What a nutritionist feeds her children

I’m definitely what you might call a ‘time poor mum’, so when it comes to prepping meals for my baby/toddler/family, I’m always trying to think about quick but balanced options. This is with the aim of really making sure I’m helping them to get nutrients in, even if on some days their appetites are up and down!

Mother holding baby at dinnertable

This means I think about how to make the most of simple meals I’m offering the kids, whether that be for their breakfast, lunch or dinner. I often ask myself “What can I serve with that?”, “What can I stir into this?” or “What can I sprinkle on top of these?” in order to boost the nutrients in each meal. The foods that I offer to my kids and family are generally pretty basic – porridge, omelettes, pastas – just the usual really, but I really think it’s all the added extras that can make the biggest difference. 

So, for example, breakfast might be my famous carrot cake porridge with added nut butter, a sprinkle of seeds, a dollop of yoghurt and some pear fingers on the side (as per one of my most popular recipes to date!) 

Lunch might be a picky lunch of leftovers from the fridge, but I try to balance it with hummus and oatcakes served with red pepper fingers. I might add an extra portion of veggies, a quick yoghurt dip for the peppers or sprinkle a bit of cheese (nutritional yeast for vegans) on top of the oatcakes for a little extra, nutritionally. 

Dinner might be pasta and sauce, but I’ll add kidney beans, basil, or even a chopped egg to add some extra nutrients and ensure the meal is balanced

These are just examples, but they are quick and realistic meals for most busy parents. They are also foods that all the family can eat too, making it practical and easier for us to prepare. 

They are also great for babies, who don’t necessarily need ‘special’ foods but can eat along with us, just without the added sugar and salt. This is the premise behind the recipe section of my book How to wean your baby – family meals we can all enjoy! 

Try and follow the well-known saying by Ellen Satter, “You decide what they eat and let them decide how much”.

When it comes to balancing their meals, it’s impossible for us to be calculating every nutrient that kids are eating and that’s why thinking about food groups can really help. Ultimately you want to try and think about offering (for both babies and toddlers), something like the below at each meal: 

  • Veggies and/or fruits – frozen and fresh count!
  • Carbohydrates including wholegrains e.g. pasta, potatoes, quinoa, rice.
  • Proteins and iron-rich foods e.g. meat, fish, eggs, beans, lentils.
  • Dairy or alternatives e.g. milks, cheese, yoghurt (fortified if plant-based).

It’s really important that you can’t force (and neither should you) little ones to eat their foods, all you can do is provide them with a balance of food groups as much as possible. Therefore, try and follow the well-known saying by Ellen Satter, “You decide what they eat and let them decide how much”. 

Fussy eating is, however, super prevalent, and it’s one of the reasons that I run fussy eating webinars most months via Zoom, especially throughout lockdown where parents were struggling for support! Fussy eating is really very, very normal. Infants and toddlers go through phases where they refuse certain foods and even whole meals – sometimes for weeks on end and it can be so tough for parents. However, there are some things that you can do to try and stop fussy behaviours turning into full fussy eating habits.  

5 tips for fussy eaters

I talk a lot in my book about starting kids off with healthy habits around food right from the very start – this can really help make a difference in the long term, but it doesn’t mean your kids won’t go through fussy phases from time to time. 

 1.  Be a role model 

Try to be a role model at mealtimes and join your baby at the table to eat your meal, whilst honouring their will to not eat. Pressure can have the opposite effect of encouraging them to eat in the long term.

I love the idea of bringing baby to the table and getting them involved as early as possible and recommend the Tripp Trapp chair for this. It’s such a wonderful invention to encourage closeness in the whole family and gets baby involved in food from the get-go. Babies learn the skills of eating, social skills and even what foods they enjoy by first copying others.  

Happy baby at dinner table

 2. Make mealtimes enjoyable 

It might sound like a long way off but making mealtimes an activity that children look forward to can be a great way to engage them to foster a fun relationship with food. If children want to be part of the ‘activity’, it promotes enjoyment at mealtimes and therefore the idea of food.

Collaborative mealtimes can be a great way to connect with your family, sharing what each other’s days looked like, what’s for dessert, plans for the weekend etc. Keeping it light, perhaps with some calming music can also help if you’re feeling tense as baby can sense that. Using funky tablecloths and quirky cutlery can help to get children interested in using cutlery and connect with the act of eating.

 3. Offer a variety  

When you’re struggling with a fussy eater, it can be easy to only serve up the foods that your children have ‘accepted’, but this can actually encourage more food refusal in the long run. 

If you’re little one becomes accustomed to you eating a variety of foods on a regular basis, eg. different fruits and veggies, a variety of carbs (bread, pasta, rice, buckwheat, quinoa etc) and a variety of proteins (beans, lentils, nut butters, fish, meat etc), and they are involved in the process of touching, smelling and tasting numerous foods, the more familiar they will be with variety as they get older and accept that this is the norm. Familiarity encourages acceptance.

4. Don’t sweat it

Take the pressure off ‘eating up’ and try to sit back and let your little one make the decisions around how much and what they eat off of the plate. Sometimes the extra pressure can really backfire over time. 

5. Be persistent and consistent in your approach

Don’t give up after a few refused foods, instead keep offering foods and keep trying all the pointers above, and get others who are feeding your kids to do the same, as much as possible.

If you need support, head over to the healthy eating for kids hub or use the advanced search tool to find a child nutritionist that’s right for you.

Charlotte Stirling-Reed is an award-winning baby and child nutritionist and author of How to wean your baby which is out now. Find Charlotte on Instagram @sr_nutrition. 

Stokke is a leading high-end baby brand in Scandinavia whose ethos is to nurture family bonding, having your baby closer to you and the importance of eye contact. Find Stokke on Instagram @stokkebaby  

Share this article with a friend
Written by Charlotte Stirling-Reed
Charlotte Stirling-Reed is an award-winning baby and child nutritionist and author of ‘How to wean your baby’.
Written by Charlotte Stirling-Reed
Show comments

Find a nutritionist dealing with Infants and pre-school children

All nutrition professionals are verified

All nutrition professionals are verified