As baby T recently crossed the one year mark, I started thinking a lot about how I want to feed her in the coming year. Having gone through this phase once before, I know what's ahead in the toddler years: Increased opinions, fickle appetite, definite preferences, and a sometimes challenging demeanor at the table. On the one hand, it's so amazing to see our babies turn into opinionated little people. On the other hand, toddlers can be very hard to feed!
I've already noticed that T has definite food preferences and she'd gladly eat cheese and berries multiple times a day if I offered it. Some foods she doesn't like due to texture, as far as I can tell, which at the moment that includes most meat and bread products. And there are times that she's simply exploring her world, dropping one bite and eating the next. And this brings me to what often trips people up when feeding toddlers.
If you only offer the foods your toddler likes because you're pretty sure they will eat those foods, other foods become less familiar. Your toddler's diet will narrow to those few foods and unfamiliar foods may become a tough sell—both because it's hard for them to imagine how they will taste and because your toddler is used to getting the foods they like most at most meals.
So on the one hand, yes, you're feeding your toddler and making sure that they aren't going hungry. But on the other, catering to their early preferences sort of sets them up to be picky, which no one wants!
I'm not going to pretend that even if you offer your toddler a wide range of foods, that you'll be guaranteed to have a child who eats everything you offer. Because your little one is their own person and they will have opinions about their meals no matter what you do! Some of that just is what it is and isn't necessarily worth pushing back on. I mean, life is short and maybe it's okay that they really only like one kind of cheese or cracker, or to drink from one specific sippy cup. But I do think that if you can continue to expose them to lots of foods—alongside, in addition to, or alternating with—favorites, you can help to avoid an extremely narrow list of accepted foods.
Which brings me back to my girl. Right now, she's 12 months old, so she's still (mostly) in the honeymoon phase where she'll at least try what I give her. So here are the goals that I'm going to keep in mind:
- Change up how I serve foods we eat regularly, such as buying different shapes of pasta and serving it with different kinds of sauces, serving cheese in shreds and cubes and alternating the kinds I buy, and regularly alternating how I offer smoothies and yogurt (and the like) by using our Squeasy Gear, a spoon and a bowl, and a straw cup.
- Try to avoid serving the same foods two days in a row at the same meal.
- Buy two kinds of produce each week that we didn't have the week before.
- Regularly try out new recipes to introduce new flavors and so that new foods are a normal part of family meals.
- Alternate the type of milk that I give her between whole milk cow's milk and a variety of plant milks, and not necessarily offer them at every meal or snack so water is the norm too.
I fully expect that we'll run into feeding challenges in spite of all of this, but it definitely makes me feel like I'm going into toddlerhood with my eyes wide open!