Hi fellow twin mamas, it's Noelle again! I am super excited to be joining the Twin Talk team. Thanks for all your great questions relating to feeding your sweet little ones. I am going to get to all of your questions over time, but for now, this post will focus on understanding what is “normal” food-related behavior is for babies and toddlers and give you practical tips for healthy snack and meal ideas. See the end of this post for future topics that I will cover.
A common trend for children 12-36 months (1-3 years) is increased autonomy in all that they do. With food this often turns into what we refer to as “picky eaters” or to a less extreme “food jags”. Picky eaters are the ones that have a few favourite foods and refuse to eat anything outside of their top picks, even if they liked that food as an infant. Food jags refers to the times when a toddler loves a food one week and hates it the next. Anyone have one of those days when they are jumping up and down because their child loved a new food only to go and buy more of that food just to find out that now they hate it?! Been there done that…with way too many foods ;) With twins we have twice the food jags and twice the picky times. But we must persevere and keep offering. At some point they will like it again….or at least one will which somehow always makes me feel better.
Whether your child will eat anything you serve them or seems to have a repertoire of three foods, we need to be very careful not to label our kids as “the picky eater”; the one who “won’t eat meat” or “doesn’t like vegetables”; etc. It is easy to say things about our children and not realize that they will take this to heart. If your child hears you describe them as “the one who will only eat fruit but no vegetables” then they will continue in this behavior as it lives up to a label that you have evidently accepted since you are willing to describe them this way to others. This is magnified with twins as they are labelled even more often than singletons when compared to each other. I have often had people ask me “so which one is the quiet one and which one is the loud one?”. I am appalled at these types of questions as it makes my kids feel like they are supposed to fall into a certain box of behavior as a twin. Our children are individuals who just happened to be born at the same time. They do not need labels about anything….especially when it comes to the type of eater that they are. So even if your child only eats mac and cheese, be careful how you talk about them to others.
Okay, now for the practical suggestions. A few of you asked for quick and easy lunch and snack ideas. So here are a few lunch ideas to start, then snacks.
- Quick and easy lunch for home or on the go - Whole grain crackers, a few slices of cheese, diced chicken or turkey pieces, diced avocado, and cut up grapes. Just a few bites of each to start then once everything is gone allow your child to have more of their favourite. Children need small portions so they are not overwhelmed. You will find your child eats more overall if you start small and add as needed.
- Eggs with toast and a crunchy fruit or vegetable – Eggs are packed with nutrients that children need so don’t be afraid to give eggs a few times each week. You can hard boil eggs or scramble them or make a fun quiche. Come up with names for the different types of eggs and then ask them what they want. For example, at our house quiche is called pot pie eggs. If your kids love hard boiled eggs, may you could call them boat eggs. Give your children variety in texture so along with the eggs you could serve crunchy toast (with mashed avocado on top for added good fats) and freshly cut cucumber or carrots or apple slices.
- Chicken Fried rice – This is an easy meal packed with nutrition. In anticipation of making this, cook chicken the night before and have some leftover. Fry up a scrambled egg, once it is cooked add in peas and corn, diced chicken (that is already cooked of course), and some rice – preferably brown rice. Once you have mixed this all together and turned down the heat add some grapeseed or avocado oil and stir. From here you can serve this as is or you can add another ingredient to make it stick together a bit. For example, a little bit of yogurt or apple sauce. It sounds odd but kids love it! This is also a great meal to have kids watch you make. It is quick and has lots of fun colours in it.
Snacking is super important for children. Children’s stomachs are small and they need little bits of fuel all day long. Sometimes we get caught up in needing our kids to have big meals and we forget that it doesn’t matter when they eat, as long as they get the nutrition that they need. Many children will actually eat more of the snacks they are served than the meals they are served. This is often magnified with twins as they may compete for a snack served in bulk, but will not compete for a meal as they are seated for it with their own plate or bowl. The only drawback to snacking is when it allows kids to fill up on goldfish crackers and puffs, which leads to little room left for nutritious foods. Try to plan your snack options as mini meal options and then you won’t be as stressed when you 20 month old will only eat sweet potatoes at supper….three nights in a row. I speak from experience on that one!
Snacks should have at least two food groups present. Here are some fun and healthy snack ideas that you can mix and match that won’t destroy your carpet, car seat, or stroller.
- Diced apples or canteloupe
- Raisins or Craisins (for over 18 months)
- Sliced grapes
- Cubed cheese or cheese strings
- Sliced cucumbers
- Baby carrots (cut in half)
- Whole grain crackers
- Homemade mini banana muffins (I find that other types of muffins tend to crumble but banana muffins tend to stay together)
Another option is to use snack time as a time to offer foods your children aren’t fond of. For example, we found that our twins were refusing their veggies at meals starting at about 16 months so we started giving them steamed veggies as a snack about 30-60 minutes before meal time and they consumed a ton of vegetables this way. You can try this with steamed cauliflower or broccoli or carrots or cut up fresh cucumbers or peppers.
I hope that this is useful and answers some of your questions. Watch for my upcoming posts on
- The importance of food exposure as opposed to consumption;
- Incorporating food allergies into your toddler’s diet;
- The influence of twins on each other’s eating habits; and
- Eating for 3 – nutrition while breastfeeding twins.
More from Noelle....CLICK HERE to read Meal Tips for Picky Eaters