Feeding toddlers: a total nightmare, or a total nightmare? YES.
Today, I'll eat blueberries! Tomorrow, I'll act like blueberries were sent straight from Satan and smell like dirty feet. I will whip them off of my tray as fast as you put them on it, so don't even TRY.
Today, I think chicken is disgusting. Tomorrow, when you don't make any for me, I'll eat all your chicken off your plate and whine when there's no more.
Processed crap YAAAAAAAY.
I used to get all judgey towards parents who gave their children lots of processed food. Now I know why they do it: they can get the kids to eat it, and at least they're taking SOME nutrition into their bodies. It may be swimming in fat, nitrates, and preservatives, but at least there are some calories and perhaps a vitamin or two.
When Elle was about six months old and venturing into solids, two mom friends both shook their heads and told me the same thing: the first year is so easy. You throw a jar in your diaper bag and poof, that's lunch. You don't have to do much outside of finding jarred food your baby likes.
(I'm aware that there are lots of moms who make baby food from scratch. Good for them, and I mean that. I did it sometimes, but not consistently. My mantra as a parent is "no one gives you an award for doing X," and that applies to everything from cloth diapering to making baby food. If buying a jar of healthy baby food saved me time in the kitchen, yay. If I had time that day to make and freeze sweet potatos, yay. Whatever works for you as a parent. If you're looking for judgey, there are plenty of other blogs out there that will give you judgey.)
At a year, magically the baby is supposed to give up bottles, and get all their calories from food they feed themselves. As usual, Elle is taking her own sweet time with all of these milestones, and I'm fine with that. She's always had a good appetite, but it's less predictably good now. "They" say you have to introduce new food to a toddler many, many times before they'll accept it, and I'm here to say: yes.
I thought I was all set because Elle was willing to eat anything I put in front of her, but I didn't realize that just because she was willing to eat it once, that didn't guarantee she'd eat it twice. Or ever again. My fridge is a graveyard of leftovers, some of which have no chance in hell of ever being consumed by this toddler. My dinners have often become whatever bits of food Elle doesn't eat (which is not contributing positively to the size of my ass, that's for sure).
The biggest challenge is getting vegetables into her. Fortunately, I'm not the only parent who's had this challenge, so there are lots of helpful hints out there. This is why I'm still buying baby food and using it. The other night, I stirred squash into her macaroni and cheese. She thinks it's funny to eat from those squeezy pouches, so I buy the Happy Tot pouches that are fruits + vegetables-- there's one that's pears/peas/green beans, and another that's apple/carrot/sweet potato. Having tasted them, I can say they're pretty darn yummy. And she will EAT IT, giggling as it gets squeezed into her mouth. It’s hilarious, I guess.
Sweet potatoes in general are pretty OK with Elle, and they're healthy. This week, she's willingly eaten butternut squash as well; I found one of those microwave steam pouches that was butternut squash in a cinnamon sauce, so I'm pretty sure she thinks it's dessert. I do not care. She ate it.
Carrots (unless cooked to mush in red sauce), green beans, broccoli, corn, cauliflower, tomatoes-- none have yet met with her approval. But I'm giving it time, because she's a toddler, and she's going to do what she wants to do whether I like it or not. I do need to try feeding her some veggies I don't like. Just because I dislike lima beans and brussel sprouts doesn't mean she will too-- after all, she likes mac and cheese, and I think it's gross. (I know, I'm weird.)
Fruit can be iffy, but she'll almost always eat that freeze-dried fruit you can get in pouches. It's not the most cost-effective fruit out there, but for now, it'll do.
Those toddler meals they sell are pretty disgusting, I think, but I have a few on hand as backup. And I have some frozen meals as well, for nights when I'm in a hurry. But I am trying, when I can, to give Elle relatively simple, fresh, healthy options to choose from.
She eats better with her sitter (she'll eat what the other kids are eating), and I can almost always get her to eat yogurt, cheese, crackers, freeze-dried fruit, Cheerios, Goldfish, pizza, and oatmeal (and I stir fruit into the oatmeal). That's not a bad array for this age. I can think of at least one SMC whose daughter barely eats anything due to severe feeding issues, and I'm sure she'd be ridiculously happy if she could say her daughter ate even half the things on Elle's list. So I shouldn't be too crabby about it, I guess.
As a friend told me: don't think of balanced meals. Think of balanced days. Sometimes, think of balanced weeks.
Hard to do, when it seems like an entire day has gone by and your toddler is subsisting on milk, two slices of banana, and a handful of Cheerios.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for crock pot recipes that might feature vegetables hidden in some kind of Elle-approved sauce.