To understand good food options for a a 15 month old, or any age eater, it's important to know what they are developmentally capable of at that age.
A 15 month old:
- Shows an object she likes.
- Copies other children while playing.
- Tries to use things the right way- like a fork or cup.
- She will clap when she's excited.
- Shows affection.
- Can use fingers to feed herself.
When it comes to food, remember this age is all about copying so they'll want to eat what you are eating! I always encourage families to let the child participate in the same meal time whenever possible. There are usually a few items (if not all) that your toddler can safely eat while the rest of the family enjoys them as well. Eating the same food ensures the toddler gets a larger variety of foods. It also makes meal prep easier when you're not scrambling to find alternative foods for the baby.
A 15 months old likely has 1 or 2 foods you know she will eat. I like to offer 1 food I know she likes along with 1 or 2 new foods. That way, I know she will eat something and I don't have to pressure her to eat more. Of course, if there are any weight or growth issues you are working with, it may be a different story for you and you can check with your own healthcare team. But even then, I would recommend the same strategy, you may just be monitoring it differently.
Blueberries are a favorite at our house so they are usually in at least 1 (maybe even 2) meals a day.
Toddler Portion Sizes
Now that we know what to expect developmentally, we also want to look at what an appropriate portion for a toddler would look like. Consider her 2 fists, that's about the size of her stomach. This means, small portions go in every 2 hours or so. Unlike an adult, who would eat more and then go longer than 2 hours, toddlers do well with regularly scheduled meals/snacks.
Sometimes 1-2 tablespoons seems to fill her up and others she will just keep eating! As long as growth is fine- that's normal behavior. Here's a quick guide to 12-24 month portion sizes that you can print to use as a reference!
When making a plate, be careful not to give too many options. That will likely result in the toddler not eating much at all. Two to three options would be ideal, any more, and they tend to get overwhelmed and just throw it on the floor.
Textures are important and you want to be sure you avoid major choking hazards. These are popcorn, corn, uncut cherry or grape tomatoes, hot dogs, uncooked dried vegetables and fruit, and others.
Toddler Meal Ideas
To keep toddlers (or anyone) fuller longer it's a good idea to combine carbs, protein, and fat. So blueberries and cheese or yogurt. To be honest, I provide options and a lot of them end up on the floor!
I pack food each day. Whether or not she actually eats it, I don't know. That's the part of working away from home that is hard for me, but I try not to control what I'm not there for.
- Oatmeal (⅓ cup), 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 2 Tablespoons blueberries (I don't usually measure, just add what looks filling)
- ⅓ of a Perfect Bar, 2 Tablespoons chopped strawberries, ¼ cup greek yogurt
- Sliced bell pepper, ¼ cup hummus, 2 Tablespoons blueberries
What Should My Toddler Drink?
A lot of people worry about not getting enough food in and tend to offer other drinks like Pediasure or Carnation Instant Breakfast. In most cases these are unnecessary and actually make a child more picky and result in them eating less food. There are some instances where they are needed but in my practice experience they make picky eating worse. Please check with your own healthcare team. Think about it this way: It's easier and faster to drink rather than eat so when a child is offered a quick solution like a calorie rich drink, they feel full quickly and then move on to another activity. So, in general, with an overall healthy weight child with no eating (chewing/swallowing) difficulty I would say no to any supplemental drinks.
I recommend only water and some milk, along with breastmilk if still provided. I would wait to offer the drink midway through the meal so the small toddler stomach is not full before starting to eat. I also suggest offering drinks in small 2-4 ounce portions. Water can be readily available to children throughout the day and in most cases doesn't make them too full to eat.
How do I Know When My Toddler is Full?
Typically, when they are full, they will tend to throw food on the floor, turn their head away when offered, lean the head back when food is offered, "windshield wipe" the table (and food), or become fussy. Each child is different so it's important to learn your child's cues. Whenever you feel your child is full, it's important to respect that and not continue to ask them to eat or keep offering food.
They also play with their food and take their sweet time eating, so it definitely takes time to understand what they are doing. Playing with food and textures is a good sign and can help avoid picky eating later on. Usually, the less you pay attention to what they are eating and just let them experiment, they'll eat more on their own. I know it's easier said than done and we don't get it perfectly right every time, but keep trying! It's worth it!
I hope this helps in some way! Of course, if you are unsure about your own child's growth and development you should always check with your healthcare provider.