Hi, I’m Amy Palanjian! I’m a mama to two girls and a baby boy and I work as a writer, editor, and recipe developer for magazines, books, and websites. Feeding toddlers is a huge challenge and it can be so (SO!) stressful. But I love to offer reassurance, encouragement, easy recipes, and tips that make feeding toddlers feel more manageable.
Over the past decade and a half working in media, I’ve worked as the Lifestyle Director of FamilyFun magazine, as a food editor with Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Media, and as the Deputy Editor of ReadyMade magazine. I’m also currently a contributing editor to AllRecipes magazine.
My work has appeared in All You, Better Homes and Gardens, BHG.com, Bon Appetit, Delicious Living, DIY magazine, HGTV magazine, Fork and Beans, The Kitchn, Momtastic, Mother.ly, Parents, Parents.com, Real Simple, Super Healthy Kids, Rachelraymag.com, The Wall Street Journal, Wellmark.com, The Honest Company website, and more.
I’ve also developed recipes for a number of clients including Nellie’s Free Range Eggs, Skeeter Nut-Free, Kalona Organics, Barilla, McCormick, PUJ, Reynolds, and Danone. I’ve even worked on videos for Better Homes and Gardens and Recipe.com! (My job is really super fun!) I love helping families find an easier way to enjoy wholesome, delicious meals together.
Here’s more about how I approach feeding my family—and develop the recipes and advice you’ll see here on Yummy Toddler Food.
I stock my pantry, fridge, and freezer with whole foods as much as possible.
Most of the time, I cook with whole ingredients at home. That means I am more likely to buy, say, old-fashioned rolled oats than packets of oatmeal. Stocking my pantry with basic ingredients including whole grains, dried beans, and a wide range of flours allows me to stick to my monthly grocery budget and it gives me greater control over what we eat—I can add spices, fats, and flavorings according to the preferences of my family.
I opt for whole or low-fat dairy products because I prefer the flavor and think they perform better in most recipes, especially toddler food, than fat-free versions. (My love of full fat plain yogurt knows no bounds!)
And I find it fun to make homemade versions of items you’d usually buy in the store, so you will find recipes for staples including bread, hummus, and sometimes even cheese—but that doesn’t mean I don’t also value the convenience of store-bought versions. I certainly don’t have time to scratch-bake crackers everyday and I don’t expect you to either!
I minimize added sugars at home.
If you buy the food you want your kids to eat, they’ll likely have healthier choices to pick from. Once I realized that I can’t isolate my kids from the world around them, I decided that I would do my best to minimize added sugar at home so that I don’t have to worry so much about the food at birthday parties, playdates, and church. It’s been such a relief!
This is also just my personal preference as I like my baked goods and desserts to be less sweet. So while I often use fruit to lend sweetness to toddler foods, I also use modest amounts of maple syrup, honey, and yes, even real sugar, in dessert recipes. Sometimes you just need a real deal cupcake, right?
I involve the kids in the kitchen.
I don’t go full Montessori every day, but I’ve found that having the girls help me get a meal ready or bake a special recipe makes them more interested and involved. And often they nibble on veggies as they help, even if they don’t eat them at the table, which I consider a huge plus. Cooking together is an activity that we all love so we do it regularly.
I am not a short order cook.
My family eats breakfast and dinner together 99% of the time, which yes, does mean that we eat dinner at 5:30 (and it also means that us adults have a snack later in the evening). I do my best to serve a variety of foods—whether the girls say they like them or not—so that we don’t get stuck eating the same few foods over and over. When I make a new or unfamiliar food, I always try to pair it with something I know they like.
Or, at the very least, have cheese, crackers, or fruit on the table so that there’s something “safe” to eat.
I do not cook separate meals except on very special occasions—like when I want to make a special meal for just my husband and I to enjoy after the girls are in bed. We are incredibly fortunate that neither of our kids has had an issue with growth, allergies, or appetite (apart from during illnesses). I do have good friends with kiddos who have those issues though, so you may see the topics addressed.
I believe it’s possible to cook one family meal and adjust it for everyone at the table as needed.
Mealtime is as drama-free as possible.
I meal plan and I post the week’s menu on a dry erase board in our kitchen so everyone knows what’s for dinner. And I follow this advice called The Division of Responsibility in Feeding from feeding expert Ellyn Satter:
The parent is responsible for what, when, where
The child is responsible for how much and whether
No forcing bites. No making anyone feel badly if they doesn’t like something, no taking it personally if they decide not to eat something that it took me hours to make.
I trust that my kids are in tune with their hunger and that their intake will balance itself out over the course of any given week. We don’t talk about “good” foods or “bad” foods, but I focus on flavor and how more wholesome foods will help them grow and run fast (or twirl like a ballerina, depending on the day).
I happen to be gluten-free—but my family isn’t.
A few years ago, I discovered that eating gluten gives me very intense migraines. I had a temporary reprieve during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but if I eat it now, I’m debilitated for at least 24 hours. I do not have Celiac’s disease, nor do I have an issue being in contact with gluten, so I cook and bake with both regular and GF flours both at home and in my toddler food recipes.
I have two very opinionated taste testers (as well as many friends who regularly enjoy the surplus of what I make) so you can be sure everything is being well vetted, tested, and retested when necessary.
The result? I have two girls who are enthusiastic eaters.
They do not eat everything I make or serve them, but they are generally happy eaters. One loves smoothies, the other has never had more than a sip in her life. One loves meat, the other could take it or leave it…and usually leaves it. They are unique and opinionated, just as I expected them to be! And they both still make a total mess at the table and I consider myself lucky to get to clean up after them…if amazed how how often I find myself sweeping the kitchen floor!
I love to help families figure out how to approach toddler food when challenges arise.
This age offers up a whole new host of issues to work through and it often leaves parents feeling like they’re failing. You’re not!