Nutritionist Moms Reveal What They Feed Their Babies & Toddlers

Jacqueline Burt Cote | Jun 20, 2017 Baby

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It doesn't take a degree in nutrition to plan healthy and delicious meals for your little one. Still, a little advice from the pros can't hurt -- especially when the experts in question happen to be moms themselves. They know firsthand that kids can be unpredictable eaters at best! With that in mind, we asked several professional nutritionists, who happen to also be moms, what they feed their children in IRL ... and their answers might surprise you! 

More from CafeMom: 8 Delicious Kid Meals Created By Moms (Who Are Also Nutritionists)

From unexpected flavors to classic kid faves, here are some expert-approved -- and tested! -- ideas to try with your own family.

More from CafeMom: 10 Superfoods Parents Should be Feeding Their Babies

There's something for everyone here: The meat lover, the "dipper", the kid who only eats pasta, and more. Take a few hints from these nutritionist moms, and serve your baby or toddler some super-healthy meals they'll want to gobble up.

  • Salmon & Peas

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    "When a baby is ready, I feel it's so important to give them a variety of nutrients, so they're used to trying new things," says Sara Doll, mother-of-three and fitness nutrition specialist for Gluten Free Daily.

    "Broiled salmon and peas are great for babies just starting to feed themselves," she adds. Not only is this dish easy to chew (when chopped into fine bits), but the combination provides healthy fats, fiber, and protein!

  • Brussels Sprouts

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    "I don't get caught in the trap of only feeding [babies] 'baby-friendly' food," says Sarah Bester, family nutritionist and educator.

    "There is no such thing! If I'm eating it, she can eat it -- which includes things like Brussels sprouts, olives, and even sauerkraut. It's really important to work on expanding a child's palette in the early stages of feeding so that they will accept a wider variety of food later on."

  • Superfood Smoothie

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    Rebecca Cafiero, a certified holistic health and integrative nutritionist, starts her little one's day with a sneaky smoothie.

    "I use a non-GMO, soy-free, gluten-free superfood smoothie that has healthy fats, proteins, and very little sugar, and packs about three to five servings of fruits and vegetables in it, as well as pea and hemp protein," she says.

    "I started my little on it with a few sips when he was about 9 months old, and now at 16 months, he gets two small servings a day (one as part of his breakfast, one as an afternoon snack)."

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  • Tomato Sauce

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    Even nutritionists can have a tough time getting their kids to eat veggies, like Gisela Bouvier, MBA, RDN, LDN, whose toddler daughter is not a fan.

    "Unfortunately, vegetables are currently a difficult task," says Bouvier.

    "As her mother and dietitian, this was very concerning to me. Although I continue to introduce vegetables to her, hoping that she will eat them again, I find ways to hide them as well to ensure she gets the nutrients she needs. Smoothies and pasta sauces have been the greatest hits."

  • Protein Muffins

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    To round out her toddler's morning meal, Cafiero makes homemade protein muffins using almond butter, gluten-free oats, coconut oil, and flax seed.

    "Though our breakfast each morning is a superfood shake, I need something else to entice the little guy to stay in his high chair while I do dishes or for after-nap snacks. These muffins are simple to make, simple to eat, and packed with nutrition!"

    Find the recipe here.

  • Butternut Squash

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    "When introducing solids for the first time, I've always stuck with neutral vegetables like butternut squash or carrots," says Doll.

    "I would introduce a new solid every few days so I can see how the baby's body reacts to each item. If the baby does have a reaction, I'll know to stay away from the food I just introduced."

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  • Beets

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    Diana K. Rice, RD ("The Baby Steps Dietitian"), discovered that sometimes kids will eat things we won't even touch.

    "I'll admit that even though I'm a veggie-loving adult, I'm not a huge fan of beets," she says.

    "But I picked up one of those packages of pre-cooked beets when my baby first started solids, and she loved them right away. She has even had toddler meltdowns because she wanted beets and I didn't have any!"

  • Yogurt & Berries

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    "For a great protein-filled snack, try unsweetened Greek yogurt mixed with mashed berries and cinnamon," suggests Doll.

    "This is a great way to get healthy fats and protein into them without added salt or sugar. Babies don't have a taste for those, and introducing them too early might cause them to develop that taste and craving."

  • Onion

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    "I've also never held back from feeding my daughter something because it's 'not a baby food,'" says Rice.

    "For example, shortly after she learned to walk at age 1, she tottered up to me while I was chopping onions and made the sign language sign for 'more.' I offered her a small sliver of onion and she loved it, asking for more right away! Now at age 2, when we cook together she'll take a big bite out of a whole onion!"

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  • Ground Beef

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    "For lunch, grass-fed ground beef cooked in olive oil and mixed with some brown rice and avocado is a great combination," says Doll.

    This combo of protein and good fats will definitely keep your little one full! 

  • Probiotics in Water

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    "Once they can start drinking water (after 6 months), I like to add a small amount of probiotics to the water for immune support," says Cafiero. "Avoid anything with artificial colorings, dyes, or added sugars."

    Probiotics can aid digestion and boost the immune system by promoting the growth of "good" bacteria in the body.

  • Chia Jam on Toast

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    Looking for a healthy, nut-free version of a PB&J?

    "If your child is wanting a sandwich, try a bit of fruit-sweetened chia seed jam on gluten free bread," says Doll.

    Chia seeds are high in fiber and protein!

  • Hummus

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    "My girls struggle with eating vegetables, so we rely on dips like hummus, guacamole, and even ranch and ketchup to encourage them to eat more veggies," says Holley Grainger, RD and mother of two girls.

    "With dips, they'll eat carrots, cucumbers, butter lettuce, canned green beans, and broccoli. Without ... you can never be too sure!" 

  • Garlic

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    Don't be afraid of food with strong flavors, like garlic! "Once my babies were able to eat combinations of food and I found what their bodies could tolerate, I started getting creative with different flavors by adding things such as cinnamon, garlic, and lemon to their meals," says Cafiero.

  • Hot Sauce on Eggs

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    "Never assume your child won't like something," says Bester.

    "Give them the opportunity to decide! True story from my house: Recently I was putting some hot sauce on my eggs and my daughter asked to try some. Instead of acting surprised, I put a tiny drop on her eggs. She gobbled it up and asked for more -- and now always asks for a ton of hot sauce on everything!"

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