The Easiest Way to Improve Your Toddler's Diet this Week

The easiest way to improve your toddler's diet this week...

We all worry that our little ones aren't eating enough vegetables. Or that they're eating too much sugar. Or not enough protein. And while I like to remind you how in many cases, you actually don't need to worry so much, there is one trick that I've found that drastically improves the way that I feel about the foods my entire family is eating.

Buy the food you want your family to eat.

It's so simple when I just put it out there like that, but I've found that remembering that when shopping for groceries can make a giant difference in my mood during meals and snacks.  Because if I buy the foods that help me feel like I'm feeding my family wholesome, yummy foods, then I can feel good about our meals—no matter what L decides to eat from what I offer. So if we have potato nachos made topped with black beans and salsa and L decides just to eat the potatoes, I am okay with it. Or if we have stir fry with broccoli, rice, and tofu and L just eats the broccoli (it's happened!), I too am okay with that. Or if we have cheese and fruit for a snack and L chooses just the cheese, that's fine.

By eliminating meal and snack time reliance on foods that make me frustrated when my daughters eats them, I'm both freeing her from my emotions about that specific food and I'm giving her the opportunity to fill up on nutritious foods she might not choose on her own. This might be helpful to consider if you dislike that your child only seems to want fruit snacks, crackers, or Veggie Sticks at snack time. Or mac and cheese or chicken nuggets for dinner.

I've mentioned this before, but when L was around 18 months and I was bothered by the volume of snacky foods she was eating at daycare, I changed the types of foods that I kept in the house for snack time. Instead of cheese crackers, puffs, and packaged snack bars, I started focusing on fruit, veggies, cheese, yogurt, and nut butter. And I started thinking of snacks as mini meals because I've found that that simple perspective change helps me to use them as a chance to get in smaller bursts of nutrition.  

Overall, this trick has vastly improved how I feel about what we eat during the day, and it's helped me to relax when we eat out in the world—so we can enjoy those other foods when we encounter them. It's not about calling one food bad or demonizing it, it's simply prioritizing foods that are better for us and help us grow. We still enjoy ice cream and cheddar bunny crackers and cookies, but they are less frequent special event foods now.

I know that it can be so hard to change the food that you buy since our little ones (and bigger ones!) have such big opinions. But I promise that if you make some changes, and stick with them long enough that they become the new normal, everyone will move on and be fine. Maybe to start, the next time you run out of a favorite snack food, don't buy another box at the store. Go a week without it in the house and see what happens. Just be sure to have some other yummy alternatives on hand!

P.S> And just so that you know that we're not crazy people living on vegetables alone, we always (ALWAYS) have chocolate and tortilla chips in the house. They bring us joy and that, too, is part of a healthy diet.

Easy Applesauce Overnight Oats with Hemp Seeds

Easy Applesauce Overnight Oats for toddlers and babies

I've always been a big fan of overnight oats, but my oldest? Not so much. I recently figured out why and I came up with a nice work-around that tastes great and still packs a lot of nutrition into each portion. This method for Applesauce Overnight Oats is super simple to mix together, it stores well for future meals, and it's a make-ahead breakfast option that the whole family will enjoy, even the little ones.

So here's the thing: L does not like chia seeds when she can see them or when they gel a mixture super firm. (She loves them in Blueberry Chia Seed Jam though!) I abandoned overnight oats for a while since I'm so used to including chia seeds, but it recently dawned on me that I could skip them all together! And, since the baby loves yogurt, I thought that this applesauce version would be great for her as well. 

All you need to do for this recipe is to stir the ingredients together the night before and let them sit in the fridge until breakfast time. The applesauce provides a serving of fruit and natural sweetness, the whole milk yogurt adds calcium, protein, and fat for staying power, a little cinnamon adds flavor, and hemp seeds boost it all with healthy omega fats and fiber.

Hemp seeds, which are lightly colored and don't cause liquids to gel the same way that chia and ground flaxseeds do, are a recent addition to my pantry. I started keeping them on hand during my recent pregnancy since just 2 tablespoons has 6 grams of protein and they kind of don't taste like anything—which makes them ideal to add to so many foods. (We really love them in smoothies since they completely blend right in!) And in this recipe, it's likely that no one will even notice them, though you'll feel good knowing that there are extra nutrients tucked inside.

Super simple overnight oats with good fats and fiber for toddlers

Applesauce Overnight Oats
These make a nice and simple meal on their own, but feel free to add additional thinly sliced apples (which your little can dip into the yogurt if they'd like).
Makes 1-2 toddler servings

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup plain whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons rolled oats, ground finely in a food processor or blender
  • 1 teaspoon hemp seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Stir all ingredients together in a small airtight container overnight. Serve chilled for breakfast, a snack, or as a lunch or dinner component.

Variations: Try ground flaxseed instead of the hemp seed, add 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract, or try a different fruit puree in place of applesauce.

The suction bamboo bowl pictured here is by Avanchy. We love it!