My Grain-Free Boys & Tips for Feeding Toddlers

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Connor 1 week old

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Connor 6 months old

I can’t believe my youngest son is 6 months old!  Like every parent says, “Time just flies by!”  He is such a happy baby, and every time I turn around, there seems to be a new “first.” Watching him roll over or discover his toes has been so much fun! Unfortunately, he hasn’t mastered sleeping through the night like his older brother had by this age, but I think I will keep him. ;-)

Today, there is a new first! I have exclusively breastfed my son, and I am so grateful that it has been such a wonderful experience for both of us.  The first 2 weeks were TORTURE, but I knew it would get better, and it did.  Now, I have a happy, and VERY healthy baby boy!  I am so proud of each and every one of his rolls! From his pictures, you can tell he is not going without food, but it is time to expand his palate.  Today, Connor eats his first “real” food.

Even though it is time for food, not just any food will do!  While some mothers would start their baby eating cereal, as you might have guessed, I will be choosing a different path and here’s why I have decided against cereals.

What’s the coventional wisdom for feeding an infant baby cereal??

Some parents think that if they feed their babies cereal, it will help them sleep better at night. Some parents start feeding their little ones cereal because they notice their baby chewing on their fingers, and think they are hungry. Others start introducing cereals because their pediatrician says it’s time.  The simple fact is that baby cereal (and all cereal for that matter) is void of any real nutrition, and can do more harm than good, especially to a baby’s tiny and sensitive tummy. Yes, cereal contains calories, but not the good kind. Cereals are really just a HIGHLY processed sugar and grain, nothing more. I personally think giving cereals to babies is a BAD idea!

Breast milk is the PERFECT food.  50-60% of the calories found in breast milk come from fat, then the remaining calories from protein and carbohydrates  (in the form of lactose).  (Source: Weston A. Price Foundation) (I know everyone doesn’t breast feed and this post is NOT criticizing those moms.)

The quest of formula and baby food makers has been to “TRY” to re-create this perfect food, but who can you trust? Baby cereals hit the market in the 1950′s, and since then, these non-foods have been forced down our throats and into our little one’s stomachs. I trust the people at Gerber to tell me what to feed my son as much as I trust the government to tell me to eat 8-11 servings of grain!  Yeah, I’ll do my own research and make my own decisions.

“All Diseases Begin in the Gut.”- Hippocrates

The more I learn about the gut and how health begins there, the more I am convinced that many of our health problems are linked to poor nutrition. Proper nutrition starts NOW, even at my son’s young age!

“Children who are born with severely damaged gut flora are not only more susceptible to disease; they’re also more susceptible to vaccine damage, which may help explain why some children develop symptoms of autism after receiving one or more childhood vaccinations.

According to Dr. Campbell-McBride, most autistic children are born with perfectly normal brains and sensory organs. The trouble arises when they fail to develop normal gut flora.” ~ Dr. Joseph Mercola 

For more information about the importance of a healthy gut, read HERE or THIS article by Dr. Mercola.

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Hunter ready to eat!

Why no cereal for my babies?

After reading Wheat Belly, I realized that I shouldn’t be eating cereal, even whole grain cereal, so why should I feed it to my boys? These are my personal reasons for not giving my boys cereal.  I am not judging you if you have, but consider researching it just as you would researching the proper nutrition for yourself (which is what you are doing if you are following my blog).

1. Babies can’t digest cereal or grains. Babies’ tummies lack amylase which is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates.  If given grains, especially at a young age, it can cause issues with their gut as well as food allergies. Remember, health starts in the gut, even in a baby’s tiny little tummy!

2. Cereals are mostly carbohydrates with no fat and minuscule amounts of protein.

3. Giving babies empty calories instead of real food takes away from what they should be eating. Contrary to what many will tell you, your baby should be breast-fed (or formula fed) BEFORE eating, NOT after eating. Until they turn one year old, the main source of their nutrients should come from mama or a good formula (Check out THIS link for a great, nutritious homemade formula).  I have also learned “Food before 1 is just for fun.”  I wish I had understood that more with Hunter so I would not have gotten so aggravated when he wouldn’t eat much for the first few months.

4. Most baby foods and cereals are made from GMO ingredients. Unless labeled Organic and non-GMO, I’m pretty certain that most of the food out there is starting to come from laboratories. The more I learn about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the more scared I become!  I won’t let my son be a guinea pig for Monsanto!  Click HERE to learn about how GMOs affect a baby’s health.

5. Studies show that introducing cereals at an early age is linked to type 1 diabetes and obesity. We must teach our children from a very early age how to eat in a way that sustains and prolongs their lives.

6. Cereals can cause constipation. Cereals are fortified with iron and can cause babies tummy issues and constipation.

7. Arsenic in cereal. Certain brands of baby cereals have high levels of arsenic.

There are PLENTY of other REAL foods that a baby can eat for his first foods that are MUCH more nutritious!  I plan on doing more Baby Led Weaning with Connor, which consists of the baby eating what you eat. Sounds good to me! Sounds easy and CHEAP too!  Why buy special food for my 6 month old when I can feed him real food like the rest of the family is eating?

References:  Dr. Joseph Mercola

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What I WILL be feeding my 6 month old

Even though mama’s milk will still be his MAIN source of nutrition, here are some of the other foods he will begin to eat. Just like when introducing any new food to a baby, I will start one at a time. This will help determine if there is an allergy to a specific food.

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Connor and egg yolk! ;-)

My son’s first solid food was a pastured egg yolk. Here is why:

Egg yolk supplies cholesterol needed for mental development as well as important sulphur-containing amino acids. Egg yolks from pasture-fed hens or hens raised on flax meal, fish meal or insects are also rich in the omega-3 long-chain fatty acids found in mother’s milk but which may be lacking in cow’s milk. These fatty acids are essential for the development of the brain. Parents who institute the practice of feeding egg yolk to baby will be rewarded with children who speak and take directions at an early age. The white, which contains difficult-to-digest proteins, should not be given before the age of one year. (SOURCE)

Other first foods will consist of bananas, sweet potato, carrots, squash, cultured yogurt, and meat when he starts to get some teeth. You know…REAL food!  Good health starts in the gut, and I want to be sure my little Connor starts off on the right track.

Feeding my 6 month old is going to be easy compared to feeding my 2-year-old, but here are some tricks I have learned this past year dealing with a “moody” toddler.

What I feed my 2-year-old

Some people think that kids can’t be kids if they can’t have Cheerios, cotton candy, and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!  I personally was raised on PB&J and Kool-Aid! ;-) I loved veggies and fruit. Well, I loved EVERY food, but I was also overweight.  I want to instill in my boys better eating habits than I had growing up.

For the record, I am one of those moms who does not give my children juice, even diluted. My 2-year-old LOVES water because that is all he has ever had.  Commercially bought juice is nothing more than glorified sugar-water. What nutrition was in the juice no longer exists after processing (read HERE for more information). I also don’t let him have candy or other sugar sweetened foods. There have been few exceptions, but that is my general rule! Candy, juice, and sugar laden foods may make children “happy” for a moment, but at what cost? Keeping the extra sugar out of my 2 year old’s diet is crucial.  I don’t want to see him bounce off the walls… or crash.. he doesn’t need ANY help in that department!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8ezchj4wO8&w=420&h=315]

Watch this video. It makes me emotional watching these poor kids “act out” because of all the sugar they have eaten.

My rule is when Hunter is with me, I will give him the best foods possible.  In my mind, this will balance out other external factors that I will not always be able to control, but at this point in his life, I determine 99% of the food that he eats.  Luckily, he LOVES real food and my grain-free and sugar-free treats. He doesn’t know the difference.   I love watching him eat a PB&J on my grain-free bread… this is one of OUR favorites!

Feeding 2-year-olds can be a challenge, end of discussion!  They just seem too busy to eat! Here are a few of my “tricks” that I have learned when feeding my moody toddler.

Start the day off with a good Breakfast…

I have learned (through trial and error) to have breakfast ready first thing in the morning. Our breakfasts typically consist of eggs, Breakfast Sausage Balls, Egg Muffins, or grain-free waffles (I use the Easy Waffle Mix recipe in the cookbook), followed by fruit.  If I wait to feed him, he will want something to snack on, and then when breakfast is ready, he is not hungry. It’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t feed my 2-year-old cereal either. A breakfast of cereal or grains will only cause MORE hunger due to all the sugar and the lack of fats and protein.  Without the proper nutrition for breakfast, kids will stay hungry ALL DAY!

Be Sneaky…

hunter drinking

I am a sneaky mom!  He doesn’t even know it, but I have hidden healthy and nutritious foods  in his “diet.”  Things such as gelatin (ALWAYS from grass-fed cows), Virgin Coconut oil, and Greek Yogurt with probiotics usually make it into one of my shakes, and he thinks he is drinking a Milk Shake! Everyone is happy! ;-)

Veggies in meatloaf or meatballs are another way to get more variety into your toddler.   Sometimes my son doesn’t want to eat his meat.  If I make it into the shape of a ball, he thinks it is fun and takes a bite. It works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t! ;-( I do give him mustard and sometimes ketchup for him to “dip” his meat in. We say “dip” and “eat.” This seems to work SOMETIMES. (None of these tricks are fool-proof. If you have any fool-proof ones, PLEASE let me know!)

Make food taste GOOD…

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Lots of parent shy away from seasonings when feeding smaller children. Salt and spice go a LONG way!  Taste their food. If it tastes REALLY good to you, it will taste good to them.  I don’t recommend using lots of red pepper flakes, but a little will definitely enhance the flavors in some dishes.

Also, consider remaking some of their favorite “junk” foods. If they love cookies, make them COOKIES!

Make food FUN…

Kids LOVE bright colors and different shaped foods.  I make my son waffles using a heart-shaped waffle maker and he LOVES it.  Try these cute plates to make eating more fun!

Get them in the kitchen…

I have found that Hunter ALWAYS wants what I have. LOL. If I am cutting up squash, he wants some. If he sees me juicing a lemon, he wants to try it.  If he sees an avocado or tomato out, he wants to eat it.  I let him sit at the island/bar and watch me cook.  Because of his age, that doesn’t last long because he is wanting to reach for knives or pour out my cinnamon.  (Yeah, I have my hands full creating recipes!) I can’t wait until his attention span is a little longer so I can give him certain jobs he can do in the kitchen to help mama out. Do your children help you cook?

How to handle the picky or “moody” child

For the longest time I used to say Hunter was being a picky eater but that was not true.  He would eat a food one day and then the next, he would violently refuse it! It drove me crazy!  Now I call him my moody eater.  Here are some things I have learned along the way to help with this MOODY, 2-year-old behavior when it comes to meal time!

Don’t create a grazer…

Most kids want to graze all day. If you let them, they will. I have found that my 2-year-old wants to snack less if I fill him up at meal times, and he wants to eat better at meal times if I don’t fill him up on snacks. Makes sense.

Start with Fats & Proteins…

Some mothers complain that their children are hungry ALL THE TIME! When I ask what types of foods are they eating, the answers are usually things like oatmeal or cereal bars. Foods loaded with sugar which gives their children NO sustaining energy!  Protein is always the FIRST food I give to my son at every meal. If I show him the cooked carrots or sweet potatoes, he will go for that first. So basically he eats meat, then I give him veggies, and then sometimes fruit, in that order. If the order is mixed up or if I put it all on his plate at once, he eats the veggies and fruit and doesn’t want to eat his meat. The meat is so important because it is loaded with protein and fat that will give him lasting energy. Every meal is not a win. He will sometimes take a bite of meat and then refuse the next.  That’s ok. I give him time and keep offering it to him. If I jump to a veggie or something sweet, he would never eat his meat and the vicious hungry cycle starts!

Get the Junk out…

If you have junk food in the house, they know and they will want it!  Just get rid of it.  If you want to give your kids treats, there are so many healthy recipes out there and TONS on my blog and in my cookbook. No need for artificial colors, sugar, or preservatives found in most “treats”! Don’t even try to hide it because they know where it is!  There are so many studies supporting the link between ADD/ADHD or behavioral problems in relationship to food dyes and preservatives. I am dealing with a troublesome 2-year-old already, he doesn’t need any help with increasing his moody behavior! ;-)

Keep Healthy Snacks…

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I really like Honeyville’s freeze-dried fruits, especially when traveling. A real banana is not something you want to find smushed in your child’s hands or on his car seat! Freeze dried fruits are great substitutes for the little puff cereals which are loaded with wheat and sugar.

My son also snacks on whole foods like carrots (which he loves), as well as apples, a few nuts, other raw veggies (he loves squash), and whatever I am cooking for the day.  I also feed him cheese which he loves. He would eat it all day if I let him, but I don’t.

He also likes beef jerky, which he calls “Bacum.”  THIS is a great brand.

Kid-Friendly Recipes

Any recipe can be a kid-friendly one. You don’t have to dumb down food to get kids to eat it.  But if you are trying to transition your child to eating healthier foods, here are some recipes I am sure your children will love!  Don’t feel that you must always give your children a chicken nugget or fries to get them to eat. Feed them REAL food!

kid friendly pics

“Corn” DogsMeatballsSausage BallsPot PieShakesMac & Cheese, Pizza, New-tella, Candied Apples, Fudge Pops, Watermelon Pops or Jello. There are dozens of other recipes for healthy cookies, cupcakes and even ice cream!

I’m not an expert, just a Mom

Want to hear what other moms think about feeding their babies and toddlers?? Check out these great articles and tips from other like-minded Moms:

The Paleo Mama and Baby Lead Weaning the Paleo Way

Food Renegade and Why Ditch the Infant Cereals

The Paleo Parents and Feeding the Picky Cavekid

The Paleo Mama and 40 Days of Gluten-free Lunches

Also check out THIS Facebook page for more healthy lunch ideas for busy moms.

Final thoughts…

  1. If your children are used to fast or junk food, at least find a healthier alternative.  Getting the artificial colors, MSG, and preservatives out of your child’s diet is SO important!
  2. Offer new foods, don’t assume they hate a certain food even though they wouldn’t eat it a month ago. Keep reintroducing new foods.
  3. Never say that a food taste bad (and don’t let others tell them either).
  4. Just because you don’t like a certain food, doesn’t mean your children won’t love it!
  5. Let them see you eating healthy foods, set an a good example.
  6. Plan, Plan, PLAN! Try to bring healthy snacks when going out.

I don’t have all the answers. With babies and kids, it seems to be trial and error, but these tips have helped me in the past few months of feeding my boys. I hope they are helpful to you, too. Leave a comment, and let me know what works for you!

about the authorHave you enjoyed this blog post?? I hope so!  If you love my site and have enjoyed all of my recipes and content, please consider supporting me through my affiliate links. This is at NO cost to you.  I simply receive a VERY small commission on purchases made through links on my site or by using THIS link through Amazon. Thanks so much for your continued support!

 Also be sure to check out my two cookbooks, Satisfying Eats & Comforting Eats, NOW available in eBook format through Amazon the spiral bound versions are available here on by blog.

Happy Cookin’!

Melissa 

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9 thoughts on “My Grain-Free Boys & Tips for Feeding Toddlers

  1. Thank you for this post! I have a picky 2-year-old too. Getting her to eat is an ordeal. Those sausage balls sound like a good idea. I’m going to give those a try because I hate to give her eggs every day. (Although I’m happy to say that scrambled egg is one food she will eat.) :-)

  2. So glad I found your website! I love all of your recipes and tips for feeding toddlers, etc. Grain-free is super important to me and your site really answered a lot of my questions and also makes it really easy to plan and prepare grain-free meals! I also love your snack recipes, as I’m struggling right now with a 3 year old girl who ONLY wants to eat snacks! Thank you so much for doing all of this research and for sharing :)

  3. Pingback: Grain free for infants and toddlers

  4. Seems like You were reading my mind!!! I don’t even have children yet, but a thought of decisions that will have to be taken once they are born was in my head for last few months. We both are wheat free, try to avoid grains in general, but living in Italy, the land of pasta and pizza and meals with families, it is really hard. Then when it comes to children and their being around other people ALWAYS eating wheat is seems almost impossible to “save” them from it. Your post gave me an idea about how it can be arranged and I surely will follow the blog. Thank You so much!

  5. I cook at the weekends for myself and grandma. I make enough for us for 2 meals and the balance makes a meal for the triplet 2 year olds. They love grandads mild chilli, quinoa with ground beef, onions and tomatoes, even a mild pork and cauliflower curry. This week it is ground beef and zucchini casserole.

  6. Melissa, I can’t thank you enough for having your website up. I was researching an issuing that I was having with my 11 month old son and came across your sight. So, 2 weeks ago I took your suggestions and ran with it. I literally wiped out my pantry and fridge of any “baby junk food” and went completely organic (fruit & veggies) along with going sugar and grain free, the freeze dried fruit is a brilliant idea. Within 3 days my baby boy not only stopped his temper tantrums, he started having regular bowel movements and he is such a happy baby now. I was literally ripping out my hair by the handful, due to his non stop whining and screaming. God bless you for sharing your story and recipes, you have not only saved my husband and I’s nerves, but you have given me a new baby boy. For anyone out there having the same type of problem with your little one, you must try this, I promise you this works.

    Thank you so much
    Cheryl

    • Thank you so much Cheryl! WOW, what a transformation! Yes, food affects our mood so we must realize it affects our children’s moods! It saddens me to think of all the kids out there put on medication when the first issue that should be addressed it their nutrition. Keep up the good work mama! Thank you so much for sharing and keep me posted!

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