What to Feed Your Toddler: Milk Means More Moms Share What Works For Them
If you have a toddler in your house, you know they have lots of opinions about what they eat (and about everything, really).
Sure, they liked that peanut butter sandwich yesterday, but this is a new day, and they won’t touch it!
There are lots of resources out there to help—in fact, we recommend one of our own. But, sometimes hearing stories from other moms who are living through the same thing is the most helpful.
At Milk Means More, we have three moms of toddlers on staff. They are Jessica Niven, mom of 21-month-old Isla (and Cora and Jonah); Cortney Freeland, mom of 18-month-old Wells; and Sandy Sellers, registered dietitian and mom of 21-month-old Samantha, or Sammie, (and Lily).
We recently asked Jessica, Cortney and Sandy to share their experiences with feeding their toddlers. Below are edited excerpts from their responses.
What type of eater is your toddler right now? Picky? Loves everything? Somewhere in-between?
Cortney: I would say that Wells is somewhere in-between. He LOVES fruits, veggies and dairy but isn’t a big fan of meat. It gives us options and some limitations.
Sandy: Sammie is super picky and it has been a challenge for me as a registered dietitian to understand why she refuses to try many foods. But we patiently continue to put small amounts of different foods on her plate and know that she will try them when she is ready.
Jessica: Somewhere in-between. When trying a new food, she’ll take cues from those around her. A lot of times with new foods, I’ll take turns having bites with her.
What have you learned from watching your toddler learn to eat?
Cortney: Some days he will eat like he is a bottomless pit and other days he won’t touch the same foods as the day before. He has taught me that if he is hungry, he will eat; if he isn’t, he won’t, and he will be fine.
Sandy: I have learned that no two children are alike! Our oldest would at least try anything and everything set in front of her. Sammie either ignores it, says “no,” or takes it off her plate and hands it to us. We continue to offer new foods to get her comfortable with them.
Jessica: Food is so much more than just taste! There are different textures, temperatures, colors, etc. It’s interesting getting to explore foods again through her eyes (or fingers, cheeks and nose).
How do you make sure your toddler gets enough dairy?
Cortney: We give him milk every morning when we get up and again before we brush our teeth at bedtime. This was an easy transition from breastfeeding because it was his existing schedule. However, he still won’t tip his own sippy cup! Then he eats yogurt and cheese almost every day as a snack, or as part of a meal. I am very excited he is getting into smoothies, since that is a great vehicle for lots of nutrition!
Sandy: Sam has milk with every meal and often asks for “more milk.” Cheese is her favorite food. Jessica: We give her milk before naps and bed, sometimes yogurt at breakfast and almost always a bit of cheese during lunch.
Editor’s note: For toddlers 12-23 months old, the daily dairy recommendation is 1 2/3 – 2 cups. For 2–3-year-olds, it is 2 cups. Read more about recommended dairy servings here.
What advice would you give to another parent when it comes to feeding a toddler?
Cortney: Don’t sweat it! Every kid is different. If you have a picky eater, they will not stay picky forever. You are a good mom. If you have a kid who eats everything in sight, they will slow down when it is right.
Sandy: Be patient. Don’t compare this child to a sibling or any other child. You and your child are learning together, and you will figure it out together. Stick to your guns, though. If your child is not eating the healthy things they should be eating, don’t replace it with other foods that you know they will eat. They will eat when they are hungry!
Jessica: My favorite advice is from KidsEatInColor.com: If a kid doesn’t want to eat a food, respond with a lighthearted “You don’t have to eat it.” Meals can be challenging, especially with young kids. This simple phrase takes a lot of pressure off everyone and helps reduce tantrums.
Thank you to our toddler moms for their stories! If you missed it before, Jessica and Cortney shared what they ate when they were pregnant for Isla and Wells here.