Feeding 1-year-olds is an adventure full of highs and lows. Moms and dads have to keep this in mind the first time little Timmy spits out a mouth full of broccolini or throws his Greek yogurt squeeze across the room. But fear not -- the experts say raising a healthy and happy eater happens one meal at a time.
The first meal of the day can be a lot more exciting than sliced bananas and frozen waffles, say Karin Knight and Tina Ruggiero, authors of "The Best Homemade Baby Food On the Planet." While these foods are perfectly tasty and easy, variety can help enrich a developing palate. Try yummy breakfast options for tykes 12 months and older, such as banana and buttermilk pancakes, strawberry and blueberry tofu smoothies and egg and turkey scrambles. A little bit of creativity goes a long way when preparing healthy foods that please little taste buds.
Parents who have enough time to eat lunch with their growing 1-year-olds should also consider shopping for and preparing the food together. This is one way to introduce your tot to colorful and healthy choices such as carrots, spinach and bell peppers. The key is to remember that most meals should provide energy and include a source of calcium, a carbohydrate, protein, fruit, vegetables and good fats such as olive oil or nuts, says Dr. Jenn Berman, author of "Superbaby: 12 Ways to Give Your Child a Head Start In the First 3 Years."
Snacks That Matter
Healthy snacks are just as important as the day's three major meals. Most dietitians recommend two snacks daily to avoid overindulgence, Berman says. Snacks should be fast and portable -- so that they can be taken to the park, for instance -- but should also be nutritious and delicious. The list includes whole wheat and graham crackers, string cheese, dried fruit, yogurt-covered pretzels, raisins, apple slices, veggie chips and yogurt.
A Dinner for Winners
Dinner time provides another opportunity for toddlers to help prepare the meal. If time is of the essence, buy a few minutes by cleaning and safely cutting veggies together as the pasta boils or the potatoes bake, Knight and Ruggiero suggest. Some suggested dinner choices include baby "sliders" and tubettini pasta with Parmesan and peas. Making sandwiches? Consider using cookie cutters for cool and interesting shapes that you create as a team.
It also helps to eat as a family. "Family meals allow children to learn from their parents' behaviors and attitudes about food and nutrition," Berman says. "Study after study shows that children who eat with their parents take in more folate, fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and E."