With a 1 year old baby, it seems like everything is changing, and fast! Your tiny little baby is actively changing into a toddler. With their own opinions and desires, their personalities are starting to emerge.
We’ve talked a lot about what you should be watching for when feeding young babies. From size and shapes, to safe textures, what to avoid, and family meals. So what stays the same now that they are leaving baby-hood and becoming a toddler? And what is completely new with your 1 year old baby?
As you know, with a baby we avoid three main things: Honey, salt, and sweeteners. The good news is that you don’t have to be quite so vigilant now with a 1 year old baby.
Your baby’s gut has matured enough that it is no longer quite so susceptible to botulism spores. That means that it is ok for your baby to have things that have honey in them now.
In more good news, you also don’t need to be quite so vigilant about salt. The official recommendation for sodium in a 1-2 year old is 800 mg. Considering below 1 your allotment is 200 mg, that seems like quite the jump. And it is. Your baby’s kidneys have matured, and are now able to handle salt much better.
That doesn’t mean that you should go and give them all sorts of sodium-laden foods, though! It means you should still be aware of sodium in your child’s food, because it is quite literally in all store bought foods. At least it seems that way!
With that in mind, if you cook most of your meals at home, don’t worry as much about the salt you add in cooking. That generally doesn’t make up the majority of people’s sodium intake. It’s the packaged items that you want to be most concerned with.
With store bought food, it is very easy for food to add up to 800 mg. (And that's the upper limit, at that. Shooting for less is never a bad thing.) Most breads have about 200mg of sodium, and things like tomato sauce and beans have anywhere from 300-400 mg per 1/2 cup usually. That’s not even mentioning your typical store bought snack foods. Crackers, puffs, cereals, cheese. There is salt in it all.
Now I’m on no level advocating that you start counting milligrams of salt that your child has. Just encouraging you to be aware of the upper limit you should be targeting, and choose your child’s daily diet accordingly.
The American Heart Association officially recommends that you avoid sugar or sweeteners for kids under 2.
Think of this as a goal though, and not a hard and fast rule. Our overarching aim in feeding is that kids don’t label any foods as good or bad. That can lead to some unintended consequences later on in life. (And a desire to have all the bad foods that they can as soon as they can!) If your child is one that is very aware of what is going on around them before two, then take that into consideration when deciding whether to give them a bit of sugar before 2. We don't want them feeling deprived or restricted.
So what should you do? I recommend continuing to limit the sugar that you give your child. (I go into detail on what to do here) There’s seriously no need to get them started on sweet things. But if you’re out and about and everyone else is having something that is lightly sweetened, go ahead and give it to your child once they begin noticing those things.
I’m not talking a full adult sized dessert here, though! I’m talking enough to satisfy them that they were included in what everyone is doing. Food is social, and it’s good for your child to associate pleasant feelings and experiences with food and the family table.
By the time your toddler is 2, they are likely to throw a fit when you have something that they can't. And we want to save our hard no’s for things they really can’t have!
Now that your child is one, water can be offered more freely. Start offering water in between meals, and encourage your child to learn how to drink it to remain hydrated. Especially if you live in a hotter part of the world!
Check out this post for recommendations on milk after one. Milk is a great source of calories, vitamins, and minerals that can help sustain your child during the ups and downs of toddler eating. But I know that it is a source of concern for many parents when they have kids who won’t drink milk when they want them to.
Know that it is entirely possible for toddlers to get all the nutrients they need without milk, it just takes some more figuring out and paying attention to nutrients. If you have a kid in this category, make sure you’re talking to a dietitian who can help you to ensure your child is getting all the nutrients they need without milk.
By now, your toddler most likely will need 1-2 snacks in addition to meals. Think of these snacks as mini-meals, and make sure that you are serving balanced snacks that include more than one food group. I like to have 2-3 food groups in snacks to ensure they will be satisfied until the next meal. If you're looking for ideas, be sure to grab the on-the-go snack ebooklet.
Now this is something that I have touched on a bit in the blog, but go into extensive detail about in my starting solid foods course. One of the best ways to give your child a healthy relationship with food is to set up pleasant and enjoyable meal times for them.
While the details of this deserve a post to themselves, the gist of it is that pressure doesn’t work! If you haven’t noticed this already, pressuring your child to eat something can backfire pretty spectacularly. And that means as they get older using dessert as a reward to eat veggies, or anything along those lines, too!
Follow the Division of Responsibility. If you haven’t heard of it, it states that the parent is responsible for the what and when of food. The child is responsible for how much, and whether, to eat. When you cross the line into your child’s eating responsibility, trouble ensues.
I know it can be hard to fathom this, as it is different than what most people are used to. So many people grew up with the clean plate club, or the “eat two bites of this before you can have more of this” club. That is how power struggles start. And your child will ultimately win because food going into their body is one of the few things that they can control. While the Division of Responsibility can be applied to any family, it is infinitely easier if you start it towards the beginning of their eating life. Begin as you intend to go on.
Check out the article that goes a little more in depth on the Division of Responsibility, and this one on how you can apply it. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to start practicing a no pressure method of eating. Especially during the toddler period.
Food intake can naturally decrease once they hit one simply because they aren’t growing as quickly as they were in their first year of life. Toddlers also can naturally become more selective with what they’ll eat, and can go from eating everything you give them to eating only a few bites at many meals. You will stress yourself out beyond belief trying to keep track of exactly what they should be eating. Stay on your side of the Division of Responsibility and serve nutritious foods throughout the day. As long as their growth doesn’t falter and they don’t fall off their growth curve, they are doing well.