Monthly Parenting Magazine

Charlotte Stirling Reed on Feeding Toddlers

Charlotte Stirling Reed on Feeding Toddlers


Photo credit: Haarala Hamilton

Absolutely Mama chats to baby and child nutritionist Charlotte Stirling Reed ahead of the launch her new book 'How to Feed Your Toddler'. Read on for her top tips on feeding little ones...

How do you deal with periods of food refusal? 

It’s such a challenge for mums, but one thing that can help is knowing that these periods are completely normal, expected even. So try not to think about periods of food refusal as infinite. Quite often they can just be little phases that your toddler goes through. The key is to try and keep things as normal as you can, don’t change things up too much or offer different meals/foods to what you normally do. However, one key thing is also to avoid pressure, as this inevitably may backfire!

What’s the best way to get a veggie-hating toddler to eat more greens? 

Model eating it yourself and don’t pressure them to eat it. Make the food familiar and ‘normal’ and avoid drawing more attention to it than that. It’s a long game, but it’s more likely to result in them wanting to eat it than you pressuring them to do so!

How much sugar is too much? Are sweet ‘treats’ ok sometimes? 

I wouldn’t call them treats…but moderation is always going to be key with kids, and I know it’s obvious, but avoiding over-restricting some foods is really important. This is likely to only make them MORE desirable in the long run!

What should you do if your little one is refusing to sit at the table? 

This can be tough, but we may need to step back and just try to analyse the mealtime environment a little. WHY do they not want to be there and WHAT can we do to make them want to come to the table and start to enjoy mealtimes?  It might be eating together, starting with a game?  Playing some soft music? Making sure we’ve got the right time of day when they aren’t over-hungry or over-tired or it might be as simple as just be taking the pressure off eating! So many things can help your little one to want to come to the table, but what those are will likely be very individual.

Do you have any top tips for parents raising plant based little ones? 

Yes, definitely do some research beforehand, as you can raise a plant based little foodie easily, but you may need some extra planning in there and it’s worthwhile chatting to a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian to check you’re ticking off all the food groups and nutrients that your little one needs. Check out my blog on Vegan Weaning for more help here.

Why do some toddlers eat so well at nursery but not so great at home? 

This is super common and I think there are many reasons for this, including: lots of role models, a really tight routine throughout the day, lack of alternatives being offered, lack of attention/focus and pressure on individual toddlers who aren’t eating, variety on the menu, lack of mealtime distractions and getting little ones involved by being mealtime helpers etc. If you’re finding this is the case, I’d always say chat with the nursery and figure out WHAT is working for them and then try and emulate some of it at home!

If your toddler refuses a meal, should you cook them something different? 

Ideally not, no. Especially if it’s a regular occurrence. This can actually lead to further food refusal and then your little ones eventually only accepting a really limited number of meals. I know it can be tough – but if you have a really great mealtime structure with multiple opportunities for them to eat they should be able to get enough food and calories during the day. Additionally, it’s important to listen to their appetites, so if they simply aren’t hungry for a meal, that’s ok too.

Should parents be worried about the recent news reports that some baby food pouches are bad for little ones’ teeth?

It depends really, again it’s ALL about moderation. You can offer baby pouches from a spoon or with finger foods alongside that can help reduce the impact on their teeth (rather than sucking straight out of the pouch). You can also try to offer plenty of variety and choose plenty of savoury pouches, not just sweet ones. I always recommend trying plenty of home cooked options too so your baby gets used to your cooking and your ingredients. This will all help, so if you’re offering the odd pouch for convenience, that’s absolutely fine to do!

What are the best non-messy snacks for eating-on-the go?  

Mini sandwiches, breadsticks and dip, chopped fruits, wrapped cheese, I also love oatcakes and crackers for little ones. I have a great new cracker recipe in my new book How to Feed Your Toddler that kids and parents are hopefully going to love! I also have more snack ideas and options here.

And finally, what are your favourite go-to family meals to eat with your own little ones?  

We are currently eating lots of the favourites from my books like fish tray bakes, the Katsu curry or enchiladas, or a veggie packed mac and cheese style dish. So many simple options and most of our staple recipes are from my two books: How to Wean Your Baby and How to Feed Your Toddler. Hope you love them as much as I do.

 I’ve got lots more tips in my new book, How to Feed Your Toddler, which you can buy here.

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