Baby

Feeding toddlers

I’m back to feeling human again now that Georgia has resumed her status as a Baby Who Sleeps Through the Night. She even had a sitter Saturday night (Hi, Marty! a.k.a Grammy) and went down great for her. Hallelujah! Mom and Dad can go out on dates together again!

Now that we’ve gotten over that hump, it’s time to tackle the other stress of moving from infancy to toddlerhood: what the heck do you feed these kiddos? Well, a high school classmate of mine hit on a genius way to figure this out. Take pictures of their lunches every day, share online, and create a viral community to inspire other parents.

5 layer dip (Wholly Guacamole, tomatoes, smashed black beans, plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheddar cheese), vegetables to dip (yellow pepper, red pepper, partially steamed broccoli, carrots, cucumber), whole wheat pasta salad, blackberries, raspberries and strawberry heart, and 1% milk.

Tomorrow’s Lunch is a blog and Facebook page that shares what Maggie, my high school classmate and a Registered dietitian in Boston, makes for her two kids every day. It’s a model of variety, nutrition and fun, lovingly arranged:

avocado & chicken salad sandwich (yellow, orange & red tomatoes, red onion, a little lemon, cheddar cheese) in the shape of a bear, cucumber cups with edamame hummus and red pepper, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, and nectarine suns, pear/spinach/mango yogurt, 1% milk.

I hope she keeps this up, because it’s genius.

Me? I’m stuck with an almost-one-year-old whose main food groups are cheese, cheese, and more cheese. I leave her with fresh food every day, and she’ll eat it…as long as cheese is served alongside. Some of her other favorites are strawberries, peaches, mangoes, nectarines, bananas, pineapple, zucchini bread, naan, rotisserie chicken, meatloaf, lasagna, cheddar slices, mashed potatoes, sweet potato, avocado (and guacamole!), applesauce, pancakes and bagels with cream cheese.

When she was teeny, we gave her bland things at first — organic whole grain oatmeal, prunes, mashed pears, pureed squash, etc. — and then moved on to letting her sample our “big people” food at dinner and on weekends, while sending her organic packaged food to day care and with the grandparents. We loved Earth’s Best, Ella’s Kitchen, Plum Organics, Happy Baby, and some Gerber organics.

Ella's Kitchen
Some of Georgia’s staples: cereal, curry and fruit/veggie puree.

Let me tell you, that organic baby food ADDS RIGHT UP. But there’s so much crap in some of the brands out there, it’s worth it to hunt for coupons and shop in bulk when things go on sale. You really have to be discerning with nutrition labels, and luckily Mark really took to that, so he weeded through to find the options free of corn syrup, juices, added sugar and salt, GMOs, etc.

Why organic? Because in order to meet that label, the crops can’t be genetically engineered, treated with pesticides, exposed to radiation, or produced with antibiotics. You can read more about this on Consumer Reports, which has a great guide to buying and making organic food for babies, who are at greater risk from exposure to the chemicals, practices and contaminants found in conventional growing methods. We already bought all organic produce for ourselves, so any time Georgia had homemade purees, we knew it was safe.

Around 9-10 months, she got sick of eating mushy food and became very curious about what we were eating. So, even before she could pick things up herself, we started letting her play with shredded chicken, bits of turkey meatballs, pizza crusts, ricotta, ziti, chunky soup, chopped fruit and hummus from the table. Now, she can put bread, cheese and baby cookies into her mouth and gnaw on them, which lets her feel independent and helps her teething as well. If your baby is teething all once like poor Georgia, we highly recommend this fashionable teething jewelry for mom, and putting frozen fruit into one of these fun contraptions for baby to suck on. Cold watermelon slices are working great for us lately, too (and luckily comes out easily in the wash).

(psst: If you bought a bunch of pouches and have a lot left over, Earth’s Best has a quick guide with tips on using up purees creatively — pancake topping? quick-bread filling? — that is adorable and helpful). We managed to only hang on to the pouch purees that she likes holding by herself now, so we didn’t really have to waste any food. Holding the spoon is still a work in progress for Georgia, so I try to give her thick things to practice with — mushy avocado is a favorite — to minimize the mess while still letting her work on mastering a spoon.

So far, she’s still open to trying lots of different foods, although certain things — red meat and anything too spicy — haven’t gone over too well. She also is pretty picky about what type of sippy cup she’ll use, so we have rotated through every option out there to keep giving her a chance to make up her mind. So far, the Ikea cup with handles seems to be the most promising. And pretty soon we’ll be transitioning her from formula to real milk (although by real, I hopefully mean an alternative to cow’s milk, if her pediatrician gives us the green light. I’ll keep you posted).

My baby is growing up! It’s sad, but it’s also exciting, because with new growth comes a new ability to be adventurous, both in food and in exploring the rest of life. Which is pretty awesome.

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