted to chat about.
Even though Tyson can obviously feed himself at this point, I do still feed him purées for a few reasons. First, it’s an easy way to get a good variety of food into him in one sitting – soups are especially good for this as I can just throw in a ton of vegetables, beans, grains etc. and when it’s puréed he will eat it right up. Secondly, at this age Tyson only has a few teeth at the front of his mouth so there is very little chewing going on.
I hope you don’t mind if I get all “nutritionist” on you for a minute!
Chewing is such an important part of good digestion. Among other benefits, chewing breaks up the food into smaller particles (therefore creating more surface area) so that the digestive enzymes in your mouth, stomach and small intestine can more easily break down the food and release the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for easy absorption into the body. In fact, some of these enzymes actually start to work in your mouth during the process of chewing, so that some food (starches and fat) are already partly broken down by the time they reach your stomach. When food isn’t chewed, it is harder for the body to break down. You have probably seen evidence of this when changing your baby’s diaper – there is often bit of undigested food that has passed right on through. Therefore, I still purée some of Tyson’s food to make sure he is absorbing a large portion of the vitamins and minerals contained in the nutrient dense food that he is eating. And thirdly, it is quicker and easier to get more food into Tyson in purée form rather than letting him eat an entire meal with his hands (as most of it ends up on the floor).
And to answer the question that is probably on people’s minds: Yes, I am limiting gluten and most dairy for Tyson at this point for a number of reasons (this is definitely another post if people are interested). As for a replacement for “milk”, we decided to give Tyson mostly unsweetened Hemp Milk. It has a similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk (fat, protein, calcium etc) with the added bonus of naturally occurring Omega 3 fatty acids, which are super important for children’s brain development.
And no, it does not have the same effects as marijuana 🙂
After much research and discussion with health professionals, I know that babies don’t actually “need” milk at this stage as long as they are getting enough fat from food. So I try to incorporate a lot of healthy fats into his diet instead of relying on milk. He usually has the hemp milk a couple of times a day in his sippy cup, in smoothies and before bed if I am not home to nurse him, but I don’t really get too caught up in making sure he has a certain number of ounces per day. He also drinks almond milk, flax milk, and coconut milk quite regularly in recipes or because he is eating or drinking some of my food or smoothies, but none of these are as nutritionally complete as the hemp milk.
Phew, so that was a bit of an information dump! As I’ve indicated above, there are lots of recipes to come on the blog for some of my favourite toddler meals as soon as I remember to photograph them as I’m cooking!
So far I’ve found feeding a toddler to be an art, rather than a science. Different things work for different kids but this is what is working for us right now. I’ve been lucky that Tyson likes pretty much everything at this point. Sure, he refuses things some days, and throws food on the floor when he doesn’t want it, but for the most part I can convince him to eat anything if it’s under his own terms. If he wants to eat it with his hands, rather than me feeding him from a spoon, I let him. It’s that, or he won’t eat it. Yep, it is ridiculously messy at times but I want to encourage a healthy association with meal time and so far it seems to be working. Once he is a little older and can understand some rules around being messy, this will likely change. That, or we need to get a dog so I don’t have to sweep and mop the floor every night!
I know some parents have asked me how I avoid Tyson eating “unhealthy” foods. I actually don’t think it’s all that difficult. Since I control what he is eating right now, I just don’t give him the stuff I don’t want him to eat. Simple as that! I’m not looking forward to the day when he really starts to say “no” to certain foods. I will definitely be looking for some tips and tricks from experienced mamas on how to deal with that.
On a final note, I thought I would leave you with a fun song for kids about eating healthy foods. A friend recently introduced me to Yo Gabba Gabba, and although Tyson doesn’t really watch TV yet I have downloaded a bunch of the songs and put them on his little baby mp3 player that he got for his birthday. This song is definitely catchy and always makes me laugh!