This month on the HMHB blog, we’re turning our attention to all things baby and toddler feeding. There are so many philosophies and methodologies for what and when to start feeding baby, and what works to get toddlers to eat. To kick off our series, we thought you’d be interested to hear from our HMHB team on how we navigated (and are still navigating!) this season. We asked Steph Greunke, Registered Dietician and co-creator of HMHB and her podcast co-host Aglaée Jacob, Registered Dietician and Nutritionist to share. Chelsea, our HMHB Content Coordinator (not a food expert but a Whole30 enthusiast!), shares as well.
Steph Says: “I want them to explore food.”
When my sons were around 6 months, I used the principles of baby-led weaning. I wanted them to explore food, choosing what and how much they wanted to eat versus going the traditional spoon-feeding route. I basically served them large, soft chunks of food they could safely manipulate such as avocado slices, baked salmon, and cooked sweet potato. I also gave them large strips of steak that they could gnaw on, which doubled as a tool for teething! I wanted to ensure they both received enough iron, zinc, and B12 (which tend to be lower in babies following a baby-led weaning approach), so I also offered pureed meat and fish, blended with a starchy vegetable and healthy fat.
Here’s a typical day of meals for my toddler Otto (age 2.5):
Lunch: leftovers from the previous night’s dinner (a meat, vegetable, starchy vegetable, and fat)
Dinner: Ground beef mixed with mayo and sauerkraut, sweet potato with ghee, sauteed vegetables
Snack: fruit, nut butter
At age 9 months, my son Leo doesn’t have a set schedule. I advocate responsive eating. If he seems hungry and/or if I’m eating, I’ll offer him food or whatever I’m eating, but I don’t stress if he’s not interested. He is still nursing 4-5 times in a 24 hour period. Here’s an example of the food that Leo will eat in a day:
Breakfast: a few bites of egg, avocado slices, and fruit (blueberries, melon, banana, soft pears)
Lunch: A few bites of salmon or sardines and cooked, long slices of butternut squash
Dinner: A few bites of finely diced ground beef mixed with mayo and sauerkraut, mashed sweet potato with ghee, steamed broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots
Before bed: guacamole or a homemade squeeze pouch (I love this brand) containing full-fat coconut milk, beets, chia seeds, cooked and cooled leafy greens, a tiny bit of collagen peptides, and banana). I swear it helps him sleep better and prevents constipation.
Snacks: guacamole, fruit
Aglaée Says: “Let him make his own food choices as much as possible.”
I started baby-led weaning with Ayden when he was 6 months old because he showed all of the signs of readiness. His first food was liver pate (pureed liver with a bit of breast milk). It was so cute (and messy) to watch as he explored food for the first time. At first, we tried things like avocado, meatballs, butter, coconut oil, sardines, and sweet potatoes, but he didn’t have a huge interest.
He ate very little for the first year of introducing solids, probably because he was still nursing at night and getting quite a bit of calories from there. During this time, we focused on iron-rich and nutrient-dense foods like meat and liver. After he hit 2 years old, my body started producing less milk and he started eating a lot! I often wished the process would be faster, but he still nursed a ton up to this point and was thriving, so I tried not to worry.
Today, at almost 3 years old, Ayden is such a healthy and non-picky eater. His favorite foods are chicken, fish, liver pate, eggs, cheese, yogurt, fruits, avocado, and eggs. He loves sauces and condiments like coconut aminos, guacamole, pesto, sauerkraut, mustard, homemade honey mustard, and ketchup. He hasn’t had any gluten yet but eats grains like rice, corn, and oats occasionally.
He does have sugar once in a while. We bake cake or muffins about once a week and I like having organic lollipops on hand as a treat. We don’t label food as being good vs. bad or healthy vs. unhealthy. I’m just starting to teach him that certain foods have protein and that we need that every meal to grow strong. He’s learning that other foods like lollipops don’t help us grow as much as others, but we can still have them sometimes!
My philosophy is to let him make his own food choices as much as possible. I typically choose the main dish, but he and I are happy when he chooses his sides, condiments, or how I cut his meat. He listens to his body and when he’s had enough he politely says “my belly is full.” I’m doing everything I can so that he can preserve that healthy relationship with food and his body as he grows up.
Chelsea Says: “How he eats is very influenced by how I eat.”
I started my son with solids around 6 months old. I didn’t have a strong philosophy on introducing solids going in, so we did a mix of all methods. We also had a friend at the time give us some organic purees that she wasn’t going to use, so we did give him some mostly fruit purees. I honestly can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure that his first food was rice cereal from the box mixed with breastmilk. My husband was more cautious and worried than I was about choking, so he felt most comfortable spoon-feeding purees.
The introduction of solids happened to coincide with my very first round of Whole30. Looking back, I love that as I was beginning this transformational journey, it was a foundational time for my son as well. What I had on hand and therefore was offering him was all nutrient-dense, whole foods. I typically gave him larger pieces of things that he could gnaw on and explore under my supervision without the risk of choking. Some of his first whole foods were asparagus, pieces of meat, and mashed banana.
Now, at age 3, my son is an awesome eater. Although we don’t keep a ton of processed or sugary foods around the house, I don’t stress when he has those types of foods. How he eats is very influenced by how I eat, and it’s interesting to see how my choices have shaped his tastes. For example, he doesn’t really like cheese, when I feel like the majority of his toddler friends love it! Although I don’t eat gluten or other grains, he does (as does my husband), and I haven’t seen any negative effects.
I try not to have battles around meal times because that time is a sacred to me for connecting as a family. If he’s refusing to eat, we don’t force it, but I won’t make him something different! If he’s hungry later we offer his dinner plate again or he can have raw veggies or fruits.
Here’s a typical day for him:
Breakfast: Potatoes with Whole30 compliant breakfast meat, egg, or toast with almond butter
Lunch: Leftovers, veggies with ranch, fruit
Dinner: Mostly Paleo or Whole30 compliant dinners. His favorite that he requests often is salmon and broccoli!
Snacks: Raw veggies with ranch or fruit with almond butter
We hope this peek into our households was helpful as you determine how you’d like to introduce solid foods to your little one. Are there more questions about baby and toddler feeding you’d like to see answered? Engage in the conversation over on Instagram!
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