More and more, it is apparent that WHAT young children eat early on contributes significantly to their taste preferences later in life. For example, if sweets are offered early on, a preference for these foods may develop.
There are many steps you can take to preserve and encourage healthy eating, even in the youngest of children! Several of these are included in my Healthy Living series.
Today I tap into pediatric nutrition professionals Brandy McDevitt and Melanie Roet, co-owners of Tummy Thyme (Canada), for their take on early foods for young toddlers.
My third child just turned one and I would say we’ve officially begun to enter the toddler years. Since there is a bit of an age gap between this little guy and his older brothers, I’ve forgotten about the reality of all the changes that start to happen around 1 year of age.
Toddlers become more and more curious. They want to begin exploring their world independently, and that includes their food and eating too.
What this means is it can get messy! Many toddlers all of a sudden want to feed themselves and will refuse any food that they need help with (even a previously well-loved food).
A lot of food can end up on the floor, in their chair and on themselves.
Sometimes it can get frustrating with all the extra clean up, but rest assured that the time doesn’t last too long and remember your little one is learning a lot about eating and feeding!
Great Toddler Finger Foods
So, which toddler finger foods will help foster their independence, self feeding skills and provide great nutrition?
1. Soft, cut up fruit and vegetables.
Fruit such as blueberries, raspberries and halved strawberries are great for toddlers practicing their pincer grip. So are steamed or soft cooked peas, broccoli, avocado chunks and carrot, beet root or sweet potatoes pieces.
Giving peeled, soft whole fruit such as pears, soft apple or whole vegetables such as red pepper and tomato allows young toddlers to hold the whole fruit or vegetable in their hand and take small bites on their own.
If toddlers start to refuse certain fruit and vegetables, don’t panic!
Keep exposing them to a wide variety without pressure about whether they eat it or not to give them a chance to learn to like something new.
Sometimes presenting a fruit or vegetable cut up in a different way (for example carrot pieces, shredded carrot or steamed carrot sticks) will intrigue toddlers enough to give it a try!
Either scrambled or hard-boiled and chopped, eggs are a quick, easy and nutritious finger food.
Chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans are a great source of fibre and protein and they are a source of iron.
Choose either a dried version that you have cooked or for a quick option choose a canned BPA and sodium free variety such as Eden organic.
4. Whole grain pancakes
Whip up a batch of oatmeal whole wheat pancakes and cut into bite size pieces.
Freeze remaining pancakes for a quick meal or snack on another day. These pancake muffins are an easy alternative, too.
5. Kamut puffs
A soft cereal made by Nature’s Path. It is a quick and portable snack on the go for little toddlers that is sugar and salt free and is a source of fibre.
Make it into a trail mix if desired using sunflower seeds and an O shaped cereal (Earth’s Best brand is a nice option).
Here are some other toddler snack ideas that are great options.
6. Homemade mini muffins
Purchase a mini muffin tin and make batches of banana, oatmeal, bran or blueberry muffins.
Add in extra nutrition into these recipes by adding ground flax or hemp hearts to boost up omega 3 fat intake (and taste).
Freeze extra portions for a quick snack on another day.
A remember to enjoy this time with your little one – this stage goes by so quickly!
Brandy McDevitt and Melanie Roet are Registered Dietitians and Co-Owners of TummyThyme – a nutrition consulting service specializing in prenatal and child nutrition. Combined, they have 20+ years of experience working as Registered Dietitians. Brandy is a mom to 3 children and Melanie is a mom to 2 children. They are both committed to helping parents increase their knowledge, skills and confidence to provide whole, healthy foods to their family in an enjoyable mealtime environment.
Written by: Jill Castle, MS, RDN
Published on: July 30, 2013
Updated on: July 1, 2019