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What I've Learned in Feeding My Daughter Her First Year

My daughter is a year and a half, but I wrote this post when she was one year old.  Our definition of meals and snacks for our family has shifted. Last year, I published this post with tips for the transition to starting solids, but the eating adventure continues as your child grows.  Here are some things to remember with feeding as your infant transitions to toddlerhood:

1.  It all balances out. I try to remind myself of this every time my daughter has a day when she doesn't eat as much.  Some days will be better than others.  It is not about nutrients eaten over one day, but over time.

2.  Toddlers may slow down how much they are eating.  In the first year of life, infants may triple their birth weight!  Now that your child is getting older, he or she may have less of an appetite.  This scares some parents, but it is very normal.

3.  They are developing likes, dislikes and preferences. I don't like to call it "picky eating." It's actually a developmental milestone as children develop their tastes and preferences.  When my daughter was around 9 months old, she would eat anything on her plate.  Around one, she started tasting foods and spitting them out, and many times, not even trying foods at all.  Although it can be frustrating to us parents, our children are becoming more independent and making their own choices.

4.  It may take 15-20 attempts of offering a food before your child accepts it.  Keep offering and trying.  Additionally, what they like one day they may not like the next day.  My daughter loved salmon one week and when I offered it to her the following week, she wouldn't even touch it.  Along these same lines, sometimes toddlers get tired of a certain food (think about having the same dinner three nights in a row), my advice to this is to try to repurpose your food.  Have grilled vegetables for dinner, try adding these to a quesadilla the next day for lunch.

5. Meal planning and preparing in advance is key. Taking a little but of time on the weekends to get myself prepped for the week takes off a ton of stress (stay tuned for a blog post dedicated to meal planning).  After my daughter goes to sleep I spend a few minutes getting her meals prepped for the next day. This makes mornings just a little less stressful.

6.  Remember the feeding relationship: parents are responsible for the what, where and when, and children are responsible for the how much and whether.  You can only offer your child food, and they are the ones to decide how much they want to eat.

7.  Give yourself a break.  You are doing the best that you can do.  We all have days where our children are going to eat nothing but plain cheerios for dinner or we have to do something we said we never would as a parent.  It's about balance.  You are doing great!

Happy eating :)

Recipe: Tofu, Veggie and Farro "Fried Rice"

Tofu veggie farro fried rice One pan meals are a favorite in my household: typically easy to make and less clean up after the little ones are asleep.  I love experimenting with new grains and packing in as much nutrition as possible into my meals.

A few more reasons I love this meal:

  • It's super easy.  I used a bag of frozen mixed vegetables.  I believe frozen vegetables are under appreciated.  They provide the same nutrition as fresh vegetables and can be prepared relatively quickly.  Just be careful for added ingredients like salt or butter (take a look at the ingredient statement to be sure you are only getting the vegetables).
  • Farro: a nutritional powerhouse packed with fiber and an excellent source of protein and nutrients like magnesium and iron.  Toddlers can be picky and grains seem to be a stable in our household.  I love to use grains that pack in that nutritional punch!
  • "Fried rice": to resemble the friend rice feel I add in a couple of scrambled eggs.  Protein, iron, Vitamin D... lots of nutrition here!

So... let's get cooking.  As with most of my recipes, feel free to add your own ingredients or play with the quantities, the possibilities are endless!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cooked Farro (cook according to package directions)
  • 2 tbsp olive, avocado or canola oil
  • 1 package tofu (14 oz)
  • 10 oz package frozen mixed vegetables (whatever combination you prefer)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 liquid aminos or low sodium soy sauce (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Press your tofu to remove the majority of the water.  Either use a tofu press (something like this) or place a towel on a cutting board, the tofu on top and a towel on top of the tofu.  Use a large hardcover book and place on top of the tofu to help press and remove the water.  Make sure your towel is thick enough that the water does not soak through to the book!
  2. Heat oil on medium heat on a large skillet
  3. Cut tofu into small square slices add the tofu to the hot pan cook about 5 minutes, until the tofu starts to brown
  4. Add the frozen veggies and cook until heated through
  5. Add the cooked farro
  6. Crack the eggs into the middle of the pan and scramble until cooked through
  7. If desired, add the aminos or soy sauce to the dish

Enjoy!

Meeting Your Toddler's Nutrition Needs: Iron

I work with many clients who want to know about about adequate iron intake in their infant and young toddler's diet.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), or average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals, is 11 mg iron for babies 6-12 months of age and 7 mg of iron for children 1-3 years of age.  Here are three of my favorite iron rich food sources that I feel are not given enough credit, along with some great toddler approved recipes. Lentil pasta sauce

Lentils: Half a cup of lentils contains 3.3 mg of iron.  Lentils are easy to make (here is an easy way to make them on the stove) and a big batch can be prepared and last for a few days.  Add lentils to pasta sauce, or mash into a dip with garbanzo beans (lentil hummus anyone?) or sprinkle cooked lentils on a grilled cheese sandwich.  The possibilities are endless and the health benefits are huge!

Add 1-2 tbsp of Blackstrap Molasses into your french toast batter. Serve with a side of fruit for a complete (and iron rich) breakfast.

Blackstrap Molasses: The nutritional king of molasses.  Blackstrap molasses has 3.5 mg iron in one tablespoon.  And not only is blackstrap molasses high in iron, it is a great source of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B6, selenium AND low in sugar.  Blackstrap molasses can be added to oatmeal, french toast batter, and topped on pancakes or waffles.  It can also be added to a multitude of baked goods.  Two of my favorite recipes that can be nutritionally boosted with blackstrap molasses are these baked oatmeal bars (add a few tablespoons into the wet ingredients) and this chocolate zucchini bread.

Black bean brownies: recipe coming soon!

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: Who would have thought cocoa powder would be a source of iron?  Two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder contain 1.4 mg of iron.  Try this powder in some great baked toddler approved recipes, including the chocolate zucchini bread listed above,  or adding a few tablespoons into this zucchini banana oat bread.  I have also made black bean brownies using this powder (recipe coming soon!).

There are many more sources of iron that I love to include in my family's meals like:

  • red meat and dark poultry
  • fish sources like tuna and salmon
  • eggs
  • tofu
  • beans
  • dried fruits
  • grains (like quinoa, barley, teff, amaranth, oat bran, wheat bran
  • dried fruits
  • green leafy vegetables
  • iron-fortified breakfast cereals
  • and MANY more!

Stay turned for future blog posts which highlight some of these foods.  Do you have a favorite iron rich recipe? Let me know in the comments below, or contact me with questions.

Two Things More Important than Portion Sizes when Offering Solids to Infants

Join me in my three-part blog series to learn more about introducing solids to your little one.  This post originally appeared on the San Diego Breastfeeding Center's blog and can be found here.  To learn more about taking one of my upcoming classes on introducing solids to your little one click here

Introduction to Solids, Serving Sizes, Feeding Relationship

When babies are 4-6 months of age, many moms start thinking about how much solid food kids should eat.  It’s easy to get caught up in a race toward the “starting solids” milestone, but what comes next?  Many parents wonder, now that their little one has started eating solid foods, how much is enough?  Am I making him/her overeat?  Am I wasting food? Am I teaching poor habits?

What might reassure you is that as long as your selections contain a balance of protein, carbohydrate, fats and vitamins and minerals, measuring “servings” of food consumed may not necessarily be the best way to ensure your baby’s success at adopting a solid diet.

How much should your little one be eating?

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First, take a step back. Renowned feeding expert Ellyn Satter, MS, RDN, MSSW gives parents the helpful suggestion of a “division of responsibility.”  Parents are responsible for the “what, when, and where of feeding; children are responsible for the how much and whether of eating” (Satter).   Babies have the innate ability to self regulate.  They will let you know when they want more, such as opening their mouths when food is offered.  Conversely, will let you know when they are full, such as turning away from the spoon and sealing their lips tightly.

Rather than a fixed “serving” - offer food to your child, but look for signs that they are full.  With that in mind, you have two things in your control: when is mealtime, and what are you serving.

When is mealtime?

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A general idea of how many meals you should offer each day depends on the age of your child:

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Once you have an idea of when those mealtimes and snack times fit into your baby’s wake and sleep schedule, you’ll want to establish some strategies for how much to offer at each serving.  Start small: when first introducing solids, 1-2 teaspoons is enough for your little one.  And remember, up to one year of age breast milk or formula will continue to make up the majority of your baby’s calorie intake.

Next, think about the overall composition of the meal:

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Thinking about the composition of meals, know that all babies are different and some may progress through textures more quickly (or more slowly) than others. That’s okay.  As discussed above, you can only control the what and when.  Your child is in control of the how much and whether.

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This process is bigger than serving size.  You’re trying not merely to nourish your little one; but to introduce your little one to a variety of new foods, textures, flavors, and nutrients.  This diversity is part of a journey you’re on, together with your young child, to ensure their healthy relationship with food.  These approaches will help your child to develop the tools to succeed when making food decisions on his/her own.

Stay tuned for my next post: “How To Help Your Little One Feel Full” to learn more about introducing new foods to your child.

Repurposing Meals

I love leftovers.  However, some members of my family (mainly my daughter) does not seem to feel the same way.  My 14 month old daughter will love a meal I prepare, but when I try to serve it the next day she does not want even a taste.  As a registered dietitian who works with families with feeding difficulties, we typically recommend only offering the same food once every 2-3 days as able.  So, I have been spending some time thinking about how I can repurpose my meals.  I take leftover meals and change them somewhat, which has really helped with my daughter's intake.  Here are some of my favorite ways to repurpose leftovers: 1. Make a grilled cheese or quesadilla.  I occasionally make a thick  vegetable stew or lentil puree.  I love the nutritious aspect of the dish so I want to make sure I serve it as many times as possible.   I will take the puree (or even puree some vegetables with a protein) and spread it on bread or a tortilla with cheese and grill it up.  Viola

2. "Fried Rice".  Most of my staple dishes include some sort of grain, vegetable and protein.  I like to sauté the leftovers, crack an egg or two in the middle and sauté until the egg is cooked.  Add a few spices, like coriander and cumin and you have yourself a delicious new meal.

3. Pancake sandwiches.  My daughter loves pancakes and so do I (it's a great way to PACK in some great nutrition).  When we have leftovers I like to make pancakes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or even spread some hummus on a pancake.

4. Egg scramble.  Take those leftover vegetables and add them to some eggs in the morning.  Breakfast is served.

Do you have a favorite way you like to repurpose?  Let me know!

Green Pea Hummus

One of my favorite baby food recipes.  I love this as a puree for baby or as a dip for toddlers, children and adults.  It packs a nutritional punch- including protein from the chick peas and green peas.  The cinnamon adds a nice dash a sweetness. Be creative and add in some of your favorite vegetables for more fiber, vitamins, minerals.  It's super easy to make and freezes very well.  Enjoy! Ingredients:

1 cup thawed frozen peas

1 cup chick peas

¼ tsp cumin

dash cinnamon

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Blend first three ingredients in blender or food processor
  2. Slowly add lemon juice an olive oil
  3. Enjoy as a baby food puree or as a dip with vegetables and crackers