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Intuitive Eating With a Toddler

I feel like my version of the 10 principles of intuitive eating is constantly changing.

And as I tell clients, I think that’s normal. There’s no one “right “way to do intuitive eating – it kind of changes as we do. Intuitive eating is flexible and adaptable.

What Does Intuitive Eating with a Toddler Look Like?

If it weren’t, it would be rigid and black and white. It would be very difficult to adjust to different lifestyles and environments.

Which is why I’m so grateful that I found and teach intuitive eating, because it allows so much more flexibility and freedom when it comes to food choices and transitions in life.

I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to be following a certain caloric or macronutrient distribution as a mom.

My number one focus is on my daughter, and I often have a million other things going through my head (like work projects, cleaning, etc). Feeding myself isn’t a top priority right now so flexibility is key.

When I say it’s not a top priority, I mean taking the time and energy to cook meals and think about each thing I”m putting into my mouth.

I have to find an easier, more efficient (and enjoyable) way to do things. 

Cinnamon bun and iced coffee on a ledge outside

I think what’s most important in intuitive eating with kids is making sure you do have quick options on hand (more on that below). To do so, I have to make sure I’m buying food that I want to eat to have AVAILABLE.

I can’t always “eat a brownie in the moment I want a brownie” with a toddler running around (although having this brownie mix on hand certainly helps). But, if I have ready to eat snacks ready, I’m much more likely to eat consistently and eat enough.

We all know if we’re not fueling ourselves enough, our performance will suffer as a mom, partner, worker, etc. 

Banana and 88 Acres bar for a snack

Is it Okay If You’re Not Always Mindful?

All of my eating is not mindful at this stage in life (nor should it be), and that’s okay. However, I do try to eat without distractions when I can (like when Camryn is napping), or when I am eating meals with her. 13 months is a really fun stage and she is eating so much more now than she used to. 

I do think that the enjoyment of food is an important part of life (and something I want Camryn to witness and experience) so we do try to be mindful.

I like to describe the taste, colors and textures of what I’m serving her.

Sometimes I’ll say “mmmm” when I taste something good and she will mimic it.

When we’re eating together, Ed and I also try to reduce screens (no phones) at the dinner table (although I do take mine out to take pictures, though I want to do that less) because we want the focus to be on Camryn and the experience of eating food. 

Baby in Highchair eating asparagus

As I became more experienced as a mom and with toddlers and intuitive eating, I wrote this post on intuitive eating for kids.

Eating Patterns

Snacking is very important (always) because it helps me from getting to a 0 or 1 on the intuitive eating hunger scale.

Lately, I’ve been really into the 88 Acres Sea Salt Bars and no bake vegan protein bites (because I have endless amounts of oats and they’re ready like super fast). 

No Bake Peanut Butter Cherry Bites on cooling rack

Right now, we eat dinner on the earlier side because Camryn goes to bed between 6:30 and 7:15. So, we’ll eat around 5:30 and do a bath and then bed routine.

I’m not always “meal hungry” at 5:30 but I’ll snack with Camryn so we can all “eat together.”

So, sometimes being intuitive looks like “two” dinners or multiple snacks. An appetizer at 5:30, a larger meal at 7-7:30ish, and a dessert around 8:30/9 before bed.

That’s just the way my hunger signals are right now and while I don’t think it’s the most convenient eating schedule, it’s working just fine right now. 

There are no rules that say you “have” to eat dinner at 7:00 or 7:30, or even all at once. Remember, embracing flexibility during times of change, transition, or even making sacrifices to ensure social aspects of eating is important. 

We’ve been making lots of casseroles and my veggie pasta bake, just things that can last a few days so we’re not cooking each day and night.

This is a breakfast I had with a neighbor (Kodiak Cakes + an enchilada mexican casserole – recipe coming soon). It was great because it lasted a few meals! These have also been great and easy to eat between packing spurts. 

Kodiak Cakes and Enchilada Bake on kitchen counter

Another easy way I’m making sure I’m eating is by doing a lot of smoothie bowls! Since it’s getting warmer, sometimes smoothie bowls sound good and are easy snacks, like this strawberry banana smoothie bowl.

I love using protein powder for convenience reasons and to make sure I’m getting enough protein to support muscle maintenance, breastfeeding and satiety!

Protein for running is a big topic and garners high needs.

Purple smoothie bowl with granola and spoonful of peanut butter

Buying easy, “convenience” foods are also part of intuitive eating right now.

Like rotisserie chicken, chicken salad, frozen vegetables (always a staple), pre-chopped veggies (like butternut squash), string cheese and single-serving yogurts are helping. 

Chicken salad sandwich with grapes and arugula on paper plate

And eating out when we want to or have to is another way to make eating easy and fun. We love taking Camryn to new places, plus it saves us the pressure and time of putting together a meal and cleaning up (cleaning up after a toddler who throws food is no joke)!

This was Camryn’s first (cooked) sushi roll. 

baby eating sushi out at a restaurant

Most importantly, we’re eating consistently and enjoying the food. 

What questions do you guys have about intuitive eating? I’m planning a Q&A post!

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