With the eating issues that surfaced a few weeks ago a somewhat distant memory, we’ve transitioned back into our regularly scheduled toddler meals. I thought it would be a great time to share a “day in the stomach” of this 2 year-old toddler to help you get a feel not just for the variety of foods but also the quantities.
Breakfast (7:30 am):
Breakfast is about an hour to an hour and a half after wake time. 75% of the time breakfast is a bowl of overnight steel cut oats with different mix-ins and toppings. Sometimes it’s PB or AB (almond butter… you guys should know my preference by now), smashed or whole fruit, yogurt (as low in sugar as possible- Siggi’s is my go to), chopped nuts and seeds, quinoa, and sometimes leftover smashed sweet potato. I don’t usually add in sweeteners since the yogurt/PB/fruit is sweet enough. On a typical morning he will eat 2 bowls of oatmeal like this:
Breakfast is the meal we’ve never had to fight for and oatmeal is usually an easy win but every once in a while Julian just isn’t in the mood so we have a ton of back ups: veggie omelettes (with any leftover veggies from lunch or dinner the night before), a yogurt parfait with fruit and low sugar granola, an egg in a basket, or buckwheat pancakes with homemade jam on special days like birthdays, holidays, and Saturdays (pretty much a holiday, right?). But for the most part we just have oatmeal 100 different ways.
I also share many of my own meals on IG (especially my breakfasts) like my oatmeal, yogurt, avo toast, and yogurt toast concoctions and Julian is a big fan of these too. Of course, it’s usually in addition to his breakfast… like I said, the boy has an appetite.
Snack (10 am):
Dad usually leaves for work at around 9 which is when we get down to business. We spend between 9-10 doing some sort of developmental activity since its usually the time of day he has the greatest amount of focus. Because the morning usually leaves him wiped out mentally, we go to the kitchen to have a big snack.
Snacktime is almost always PB sandwich time (although I realize now I don’t have one single photo of our PB sandwich…). 90% of the time he’s happy to have a PB sandwich and I try to switch it up so it’s still fresh. I do this by smashing in fresh fruit, shredded coconut, date butter, nuts or granola for crunchiness, and adding a spread of yogurt- usually not all at once. I will also often serve some pepitas or sunflower seeds on the side for him to snack on.
Still, there are times he absolutely does not want a PB sandwich so I will offer him a plate of crackers, cheese, nuts, or dried fruit. Sometimes I will make a super packed green shake and give him a full serving. I see snack time as essential to him getting enough calories to not only make it to nap time but through nap time. On the days he hasn’t had a full snack I notice he wakes up earlier- likely because he’s a little hungry.
Lunch (3 p.m.):
After a 2 hour nap (sometimes closer to 3 depending on how early he woke up or how tired he was from a big day the day prior), it’s lunch time. this is the meal I have the hardest time getting him excited about. After his nap he just wants to jump right back into play time so it’s hard to entice him into the kitchen. My strategy is just to give him time, then try to make lunch sound reeeeeally exciting (“Do you want veggie soup with carrots and onions and peas??? Let’s goooo!!!”). Sometimes I have to resort to the old tricks “we can’t go do X until you have lunch”. I don’t like having to do that but also don’t like him eating too far past 3 p.m. since it will impact how much dinner he has. But as moms we sometimes you have to choose our battles.
I’ve always used lunch as my experimental meal. My thought process is if he hates what I serve him I can always give him something small to tide him over until dinnertime when I will serve him something I know he will eat. I believe this process helped him, as a baby and younger toddler, to try new foods and enjoy new foods. Then I would serve him something new almost every day. Now, I try to get him to enjoy a food he may have had before but didn’t love. With this strategy I’ve gotten him to like eating arugula, tomatoes, baked onions, and occasionally some foods like asparagus pesto (shown above in a veggie soup) that are usually on the “Julian does not eat” list.
This week I made a few meals on Sunday to take us into the end of the week. One of those was a traditional Albanian meat, veggie, and potato layered dish in a rich but spicy chicken broth. I wasn’t sure this would be a hit considering he’s not a fan of potatoes and lately he hasn’t seemed to enjoy the spiciness of certain dishes, but he cleared his plate, twice. This was a big win! So was the black bean soup you see below. I made it on snapchat last week and it was such a win in this house that I made it again, this time switching it up and adding a soft boiled egg and the easiest homemade guacamole. This was gone and he actually asked for seconds (which he only ate a few bites of but it’s the sentiment that counts).
Snack (on occassion, 4:30)
When he was younger and lunch was closer to 2 p.m., snack time was a must. I would always make it something that we could enjoy on the go at the park or on a walk. I also make sure it is not another PB sandwich because, as much as I love the convenience of it, it doesn’t escape me how much bread it means he has in a day. I have yet to find a healthy bread alternative that’s he will enjoy (we tried Ezekiel bread and he wasn’t sold). Cheese, dried fruit, and nut plates are always a hit as are dips like guacamole (or just smashed avocado), hummus, or a homemade yogurt dip with some fresh cut veggies. If he refused lunch altogether I may make something more substantial, like this veggie burger I topped with some yogurt (as the burger is a little spicy) and served with some Oaxaca cheese (like mexican mozzerella), radishes, and crackers.
Again, I only serve a snack if he doesn’t eat more than 50% of his lunch because it will hinder how much he eats at dinner and sometimes what he eats. He knows I always give him “dessert” so he has, on occasion, tried to say “all done” to skip dinner and go straight to dessert. My rule is no dinner, no dessert, but I find it easier to enforce when he’s actually hungry for dinner.
Dinner (6:00 p.m.)
If he has eaten well at breakfast, snack time, and lunchtime, I’m a little more mentally relaxed about dinner. He still needs to eat to make sure he has enough calories to keep him full all night long, but I don’t stress about him eating exactly what we’re eating. If I offer him dinner and he strongly disapproves, I’ll offer him one of my backup plans: TJ’s polenta + sliced raw mushrooms + beans + dairy or an omelette filled with veggies and dairy. Similar to his 2nd snack time, I try to balance it against what he ate earlier in the day. So if he had an egg for breakfast I won’t give him another egg for dinner… unless I absolutely have to.
You see, as with all of my recipes and parenting posts, this needs to work for your child and your home. I do think that most children work well with structured schedules and expectations but I know it’s hard to begin and maintain, so as always do what’s best for your family.
Dessert (6:45 p.m.):
Dessert is almost always a banana. Sometimes I just break the top a bit then let him peel and devour it, sometimes I mix it with other fruits, and sometimes I make it really fancy and roll it with cocoa and top it with almond butter (see below).
However the thing we’re moving away from most is cookies and cake for dessert. The first year of his life we were very strict with not giving him any sweets outside of fruit. Then on his birthday I made him a super healthy smash cake and from then on we would occasionally (every 2-3 weeks) give him a cookie or a taste of whatever we were having for dessert. At some point we began walking by the bakery and he would ask for cookies and even start to get upset when we said no. I soon realized we’d made it too much of a regular thing so about a month and a half ago we quit cold turkey.
The hardest part has been what to do when we do have a special event like dads birthday or when we have company over and they bring dessert. What I’ve found is if I can give him his own healthy dessert, even just a big bowl of cut up fruit, he won’t really care to have the sweets we’re having. On regular nights we want to eat dessert we just wait until he’s asleep to enjoy it, so as not to rub our bad behavior in his face. The best part is, sometimes we don’t even want it anymore so we get to save the calories!!
So that’s it!! This is a great example our 2 year old toddler meals in a day! Of course things are a little different if he’s sick, we’re going out to a family party, or we’re going out all day like to the zoo. I’ve found a lot of success with being pretty structured with our meal times but I also know there are a lot of babes out there who are grazers and snack all day long, so you just need to figure out what works best for your babe and you should find great success too!
I hope this also gave you a good feel for some more meal ideas you can feed to your babes but if you want more suggestions, don’t ever hesitate to email me or just send me a note in the comments. I love hearing from you and continuing the conversation.