3 Ways to Keep Your Toddler’s Diet Healthy & Balanced During the Pandemic – Kathryn Morrow

Hey Mama – you make motherhood look easy…

(Even If You Have Let Your Own Diet Slide…Shhh Your Secret is Safe with Me)

On the outside, you’re composed. Anytime you leave the house (or attend a Zoom meeting) your hair is done, you’re boldly wearing a bright pink lipstick, you pair your favorite black leggings with a simple top and trendy scarf, and you are ready to take on the world.

You transition from badass business woman, to loving mother, to fitness enthusiast, to doting wife seamlessly day after day. Your house is spotless, your kids are happy, and your husband thinks he died and went to Heaven. You are killin’ it.

No one would ever guess you haven’t washed your hair in days (or has it been a week already? Thank goodness for dry shampoo!), you only wear bright pink lipstick to offset the huge bags under your eyes, and you’ve been wearing the same black leggings for 3 days (what? The smooshed avocados/bananas/snot/drool just wipe right off)! Sound familiar?

Your house is clean, but your car looks like a bomb went off. Your husband eats like a king, but somehow you always forget to feed yourself. And the story continues…you always seem to be at the bottom of your own to-do list. And you have a toddler! Or if you’re like me – toddlers PLURAL!

Remember the days when you only bought organic fruit and veggies, free range omega 3 eggs, and hormone free beef and chicken? Everything that went into your baby’s mouth was carefully inspected to be the best, and home cooked by YOU. You probably bought your first food processor when you became a mama, because you’re crafty like that, and you wanted to know exactly what was going into her mouth.

Flash forward to today. Oh how things have changed. Your 2 year old loves to eat! She loves macaroni, fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, hot dogs…everything you said you’d never even have in the house. You swore she wouldn’t have sugar until she was 5! And look at you now – you’re serving ketchup with everything!

But who really knows – every time you turn away from her she’s feeding the dog or throwing her macaroni at the wall, so there are days we don’t even know how social services hasn’t been called for starving your child. You imagine yourself pleading, “I swear I feed her!,” as you justify why your child doesn’t eat anything you give her, despite your best efforts. Can they take your child away for only feeding her cheerios? And the Mom guilt sets in…

Here’s the thing, when Mom guilt sets in it can be very difficult to see what you’re doing right.

First of all, no, social services isn’t coming to take your children for having a diet exclusive of breakfast cereal, but I would love to share some of the tips and tricks I use to make sure my children are getting what they need, even if I’m not always the best role model.

Smoothies: While they do take a little extra effort, are by far my favorite way to start the day.

You can hide so many vegetables in a smoothie and then pretty much breathe easy for the rest of the day. So what if they throw their cucumber on the floor? You put WAY more cucumber than that in their very first meal! My typical ingredients include 1 cup whole milk, ¼ cup full fat plain yogurt (flavored if you need the flavor to help disguise the taste of the vegetables, which you might), 2-3 pieces of fruit (for example 1 banana, 1 pear and ½ cup berries), a handful of veggies (we like to rotate kale, spinach, cucumber, & frozen beet chunks throughout the week), a tablespoon or 2 of hemp hearts (high in protein and healthy fats), sometimes a teaspoon of chia or flax, and about a cup of ice.

For extra flavor and a bit of a protein kick I also add a high quality vanilla protein powder* (half a serving is fine – no need to use a full scoop). I have 2 toddlers and this recipe makes four 250ml smoothies, because they always ask for more when they finish their first serving. *I recommend half a serving because children don’t need as much protein as you might think. A 30 lb toddler only needs about 15 grams of protein for the entire day, so there is usually no need to supplement with protein powder, but it does add a nice flavor, which also helps camouflage the veggie taste – just please be selective, choose a very high quality protein, and don’t overdo it.

Share: I mean share YOUR food with your toddler.

As a toddler mama you are definitely familiar with the gaping open mouth that follows you around anytime you eat, right? That is if you’re eating…ahem, ahem, gentle reminder. In order to use this trick you will need to be preparing healthy meals for yourself – that’s right, the beef jerky and wine you put back at the end of the day won’t cut it. Not that there’s anything wrong with beef jerky and wine at the end of the day, I actually fully support that (that’s a different topic), but you also need to fuel your body DURING the day.

So here’s my suggestion: prepare something you know your kids will eat, but is also something you know packs a punch for your own diet. I know you’re not going to jump right in and have 5 small meals a day here, so I’m just asking you to take a baby step and prepare ONE nicely balanced healthy meal, with superfoods to get more bang for your buck. This one meal is made with the same theory as your child’s smoothie – get as many amazing ingredients in one sitting so you can take it easy for the rest of the day (this is just step one – I will let you off easy today).

Here’s my favorite example (I make this in bulk for the week): 1 cup quinoa (cook to make 2 cups), a can of drained and rinsed black beans, 1 chopped cucumber, 2 chopped bell peppers, a few handfuls of chopped kale or spinach, 1 rotisserie chicken (buy it precooked to save time, and pull all the chicken off the bone and chop), feta or shredded cheddar (as much as you want for your tastes – don’t worry too much about calories or fat – your toddler will eat most of the cheese), 2-3 chopped avocados, dressing to taste (I like to mix half italian dressing with half balsamic vinegar to help cut the calories a bit and my daughters also love the taste).

This way, when you sit down to a meal, you can relax and know you’re getting lots of protein and fibre, and as you take each bite you can share the beans, feta and avocado with your little ones (I’m not sure about you but if I serve my children avocado on its own they get more on their clothes or mine than in their mouths, but if I feed it to them on my own fork they gobble it right up).

If you’re lucky (I’m not), you can even hide a slice of bell pepper in with a piece of feta! This trick is a double edge sword! Everybody eats something healthy!

Stop Multitasking: There aren’t enough hours in the day…

Guilty. As. Charged. Whether you’re a full-time mama, or a full-time working mama chances are there are times when you feel like there are just not enough hours in a day. This is where we might think multitasking might come in handy. This is my most simple instruction for today. Stop. That’s it! Just stop! Sounds simple, right? Stop multitasking, stop and be present…with yourself and with your child(ren).

With yourself, try taking a few minutes to actually enjoy your food. Put your phone down, sit at the table/couch and eat. With your children, try sitting at their table while they eat (again, no phone). You will be surprised how much less food goes onto the floor when you’re sitting and engaging with them at mealtime. It’s a simple trick that not only helps them get the nutrition they need, but also allows you time for connection, which we all need – especially your toddler.

This isn’t a magical formula or a scientific way to get your children to eat healthy meals, but I can speak from experience that a little effort goes a long way.

You can translate everything written here to apply to the whole family, not just your little ones. Being intentional about how you prepare and enjoy your meals not only ensures everyone is eating a little healthier, which is great for weight loss or weight maintenance, but in these crazy COVID times, the instructions above will also help boost immunity and energy…and let’s not forget…connection.

Kathryn Morrow is a Nutrition & Weight Loss Coach passionate about helping fellow mamas just like you balance their diet without deprivation.

To connect with Kathryn, visit her website: kgmnutrition.com/contact 

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