Here’s a list of the top five nutrient-packed foods we make for our 18-month old that she gobbles up in no time!
One of the most common questions I get asked by other moms is what I feed my little one. I like to think that’s because they see me as an expert in the matter and not because my daughter is off the charts in height and weight, but you never know 😉
I thought it might be helpful to build a little library here on the blog outlining what some of Raia’s favorite foods have been at different ages. Since we just hit the 18-month mark, I figured I’d start here, but I’ll continue to add links to other ages as I get them published.
Without further ado, here is a list of my current Top 5 Favorite Foods for 18-Month Olds:
#1 SUPER-FOOD PACKED MUFFINS
These have pretty much been a favorite food of Raia’s since we started baby-led weaning, but you just can’t ignore how great they are (both in taste and nutritionally). Some great resources for nutrient dense muffins are Inspiralized Kids, this post of mine on healthy baby snack ideas, and my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers. I love making a batch of these on a Sunday or Monday and freezing them up to have them on hand for the rest of the week!
#2 SOFT TACOS OR QUESADILLAS
This is an easy meal to serve to kids of all ages that adults love as well. Also, if you go the quesadilla route, it’s easier to sneak in some veggies. For example, you can blend in some puréed pumpkin or butternut squash with cheddar cheese or dice up some mushrooms with taco meat and hide it under a pile of melt-y cheese.
#3 NOURISHING SOUPS
Now that Raia is a little better with using utensils, she loves getting into a bowl of soup. It’s fun for her, and an easy way for me to get her lots of nutrient-rich foods. Some of her favorites are this Warming Minestrone Soup (made with minimal salt) and this Super Easy Caramelized Onion and Potato Soup (again, made with minimal salt).
#4 FRIED RICE
Let’s be real: 18-month olds love making a mess of their food and deconstructing it. I choose to just accept it, especially when serving one of our favorite weeknight meals, fried rice! This is another great dish that allows you to get protein, veggies and carbs all in one dish, and it comes together in a snap. Use brown rice for even more nutritional benefits, and use little (if any) soy sauce, as you need to watch the sodium with the little ones. Try cooking the fried rice in coconut oil for some extra flavor and healthy fats!
#5 HEALTHY HOMEMADE GRANOLA BARS
When you find a good recipe, you’ll always want to have these on hand so you don’t have to rely on all of the pre-packaged granola bars at the grocery store – because who knows what goes into those! I created a granola bar recipe that’s soft and crunchy at the same time, and doesn’t have any heavily processed ingredients. You can find this recipe in my e-cookbook as well!
I hope this list gets you started on some ideas for delicious, nutritious foods you can make for your 18-month old.
Now, it’s your turn! Tell me some of your favorite foods for your 18-month old in the comments below!
If you have your baby or toddler in daycare – or even have to prepare food for a babysitter or nanny to serve your little one at home – this list of Creative Baby and Toddler Lunch Ideas is for you!
For many of us, between 6- and 24-months is often the age we begin sending our child to daycare, or having some sort of regular childcare schedule implemented in our own home. This is also THE most important time for our little ones to be introduced to a wide variety of foods, so it’s crucial that we parents are on top of our game when it comes to sending our babes off with a healthy, well-balanced and flavor-diverse lunch.
That being said, I know all too well how easy it is to get stuck in the rut of serving the same thing over and over again. So let’s first talk about some of the roadblocks I know we ALL face…
ROADBLOCK #1: I DON’T HAVE TIME TO GET CREATIVE
Well, you’re in luck! I’m taking the guesswork out of it for you today by providing some interesting, non-repetitive options. It’s not that hard if you’ll just open your mind to it!
Also, meal prep is a godsend for busy parents like you and me. One hour of planning and prepping can set you up for HUGE success the rest of the week. I urge you to take 20 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday and roughly plan out your meals for the week. Be sure to leave some flexibility for eating out once in a while and making good use of leftovers. Then, make a shopping list and head to the store!
I’ve found that since I’ve implemented meal planning into my life over the last six months or so, I’ve saved so much time by knowing exactly what I’ll make each night, taking just one trip to the grocery store each week, and also always having healthy, interesting leftovers on hand.
ROADBLOCK #2: MY CHILD ONLY LIKES CERTAIN THINGS
C’mon, mom and dad. Don’t give up that easily! Your child probably only likes certain things because (a) they’ve not been introduced to enough variety early on in life, or (b) you give in to them refusing certain things and offer to make them an alternative. I understand this may be controversial for some of you, but take a look at my healthy meal prep for your baby or toddler post to get a better idea of where I’m coming from.
Also, keep in mind that babies’ and toddlers’ palates are constantly changing and evolving. If they don’t like something the first time you give it to them, try again in a week or two with the food prepared in a different way. You might be surprised!
ROADBLOCK #3: MY CHILD DOESN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE FOOD I PACK THEM
Question for you: Do you get excited about the food you pack them? Does your child ever see you eating the same foods that you’re putting in their lunchbox? We often underestimate how much children learn by osmosis. If they see you getting excited about the different things you’re giving them, they’re more likely to get excited about it themselves.
Take, for example, the time I made posole but decided my little one probably wouldn’t like it, so I made her a quesadilla instead. NOPE! She saw mom and dad eating the yummy posole and wanted some of her own! Kids always surprise us – especially if you just give them a chance!
So, how’d I do? Did I squash all your fears or concerns? If there’s something else that’s holding you back, I want to know! Give me a chance to prove you wrong 😉
Now, let’s get to the good stuff!
Here are some ideas of creative lunches you can pack your baby or toddler (also note, many of these include snacks):
Lunch: String cheese, sautéed mushrooms and cauliflower, Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Sliced pear; Snack: Pumpkin-Carrot Muffin
Lunch: Half a bagel with cream cheese and shredded zucchini, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Orange
Lunch: Grilled chicken breast, butternut squash zigzags, Power Protein Bite; Dessert/Snack: Raspberries
Lunch: Sliced steak, avocado, roasted veggies (carrots, zucchini and broccoli), Power Protein Bite; Dessert: Freeze-dried strawberries; Snack: Happy Tot Fiber & Protein Granola Bar[*affiliate link]
You get the gist…
In short, I try to offer a main protein, a vegetable, and either another protein or vegetable or whole grain as the main lunch, plus a fruit for dessert and a well-balanced snack. I love making healthy muffins for snack (as you can see) or sometimes I just end up throwing in a granola bar.
If you still need some more ideas, here are some other ideas in each category for you:
Turkey sandwich with avocado on multigrain bread
Cheese quesadilla with hidden vegetables
Slider on a whole grain bun
Shredded chicken with hummus
Steamed green beans
Roasted sweet potato
Sauteed carrot dimes or sticks
Sliced roasted beets
Whole wheat pasta
Peanut butter crackers (make your own, the store-bought ones have so much junk in them!)
Struggling to get your baby or toddler to eat enough vegetables? Here are some of the best, easy vegetable preparations for baby-led weaning!
Whether they’re following baby-led weaning or not, one of the pain points I hear about most often from mamas (and dadas!) of little ones is that they can’t get their babes to eat vegetables. Now, there are some behavioral techniques I recommend for keeping your baby or toddler open to trying a variety of different foods, but there is also a lot of technique you can use in preparing vegetables in ways that are exciting (and intriguing!) for less sophisticated palates. That’s what I’m sharing with you today.
If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try Again
I’ll get into some specific ideas in a second, but before I do I want to go over one of my most favorite aspects of baby-led weaning, and that is continuous introduction with varied preparation techniques.
In a nutshell, what this means is just what my subtitle said: If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Now, if your child refuses to eat steamed broccoli one night at dinner, I am NOT telling you to just continue forcing them to eat steamed broccoli every day for eternity.
Instead, wait a couple of days, then re-introduce the broccoli, but prepared in a completely different way. Your little one didn’t like the steamed broccoli? How about roasting it with some different herbs and spices? Or sautéing it in a little butter?
Getting slightly off topic here, but I think this is why most of us grew up hating Brussels sprouts. I would not touch those things for YEARS because I grew up eating those bland bulbs simply steamed and MAYBE seasoned with some salt and pepper if I was lucky. I’m not blaming my parents – I think it was a fad of their generation to serve vegetables this way – but, man, gimme crispy roasted Brussels with bacon and shallots today? I’ll eat the whole batch. Not even kidding.
So your kid’s not digging the mashed sweet potatoes? Try roasting sweet potato spears and calling them “fries” (a winner in any child’s book). Even better, serve them with hummus, tzatziki or some other fun “dip.” Your little one will not be able to stop.
If you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to different ways to season or “spice up” your veggies, I highly recommend you get your hands on this book ASAP [*affiliate link]. It has so many great ideas for herbs, spices and other ingredients that will liven up any food you’re trying to get your little one to eat!
Let’s Talk Vegetables!
Okay, now that we got the logistics out of the way, I want to give you all of the inspiration you need to work some veggies into your little one’s diet today.
To start, here is a list of all of the vegetables my little one has tried and/or eats on a regular basis:
Zucchini (I know, it’s a squash, but she loves it so much it deserves a mention of its own)
We don’t eat all of these every week, but she’s at least been introduced to them and, although she doesn’t always eat her entire serving whenever we include it in a meal, she’s eaten a healthy serving of all of these at some point or another.
Ideas for Preparing Vegetables
So, I think you can probably tell from my musings earlier in this post that I’m not a huge fan of steamed vegetables. I just personally think sautéing or roasting vegetables give them so much more character and flavor.
BUT, that’s not to say I haven’t steamed vegetables for my little one before, especially since she didn’t get her first tooth until after she was one. When she was younger, she loved broccoli steamed with a little bit of lemon juice and garlic, or green beans prepared the same way.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR STEAMING…
Place a steamer basket [*affiliate link] in an appropriately-sized saucepan, then fill the saucepan with a small layer of water, just enough so that you can see it swish up the holes in the bottom of the steamer when you slosh the pan around.
Place your washed and trimmed vegetables in a single layer over the bottom of the steamer basket, then season as desired. Put the pan on the stove over medium heat and cover with an appropriately sized lid, leaving it slightly askew with a small opening off to the side so you can see the steam escaping.
Start by setting the timer for 10 minutes, then check on your veggies and continue to steam until they reach the desired doneness.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SAUTEING…
Place a medium skillet over medium heat and melt some sort of oil or butter on it (high-quality butter, olive oil or coconut oil are all great ideas). Once the pan is heated, add whatever vegetables you’re cooking (you’ll want them already cut in whatever manner you’re going to be serving them).
Add desired seasoning and saute until vegetables reach their desired doneness.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR ROASTING…
Although temperatures and timing may vary based on whatever vegetable you’re roasting, I typically roast my veggies at an oven temperature of 400 degrees Fahrenheit and starting at somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
To prepare your vegetables, spread them out on a jelly roll pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper [*affiliate links]. Drizzle on olive oil and season with desired herbs and spices.
For softer vegetables like zucchini, mushrooms or asparagus, you’ll need closer to the 10-15 minute mark for roasting.
For harder vegetables like butternut squash, beets or carrots, you’ll need closer to 20-25 minutes.
Other Ways to Work in Vegetables for Baby-Led Weaning
The ideas above are fantastic for prepping a big batch of vegetables in their true form at once. However, I am completely aware of the fact that sometimes you just need to work veggies into the diet elsewhere so that they’re not quite as obvious.
Here are some of my favorite ways to sneak vegetables into other food preparations:
Blend them into a smoothie – you can also then freeze these smoothies into popsicles [*affiliate link]
There are no more excuses when it comes to healthy meal prep for your littles. This post covers all your roadblocks and how to overcome them!
If you’ve been following me for any amount of time now, you know I’m a huge proponent of baby-led weaning and healthy meal prep. And if you’re new to CaliGirl Cooking, welcome! I look forward to sharing all of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over my past year and a half of motherhood for getting my little one to eat a wide variety of foods today – yes, vegetables included!
Before I get into the amazing resource I’ve created for all my mamas and papas out there, let’s quickly go over the biggest “pain points” I hear when it comes to prepping food for babies and toddlers.
Baby & Toddler Meal Prep Pain Points
I don’t know where to start! What is safe for my little one to eat at a certain age and what isn’t?
I’ve run out of ideas for what to make for my baby/toddler.
My child will only eat the same few foods and never tries anything new or different.
I don’t have time to make special food just for my little one.
The good news?? I’ve got solutions for all of these problems! Let’s break them down one by one.
#1 I don’t know where to start! What is safe for my little one to eat at a certain age and what isn’t?
I first want to start with a quick disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, registered dietitian or doctor. These are simply my opinions and lessons from what I’ve learned over the last year or so of motherhood to help provide guidance. Always seek a professional opinion if you have any serious questions or concerns.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about where to start. I’ve mentioned it before, but my husband and I are HUGE proponents of the method of introducing solids known as baby-led weaning.
In short, the definition of baby-led weaning (also known as BLW) is as follows: a method of adding complementary foods to a baby’s diet of breastmilk or formula. A method of food progression, BLW facilitates the development of age-appropriate oral motor control while maintaining eating as a positive, interactive experience. Baby-led weaning allows babies to control their solid food consumption by “self-feeding” from the very beginning of their experiences with food. The term weaning should not be taken to imply giving up breastmilk or formula, but simply the introduction of foods other than breastmilk or formula.* (definition taken from this baby-led weaning entry in Wikipedia)
And there are so many more! Just search the #babyledweaning hashtag on IG and you’ll find soooo many great ideas.
#3 My child will only eat the same few foods and never tries anything new or different
Okay, there are a few solutions to this, or ways to avoid the problem completely.
Baby-led weaning has many tactics that help broaden your little one’s palate and introduce him or her to a wide variety of foods from a very early age. In a nutshell, there are no foods that BLW says NOT to introduce to your little one as soon as they are developed enough in oral and motor skills to safely consume it.
For example, one of the first foods we introduce to our little one was butternut squash dusted with curry powder, and it is still one of her favorite snacks to this day. Yep, that’s right, my 18-month old can’t get enough of curry powder.
Studies have shown that, in a child’s first three years of life, his or her brain will have up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood. This means that the first three years of a child’s life are crucial for brain development, learning, and new experiences – which many of us parents already knew – but this also includes being introduced to new tastes and flavors.
Another main facet of baby-led weaning is not offering alternatives to a meal if your child doesn’t eat what is served. It’s important to look at a baby’s week as a whole in regards to food consumption and only worry if the food protest continues on for multiple meals at a time. The idea is that kids will eat if they are hungry, and offering alternatives simply gets them into the habit of thinking they can get whatever they want, which is typically something bland, boring and NOT nutrient dense, like grilled cheese or buttered pasta. Did you that babies are only born being able to taste sweet and bitter flavors? This explains a lot when it comes to innate food preferences!
Full disclosure: This has been THE hardest rule for us to abide by when it comes to BLW. As parents, I think it’s hard for us to watch our child not eat anything, then believe they won’t be going to bed hungry. Our solution? We always try to include ONE food that we call a “home run” food. Something we know the little one loves and will eat plenty of, even if she doesn’t eat anything else. This way we know she’ll eat something and not leave the table starving.
There are so many other small details I’m not covering here, but you get the idea, and I highly encourage you to read up on BLW more on your own.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: I missed the boat on BLW and now my toddler is the pickiest eater! Well, that’s where many of the recipes in my cookbook come in. This is when we turn to hidden nutrients. Your little one won’t know they’re eating vegetables and other healthy things if you sneak them into some of their favorite foods. No shame in that game.
For example, my cookbook includes a Hidden Veggie Mac-and-Cheese and tons of muffin and baked donut recipes that are filled with sneaky things like beets, beans and spinach. They taste delicious and your babe won’t even know they’re good for him or her.
#4 I don’t have time to make special food just for my little one
Okay, my mamas and papas, this doesn’t come easily for ANYONE. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the great thing about BLW is your babe will mostly eat what you eat.
BUT, as a busy mom trying to run her own business, keep up the house, and be the primary care provider for my little one, I also know that sometimes you just need something healthy on hand that can be served at a moment’s notice.
This is the part where I tell you that if the freezer hasn’t already become your new best friend, it’s about time that it does! Seriously, freezer meals and snacks have been such a godsend for us. They’re a great way to always have something healthy and homemade on hand rather than reaching for a store-bought or convenience snack. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fed my daughter her fair share of store-bought stuff in moments of desperation, but if I have something healthy and homemade waiting in the freezer, I’m reaching for it 95% of the time.
Lucky for you, all of the recipes in my e-cookbook are freezer-friendly. I mean, it is called 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers, after all! Breakfasts, snacks, dinner items – I can vouch for every single one of these and tell you that they will change your family’s life.
I still hear some of you, though – I hear you saying you don’t have any time to even MAKE freezer meals. Well, I’m here to tell you that you do. I mean, some of these recipes take 30 seconds to whip up and then you just pop them in the oven and forget about them for 20 minutes. You can find time for that! All of the recipes in my book are clear on how much time they take to prep and cook, so you can use that as a guide for what you may have time to make in any given day.
They really are a game-changer, and once you start you won’t be able to turn back. It feels so good to have healthy snacks and meals on hand that you know your baby or toddler will love!
I hope this post has been helpful to you, and given you the inspiration you need to get in the kitchen and make nutritious and delicious food for your little one. If you are looking for a more exact “meal plan” of sorts, I encourage you to check out this post where I talk about the actual schedule and types of food we serve our little one on a daily basis.
Now, I want to hear from you! Did you find this post helpful? Are there any questions you have that I didn’t cover? Anything you want me to cover in the future? Let me know in the comments below!