One-year-old's Eating Habits
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One-year-old's Eating Habits
Our 12 month old son does not care to eat much, easpecially not
when it comes to being fed. He munches here and there on finger
food (biscuits, breads, tomatos, some fruits..etc), but refuses
to be fed anything more substantial and in a regular time
schedule. We don't wish to be rigid or force food on him, and
understand his need to explore and feed on his own. On the other
hand, we are concerned about his nutritional intake and vitamin
consumption. Any suggestion on how to establish a feeding
schedule and how to get him to eat?
I'm wondering if the key phrase here is ''to be fed.'' You say your child
eats finger food -- maybe the key is just to provide a wider variety of this,
rather than getting him to eat what you spoon-feed him.
Most children at a year are capable of feeding themselves all kinds of
finger food: not just cereal, crackers, and soft fruit chunks, but chunks of
steamed vegetables (e.g. steamed baby carrots, chunks of cauliflower,
peas), cooked beans, chunks of meat or tofu cubes, avocados, pasta, all
kinds of stuff.
My approach would be to keep a bunch of this kind of stuff around (I
used to do things like steam a whole pack of baby carrots, or tortellini, or
whatever and then freeze it -- I had lots of bags of things in the freezer),
and then, whenever I sat down for a meal, put him in his high chair with
a variety (maybe something like one protein, one carb, one vegetable,
one fruit --a total of 1-2 Tablespoons of each) on the tray in front of him,
and let him eat. Remember that kids often don't like new foods at first,
and it may take him 10-15 times of encountering something new before
he tries it.
Some of the best advice I've seen about this sort of eating
behavior is from Dr. Sear's website. I'm not a big fan of some
of his advice, but I thought this was good. You can access it
If that doesn't work, go to www.askdrsears.com, click
on ''Feeding Infants and Toddlers,'' then on ''17 Tips for the
Basically, toddlers are grazers and more than that, they need
to graze because of all the calories they burn. There are some
good tips on giving them not just one food at a time but
several foods for them to sample, how to make it appealing, and
what is normal behaviour. Also, try to keep a consistent
Other good advice I've read is to not worry about them getting
complete nutrition every day, but rather think of it as a week
at a time. In other words, one day they might have veggies but
not want fruit, and the next day they want fruit but no
veggies, etc. So they might lack one food group one day but
make up for it the next.
And finally, make sure your kid is getting calorie rich food,
such as whole milk products, cheese, avocado, etc. Around 40%
of a 12 - month old's diet should be fat, as it provides them
with the calories they need for the energy they are burning in
being active and growing.
Once our 10-month old figured out finger foods, she's been on
periodic ''spoon strikes,'' refusing to be fed by spoon. At
first, this frustrated me; her self-feeding skills were such
that she didn't eat as much as she did when she was spoonfed.
But we've gotten the hang of it now, and I appreciate that she
wants to do it herself. Here are some things that have helped
for us: We eat together whenever possible. It amazes me how
much my daughter can pack away while my husband and I have a
nice meal and talk! She especially loves when we give her food
from our plates, and I really like that she's learning the
routine of family meal time. It also helps at breakfast, when
it's just me, if I sit and have a bowl of cereal as I'm
Because her finger food quantities often end up lower than her
spoonfood quantities (although she's getting the hang of it, and
I'm sure yours will too), I try to include some real bang-for-
the buck finger foods with every meal: hard-boiled egg yolk,
lentils, tofu, cubed and steamed fresh veggies, cubed avocado,
etc. At 1 year, you can do things like french toast. I usually
give her a couple of items at a time on her tray. For example,
some peas, some cubed tofu, and some rice puffs.
We have tried sneaking spoonfuls in when she opens her mouth to
put a finger food in, but often this annoys her -- it would
annoy me! -- so we don't do it much anymore. A more
effective ''trick'' for us is that she'll *always* eat yogurt from
a spoon. She just loves the stuff. We get plain whole-milk
yogurt and mix other things in to it -- fruit, cereal, even
pureed broccoli. If there is there a food like that yours will
always eat, that may be a good option.
Our son refused most solids until he was about 14 to 15
months old. He just wasn't ready. We kept trying, because
he seemed interested in our food. At an early age
(6 months) when fed a finger full of baby food he woke up at
night every half hour. He is now 18 months and eating
much more, but not nearly as much as children his age. We
were concerned about his weight, vitamins, etc,. His weight
gain did begin to slow down, but pediatricians (and we went
to many!) weren't too concerned, although we were. In the
end, he just kept nursing and is fine. He still has days when
he eats little compared to other days. We did have his iron
levels checked and they turned out to be very good because
he is breastfed. Doctors don't usually tell you that breastfed
babies actually have better iron absorption than formula fed
babies. Maybe get his iron levels checked if you are very
concerned...but if your child isn't lethargic, I wouldn't worry!
Some children just take longer to take to solids. It turns out
our son could possibly not have enough digestive enzymes.
He has much more trouble digesting fatty foods (meats,
cheeses, etc,.) So..we started with fruits, than veggies...and
he never liked baby food! He also refused rice cereal! If you
need more advice feel free to contact me.
We have a 14-month old son who has suddenly become a very picky
eater. He's pretty finicky about what he'll eat and when. He has
a regular and balanced diet, though he's not much into meat. We
can't predict when he will or won't eat even his favorite
things, like pasta and cheese. When he decides he's not into
eating something, he'll mash it on his high chair tray, or else
drop it on the floor. It's gotten pretty frustrating. Any advice
or words of wisdom would be appreciated.
I think that kids tend to do this at about this age. My son ate
pretty much everything I set in front of him until about 15
months, at which point he became picky: some meals he would eat
only the pasta, some meals only the vegetables, some meals nothing
but tofu... and you never knew what he would eat. He also got big
into dropping food on the floor. Several months later, he's still
like this. What we do is this: we set a nutritiously balanced
meal before him, and he eats whatever he wants. We also tell him
that if he doesn't want something, or if he's all done, he needs
to give the bowl to Mommy or Daddy. Then we let it go. If he
drops something it is taken away, and he doesn't get it back --
but we don't make a fuss. Over the course of several days he does
eat a balanced meal, and he's learning to say ''all-done'' and give
his bowls to his parents, rather than drop them off the tray.
The last baby book I read (Touchpoints: Your Child's Emotional
and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton) talks about
this exact issue. The author says this is *perfectly* normal,
and as long as your baby is eating the minimum requirements (1
pint milk, 2 oz. meat (or an iron supplement), 1 oz. OJ/fruit
(for Vitamin C) and a multi-vitamin) you don't worry about it and
let your child eat what he wants.
The hardest part about your situation with your toddler's new
eating habits is, as a parent, to let go and trust that your
child will be absolutely fine and healthy despite the fact that
he seems to eat nothing at all. In fact, they say that you should
look at what your child eats over a period of a week or even up
to a month, rather than on a daily basis, and you'll generally
see that he gets all of the nutrition that he needs. It just
might mean that he eats only apple sauce for a couple days then
only tofu for the next couple of days.
I have a 20-month-old who, about 4-5 months ago, went from eating
tons of everything put before him to becoming extremely picky. I
think this age is particularly hard because they are unable to
tell you what they DO want to eat, only reject the things thet
don't want to eat.
It's been a very frustrating road for us, too, and after much
soul-searching, we decided that the best we could do was to offer
him nutritious options and let him decide for himself what and
when he wanted to eat. Sometimes he eats more at snacktime, and
so I've tossed out all of the junkier (and alas more convenient)
foods and have started to offer only fruit, cheese, crackers,
mini-bagels and the like. Also, I've found that my son may eat a
lot of broccoli, then reject it for a couple weeks, then start
eating it again, so don't give up too quickly.
As for your son throwing food on the floor, this too shall pass.
My son still does it to a degree, although these days most of the
food that ends up on our floor is due to his sloppy eating. If
it's not one thing, it's another.
My words of wisdom: Don't sweat it! Offer nutritious food
whenever the family eats and whenever your child seems to be
hungry. When he begins to play with, mash or throw his food
instead of eating it, the meal is over. (You can require him to
help you clean it up. He probably won't be very effective yet,
but it's good training!) Many toddlers go through a period of
seemingly ''living on air'' and don't suffer for it. If he is
still nursing, he will get plenty of nutrition that way. If he
is weaned, you might consider a multivitamin. But remember that
many toddlers really do eat quite a bit in ''grazing'' fashion
while refusing more formal meals, and that's a perfectly healthy
way to eat (as long as they're not eating nothing but cookies).
But don't push food he doesn't want on him, don't cook a whole
separate meal catering to his picky tastes, make sure any snacks
he gets after an uneaten meal are healthy, and don't make a big
emotional issue out of it, and he'll most likely be fine.
How to get 1-year-old to eat protein?
What really worked for my daughter at that age was Tofu. I would cut it up
in small cubes and serve it too her with a dab of ranch or thousand island
salad dressing to dip it in. I dabbed the dressing right on her highchair
tray and she seemed to enjoy dipping it in a playful sort of way.
Some kids may be sensitive to salad dressing at this age, but I was lucky
in that my daughter didn't have any food alergies to contend with.
I am dubious about a doctor who says a child is drinking "too
much breast milk". Too much of the perfect food? Did you cut
back on his advice and now her weight drops? Our 2-1/2 yr old
still nurses, and ate very little solid food for the longest time. 1
year is not old enough to say "should eat all solids". I would
advise reading Dr. Wm. Sears on the subject of infant-led
Our boy does like tofu and tempeh. He eats no meat, cheese,
eggs, or dairy. He is doing fine. Nut butters or tahine on fruit like
bananas are welcome too.
Margaret -- I have nothing but sympathy for you!!! If I had a dollar for
every minute I have spent worrying about my 1 year old's diet I would
certainly not need to work at the university anymore. Although my
daughter is not losing weight (she tends to the pudgy side of things),
she does pointedly refuse to eat anything but "bland white food"
(bagels, pasta, cottage cheese, vanilla ice cream, and of course
her favorite...fistfulls of sour cream.) I have been trying to
get protein in the diet for months. I have started becoming quite
devious. There are certain vegetables she will eat. Sometimes I will
puree that vegetable and hide a crumbled up hard boiled egg yoke in it.
I have also been able to disguise crumbled up tofu in pureed peaches or
apricots. She also likes some of the sweeter Asian sauces. I can get
her to eat almost any meat if it is smothered in
sweet and sour or teriyaki sauce. I think experimentation is the key.
Take a food they love and "hide" something healthy in it! Yeah, I know
using sugar to get protein down may be a compromise with the devil...but
I am finding in childrearing that to a certain extent the end
justifies the means. Good Luck!!!
I'd like to reply to the mom whose 1-year-old doesn't like protien and
whose weight is "dropping off the charts." The weight issue, indeed, seems
like a serious problem, but I am perplexed by the doctor's response. It's
hard to believe that a breastfed baby is not getting enough protein from
the breast milk itself, and a doctor who suggests that baby is getting "too
much breast milk" seems like an ill-informed doctor to me. If you have
recently weaned the baby (as is often the case at age 1), maybe that's part
of the problem.
Our now-2+-year-old still doesn't like a lot of meat, but he absolutely
loves beans and has for over a year. (He carries cans of beans around the
house asking us to give him some.) So you might try that. Eggs are also a
great source of protein for kids over age one -- scrambled eggs are very
popular with ours.
It seems to me that weight loss should be the focus here, and, to my
admittedly limited knowledge of nutrition, protein only plays part of the
role. I think your baby may need a more thorough examination, or maybe even
a new doctor. Identifying "too much breast milk" as a problem seems really
backward to me.
I'm sure many people will respond to this one. How can a 1 yr old be
affected deleteriously by breast milk. Why would anyone tell a mom to
cut back and substitute other forms of protein when the result is that
the child is losing weight???
If your child likes breast milk and you feel OK about breastfeeding her
it seems like that would be a great source of food.
However, I am also very curious about what is happening at feeding time.
There may be some subtle or not so subtle power struggles around food
happening and it's very hard to know if that's happening when you're
in the middle of it.
Anyway, I always found at that age that it worked pretty well to be
prepared to offer several different kinds of food and learned to
deal with the rejection of my homecooked meals in favor of, sayy,
fishsticks. (It seems like kids are naturally drawn to foods with a
lot of fat). Foods that my daughter liked (and some are foods I
didn't think I would ever give my child...) are:
hamburgers cut up with catsup
fishsticks with catsup
tuna with or without mayo
peanut butter with apple slices on crackers
spagetti with meat sauce
raisins in a bowl
canned pears with cottage chees
plain cottage cheese
She made it through her entire 2nd year on those foods plus lots and
lots of fruit and juice pops.
One way my one year old really liked to eat with me is when I made it
fun. Sometimes I would tell her we were going to have a picnic and
would put everything on a towel on the floor. Sometimes I would invite
a doll to eat with us and show the doll how nicely we could eat (the
doll would always have terrible manners...).
Re: Protein and the one-year old. My son, now two, eats nothing with iron or
protein. He'll eat some cheese, but spurns meat, fish, chicken most of the
time, hot dogs, noodles, chinese food, even scrambled eggs. He drinks too
many bottles. But he will eat pizza, and he seems willing to mtry foods my
husband acts real enthuisiastic about...pizza, french fries and soda. Yet at
the Sizzler he'll eat the meatballs with gusto, and when they had macaroni
and cheese he's eat that. So try taking your child to restaurants. My son
would try anything and eat many things at one year to about 18 months and
then became picky to this day. Sometimes he'll try something if another peer
is eating it; and as a result, he eats Danimal yogurt..the little containers
with dinosaurs. I'm eager to hear other replies, including what happens if
you cut back on the bottles. Right now it's a constant battle and a constant
concern, as I can't afford to take him to restaurants, and I think that's a
silly strategy. He won't eat any babyfood anymore either. I always put a
portion of what I'm eating in front of him, but it's hard to evern figure
out exaclty when he's hungry. Too soon, the food goes cold and is unwanted.
T oo late (meaning when he's hungry) and he only wants his bottle.
A Few things:
1) There is no such thing as "too much breast milk" (except in the
_extremely rare_ case of breastmilk jaundice which obviously isn't the case
here). In the first year, solids are mostly for baby to experiment with
and learn, her main source of nutrition at that time should be breast milk,
not solids. Breast milk contains just the right amount of protein, iron,
and other nutrients and they are in a form that is most easily digested and
utilised by your child. If your daughter "wasn't hungry" after drinking
breastmilk that means she got what she needed.
2) The so-called "growth charts" that doctors use are completely irrelevant
when it comes to breastfed babies. They are the result of data compiled on
white formula-fed babies in the midwest from the 1940's through the 1970's
when the composition of formula was greatly different than it is today.
There is talk about researching new growth charts for breastfed babies but
so far it's just talk.
3) Breastfed babies tend to gain weight much faster in the beginning and
then to slow down substantially (as compared to formula fed babies). Since
this seems to be what is happening to your daughter, she's probably right
on target. As long as her motor skills are developing, I wouldn't worry.
4) In the second year of life, babies gain very little weight and sometimes
even lose a little. They basically grow taller and thinner utilizing the
baby fat they stored up in the first year. As they get mobile and start
running around, they thin down.
5) There's a phenomenon called "catching down" which is occurring more
often these days. Babies are born bigger today than before mostly due to
improved nutrition in today's mothers. After some time, these babies
eventually "catch down" to their genetically determined size. If mom and
dad are small people then a drop on the charts shouldn't be a source of
6) If you have concerns about your daughter's diet, talk to a nutritionist
rather than a pediatrician.
7) In my opinion, the best thing to do at this point is to make nutritional
food available to her and let her eat what and when she wants. This will
teach her how to eat until she's full and then stop. I recall reading
about one study (don't quote me on this), where children who were given
their choice of several foods to eat would "rotate" what they ate. In
other words, they would eat the same type of food for a few days and then
switch, as if they knew whether their body needed carbohydrates, fat,
protein, etc. You've accomplished the biggest hurdle for a parent in that
your daughter likes vegetables-- congratulations! If you obsess about
getting her "to eat more" then she will start eating in order to please you
and not because she's hungry. This, I think, is more dangerous in the long
and finally, to answer your question:
8) The best sources of protein are "protein complements" such as rice and
beans. Since most seeds are chokables, that leaves you with whole grains
and legumes. Earth's Best Lentil and Rice dinner was one of my son's
favorites. Nowadays he loves stir-fry with tofu and Indian dishes such as
Hope this helps,
Regarding "how to get a one-year-old" to get protein: when my daughter was
about 12 months, the doctor said she was anemic. We also get WIC coupons
due to her being a fost-adopt child, so I talked with the WIC dietican and
the doctor. Both felt that she was getting too many bottles and not enough
chicken, fish, etc. ("iron-rich foods") and that might be part of why she
was anemic. This was mysterious to me, since the formula is
"iron-fortified." The WIC person was emphatic that she Should Be Weaned,
the doctor much more of the tone that "mmm, try to get her to eat a bit
more chicken and here, give her iron drops for 3 months."
There are, evidently, now Federal Guidelines saying Babies Should Be Weaned
By Twelve Months. (Yes, the tone is ALL CAPS.) The WIC person showed them
to me. The daycare center showed them to me. Day care took her off her
day-time bottle in (to my mind) a very abrupt and uncermonious manner ...
basically in a day's time ... at 14 months. "Federal Guidelines," they
intoned. The only result of this seemed to be that, when she was finished
with her night-time bottle, she insisted on clutching the empty bottle in
her arms all night long instead of letting me take it to the sink to be
washed. If I tried to remove it, she woke up sobbing for "bah" although
she was quite cheery and flexible in the daylight world. So the bed
smelled vaguely of milk about 3 months, until she was finally ready to go
back to sleeping with her teddy bear instead of her bottle.
She seemed to eat just as much before her day-time weaning as before, and
the only thing that helped the anemia was iron drops. She only eats about
2 out of every 3 meals, routinely, and it just doesn't bother me.
There are fads among scientists just as surely as among dress designers.
No one likes to admit it (certainly not scientists) but there are. A
current fad is All Babies Must Be Weaned By Twelve Months.
In among all this silliness, my baby's doctor was actually much more
middle-of-the road, calm and sensible, and able to help with the
*particular situation,* not General Guidelines. I agree with the folk who
recommended getting a second doctor's opinion. -- Mary Carol
Regarding protein for a 1 year old
Our daughter was born prematurely and has always been off the
growth charts, so eating well has always been an issue for me (not her).
We could get her to eat fish, like butterfish, sauted with flavorings
like garlic, soy sauce. Also tofu was eaten if thrown into soups.
At this stage of the game, she is now 4, she will eat meat if soft
enough. So I will cook chicken thighs until very soft, or port tenderloin
which is soft and easy to chew. We don't eat much beef, but sometimes
I will make meatballs and add breadcrumbs to make them soft, or meatloaf
with extra breadcrumbs.
I don't know if this will help, but I know how the eating issue makes
some of us crazy.
Our son had a similar problem where he didn't get enough iron when we stopped
giving him formula. Since the highest concentration of iron is usually meat -
this might also help in increasing the protein intake. Our pediatrician
suggested having a supply of cooked, ground beef and/or pureed spinach then
adding it to every dish we gave to our son. Since he also loved to eat pasta,
crackers or any other starches, we would just put this mixture inside, on-top,
under and all over so that he couldn't separate it. This works very well with
spaghetti sauce which was a favorite. You could also try mashed tofu, pureed
beans. Good luck.
My 2.5 year-old has been pretty picky since he gave up baby food, but one
protein that looks a lot like bread to him is French toast. Good luck.
Thanks to all of your wonderful and helpful suggestions, my little daughter
has gained back 8 oz. since her last checkup and seems well on her way to
gaining more weight. I've used all of your eating ideas and the variety
seems to suit her fine. The support from all of you made me feel better
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