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Getting Your Toddler Started with Table Foods

Updated on May 5, 2012

Listening to Doc's Warnings

First off, I want to start by saying that I am not a dietician, nutritionist or pediatrician...I'm quite simply the mother of a one year old. As my son has grown, we have struggled to find foods that were both age appropriate and appealing to my little one. Tack on the restricted items list his pediatrician provided and there were even less choices. My son's doctor recommended that he not have nuts of any kind for the first 3 years or so, no citrus until 2 years of age, no spices and only well cooked meats. Also, because they are choking hazards, no hot dogs or grapes either. There were several more restrictions, but these are the few that come to mind immediately. In our efforts to find a balanced diet for our son, we have made every effort to obey his doctor's warnings and restrictions about certain food types. I would recommend that you do the same, even if your doctor's advice varies from mine.

The Big Transition

My son was born almost ten pounds. Needless to say, he has always had a healthy appetite. He is not overfed or overweight, but he has always liked to eat often. As a baby, he consumed full 8oz-10oz bottles of formula, half of which were thickened with oatmeal or rice cereal. Once he began baby food, he took a couple of weeks to get the hang of the whole spoon/swallowing thing and then he was off to the races. Around 9-10 months, he had several teeth and was consistently finishing the largest jars of baby food that I could buy (Gerber Stage 3 baby foods). Because of this, his doctor said he was ready for the next step...table foods!

Over the next several weeks I stopped buying baby food and let him finish off his supply that remained in the pantry. During this transitional period, he also went from soy-based formula to whole milk. There were lots of changes, some of which my son didn't take to.

Not Ready For "Real" Food?

Because of the cost of formula and baby food, my husband and I were excited that our son would soon be eating the same groceries we were. However, after ten months of being on formula, my son refused to drink real milk. After a lot of pleading and trial & error, I finally discovered that if I added applesauce to his whole he would drink it. From there, I began mixing bananas in it to make a sort of smoothie for him.We did this for 2-3 weeks and were getting very pessimistic about whether we were ever going to get my son to drink a plain cup of milk. We were seriously thinking about clipping coupons for toddler formula when he finally decided to start giving his whole milk a try on his own.

As my son's supply of baby foods dwindled down, I began buying him toddler foods (like Gerber Graduates) to send with him to his babysitter's. I soon noticed that these prepared meals were high in sodium. Also, my son wasn't particularly fond of them to start with.

So, What's Next?

After a couple more weeks of not knowing what to feed my son, I realized that we were going to have to play all of his meals by ear. Sometimes he seemed to want jars of baby food, sometimes he wanted to eat the same things we were eating and sometimes we couldn't convince him to eat or drink anything. We were blending fruit in his milk to get him to drink, we bought Ovaltine to mix with his milk, we bought several versions of sippy cups and plates/utensils. We were trying everything...until we realized our son was going to adjust at his own pace.

Once we had this understanding, we provided him with a variety of textures and flavors at every meal. After about a month total, we got our son through the transition and had him eating "real" food. During the precarious transition period some of his meals & beverages were:

  • Oatmeal
  • Rice Cereal mixed with fruit baby foods and whole milk
  • "Milkshakes" (whole milk blended with fresh fruit)
  • Brown Rice
  • Jars of step 2.5 or 3 baby food
  • Gerber Graduates microwaveable foods

Finally...A More Balanced Toddler Diet

Now that my son is pretty much used to heavier foods and different textures, we are able to provide him with a better, balanced diet. Some of the great foods that we are using as he gets used to chewing and eating real foods are:

  • Diced canteloupe
  • Diced honeydew
  • Finely diced apples without the skin
  • Cheese cubes finely sliced
  • Unsweetened apple sauce
  • Fruit cups (no sugar added in natural juices)
  • Raisins (be careful...choking hazard for some)
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Mashed or baked potatoes
  • Pudding cups (in moderation...some have more calcium than a cup of milk)
  • Bland meats such as baked chicken (sometimes with no skin for easy chewing) or fish. Tougher meats/cuts like beef are looked at on case by case basis...must be well done.

Using foods that are easy for him to chew and eat, here some examples of meals that we prepare for him or pack for his day with this babysitter (we use any combination of these for each of his daily meals):


  • Oatmeal sweetened with applesauce instead of sugar
  • Cereal bar or soft granola bar
  • Grits (I live in Alabama, after all)
  • Bland scrambled eggs
  • Cup of fresh fruit
  • Cup of juice (limited to 4 oz. per day)
  • Cup of whole milk


  • Any variety of Gerber Graduate Meals (not every day...lots of sodium in these)
  • Cup of fresh fruit
  • Chicken salad or tuna salad (modified to meet his requirements/restrictions)
  • Box of raisins
  • Cup of plain pudding or Jell-O (used moderately)
  • Cheese cubes
  • Cereal bar


  • Fresh vegetables like soft steamed broccoli, asparagus, green beans, soft beans, okra or potatoes
  • Sweet potato fries (baked, not fried)
  • Grilled/Baked chicken or mild fish (no seafood or shellfish).
  • Rice
  • Cup of Whole Milk
  • Cup of Water

It really doesn't take much to fill my son up since he's been on table food. Since he requires just a little bit of food, we have to make sure what's going in is beneficial to him. We try to limit sugars, sodium and other potentially harmful things. Other than that we try to make sure he gets his daily requirement of milk, fruits/veggies and some lean proteins. Since he is too young for PediaSure and the like, we supplement his diet with liquid vitamins. I am currently using, Enfamil's Tri-Vi-Sol with Iron. He rarely gets a dose and his iron levels, etc are great. Basically, his new diet is providing him with everything that he needs. The one bit of advice I would give new parents is to be patient during'll get easier!


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