How to Make Your Toddler’s Food Healthier

May 22, 2018

how to make your toddler's Food Healthier - M Loves M @marmar

As a parent, I feel like I’m constantly cooking for Augustine, preparing him snacks and trying to make sure he’s fed. And not just fed, but well fed. We eat pretty healthfully around here and I’m always trying to introduce Augustine to new tastes and flavors. One of my favorite memories from Kauai was when he wanted to try the soursop fruit from a local market. It was tangy, but slightly sweet and surprisingly he loved it! I always want to give Augustine the opportunity to try new things and develop his taste buds. I get lots of questions on InstaStories about what we cook and how I make Augustine’s food healthier. I thought I would share some of my tips today in the hopes that it helps you sneak in some extra nutrients for your little ones! I’d also love to hear from you in the comments if you have any tips and tricks you’ve picked up along the way!

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How to Make Your Toddler’s Food Healthier 

 

Sneak it in!

I love to give Augustine smoothies because I can sneakily add a lot of healthy ingredients, like spinach, that he doesn’t know about or taste. Spinach is such a nutrient-rich green. It has lots of vitamins, including K, A, E,C, and B1, B2 and B6. It’s also full of iron, magnesium calcium, potassium, and dietary fiber. The list of its benefits seriously goes on and on! Personally, I like adding spinach to my smoothies because I get all these extra nutrients, so I started incorporating it into Augustine’s smoothies as well. Also, you can easily add in pureed spinach to scrambled eggs {green eggs anyone?}, or into mac and cheese or lasagna dishes. I also love to add frozen cauliflower into his smoothies since that’s another vegetable that you surprisingly can’t taste. Black beans are another secret ingredient that you can add to brownies and no one will know! Maybe I’ll do a post on these soon?

Sprinkle Seeds on EVERYTHING!

I am obsessed with seeds, chia and hemp in particular. I add them to oatmeal, cereal, salads, smoothies, grain bowls, pastas, you name it! You wouldn’t realize how many nutrients are in these tiny little seeds but they’re jam-packed. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, they’re rich in antioxidants and they provide a lot of fiber, calcium, and iron. Hemp seeds also are an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids, and they contain all of the essential amino acids, which makes it a complete source of protein. Plus, they have a lot of fiber, iron, and zinc. I love how neither of these really change the flavor profile of my dishes, so I can add them in a natural way.

Offer Healthy Snacks.

I try to limit processed snacks because, even though they’re easy, they have a lot of unnecessary ingredients. Instead, I offer Augustine little bites of cheese, chopped up pieces of fruit, and roasted veggies. I try to meal prep these things at the beginning of the week, or first thing in the morning, so that they’re ready to go. Augustine has loved sweet potatoes since we started introducing solids and we play around with cubing them or cutting them into fry shape. Next up, I want to try sweet potato toasts which is where you cut them into slices, roast them, and then add toppings. That sounds so yummy! He also loves snacking on cucumber slices, halved cherry tomatoes, and red bell peppers. 

New & Improved Pasta.

Sometimes Augustine just really wants the simple stuff- nothing added. For example, I’ll make up a big bowl of oatmeal with chopped apples, peanut butter and coconut {yum!}, and he’d rather eat it plain from the pot- preferably off the wooden spoon. You can totally see why kids just love plain buttered noodles. When it comes to pasta though, I’ve been buying quinoa, lentil, and black bean pasta noodles instead. He doesn’t notice the difference and eats it all up! Lately, he’s been loving the quinoa and brown rice fusilli pasta from Trader Joe’s. By the way, have you seen my favorites from Trader Joe’s? I think I’m going to need to do a kids edition soon!

Get them Involved!

One of my favorite ways to encourage Augustine to try new foods is to let him pick them out himself. Whether we’re at a local farm, or at the grocery store, I like to give him the opportunity to decide. Sometimes he’ll pick out his trusty bananas, but othertimes he’ll be drawn to interesting fruits and veggies that we might not normally get. Of course, there are definitely times where he’ll spit whatever the food is right out, but other times he’ll like it.  As Augustine gets older, I think this will be such a fun activity to pick foods out, describe them by shape, color, texture, and then taste them. I saw this book that I think will get him even more excited to explore new foods and flavors!

I also can’t wait to have Augustine help me cook. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen and he loves to play with pots, pans and measuring cups. When I think I have an age-appropriate task, I know who I can call to for help! Already, Augustine has helped me measure nuts for our almond milk, and add ingredients to a mixing bowl. We’ve even whisked eggs together. He’s becoming the best sous chef!

Model Good Behavior and Make it Fun!

I also think it helps significantly that we eat healthy foods ourselves. I’ve found that Augustine is always much more interested in what we’re eating. This is hard when it comes to my afternoon iced coffee, but it’s also worked to our benefit at other times. Just yesterday, Augustine was watching me eat radish slices with hummus and he really wanted to eat one too. I was for sure thinking that the radish flavor would be too spicy for him, but he actually loved it! He kept asking for more.

There are  definitely those times where we’re going to have snacks and sweets but my plan, as of right now, is to not make a big deal about it. I think that maybe once they know it’s something special and almost forbidden, they’ll want it even more. So sometimes we’ll have cookies, or pancakes, but it will just be treated as a regular dish. This is my plan now but who knows how that will work. I don’t want to limit Augustine but I also want him to enjoy a wide range of foods that will do more for his body.

Most importantly, maybe, is that I try to make mealtime fun and enjoyable for Augustine, while don’t pressuring him. I give him the opportunity with some healthy food options and hope he takes it. I really don’t want to create any unnecessary stress around mealtime, or when it comes to eating in general. I definitely want him to have a healthy relationship with food, and most importantly enjoy trying new foods. 


There are a few things we could work on when it comes to mealtimes, particularly making sure we all sit down together as a family. Right now it’s hard with Matthew’s work schedule because Augustine eats dinner around 5/5:30pm. I’m sure we’ll work on that in the coming years though because I love the idea of setting that routine.

Do you have any tips for how to make your toddler’s food healthier? I would love to know! Also, if you have a little one that’s just starting to eat foods, here’s a post about introducing solids. And here are some of our go-to foods when we were at the 1 year mark!

xox

P.S. Check out Augustine’s 20 month update if you missed it! 

photos by Priscilla Frey 

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