Who are we?
Just another Austin couple hovering around 30, with a toddler in tow. Babygirl was a year and half when we started the blogging project. We're not professional writers, and we're definitely not professional cooks. This is just a fun project to get us to cook more often.
What does Babygirl eat?
When she started eating solids at 6 months, we were super excited to cook all her purees and meals. It was easy, just boil/steam/roast any vegetable, fruit, etc, until it looses all structural integrity, mix it with an immersion blender, store, and serve. She's always had a very healthy appetite, and we had a fairly easy transition into solids. We don't have a history of allergies, so we introduced new foods liberally. Just no honey, salt, nuts or milk until her first birthday.
As she's grown, and has expanded her culinary palette, we've been trying to ride the balance between kid friendly foods, and meals that we (as adults) also enjoy.
What makes a meal toddler friendly?
Toddlers can eat anything, really. We just have a few ground rules that should be self-explanatory. Nothing too hot/spicy, food should be easy to chew (she's still working on her molars), heart-healthy, and at least 2-3 food groups per meal.
In addition, for our own sanity, we prefer meals that are easy to prepare and reheat. We like to cook large batches and feast on leftovers. This takes out some of the fresher, summer-style salads or meals, but for the moment we are fine with that.
What is a heart-healthy diet?
Basically, a heart-healthy diet is a low-fat diet - roughly 30% of your daily calories should come from fat. This includes a focus on fresh fruits and veggies, complex carbs, whole-grains, lean meats, and "good" fats (non-animal fats). This is not the same as fat-free, as growing toddlers need fats for brain development.
Everyone should eat heart-healthy, but we usually don't. It's a way to prevent obesity, heart-disease, high cholesterol, and a plethora of other health problems. We are trying to follow a heart-healthy diet on our pediatrician's recommendation. So far it's been wonderful; our toddler is forcing us all to cook healthier.
What to do with picky eaters?
What to do with picky eaters?
We don't know what to do if it's a chronic issue. Up till now, Babygirl has been a champion eater, only going through occasional picky days. We believe strongly in keeping positive associations with meal times, so she'll be happy to sit down to eat. So we never force her to finish a meal, and encourage her to at least taste everything. If she's steadfast refusing something, we assume that it's for a legitimate reason, and leave it at that. The body is wise.
We always start with the part of the meal we want her to eat (meaning veggies). But if she's not having it, we offer other healthy alternatives. So long as she eats something nutritious at every meal, we don't stress to much about it. I heard somewhere that you should measure a toddler's eating habits by week rather than by day, and it's been some of the best advice to keep in mind.
What's the hardest part of cooking for a toddler?
Time. Time. Time.
Time for menu planning, grocery shopping and actual prepping/cooking. In the good ol' days (pre-baby), making dinner was our evening activity, and we'd indulge with wine and cheese while prepping the ingredients. We'd take our sweet time and enjoy cooking for cooking's sake. These days, we have to plan ahead, prioritize, and most of the time she wants to play instead of cook. Have you ever tried to tell a 1.5 year old to wait a minute, that you'll read her a book after you've sauteed some vegetable? Yeah, that's what I thought.
Do we eat out with her?
You betcha! Though it's been getting harder now that our dear child wants to move, move, move. Still, we manage pretty well. The secret is not going during nap-time, picking a restaurant that has good healthy options, and being realistic about how long we can stay. We no longer have three course meals, with dessert and coffee, but it's not like we really did that very often pre-kid. Also, we find ourselves frequenting restaurants with a patio and/or playgrounds. At least in Austin, there's a surprising amount of restaurants that have both a playground and a good beer selection. Bless this city.
We've also discovered that most children's menus are terrible. They only offer dairy fats, on white grains, with a side of greasy starch (i.e., variations on mac-n-cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, fries, and chicken nuggets). Too unnecessarily greasy. Instead, we order something for ourselves off the "adult menu" to share with her, like soups, grilled chicken, pastas or grilled vegetable. Not all restaurants have healthy options, so it's our hope to add some of our experiences on this blog.
To this day, Babygirl has never eaten commercial mac-n-cheese, chicken nuggets, juice or soda. The day will come, but why rush it if she's not asking yet? Meanwhile, she loves bananas, blueberries, carrots, graham crackers and greek yogurt.