Leaning in to Toddlerhood: A Lesson in Nutrition Balance, Moderation and Absolute Patience
Julie Canseco

 

Julie Canseco is mom to 1-year-old Amelia. Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Julie was no stranger to southern comfort foods—especially fast foods, being the youngest of five siblings with both parents working full time. She went on to LSU and Tulane in pursuit of her dietetics career. In 2014 Julie became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and began her career working in the community at a local family practice in Metairie, and then went on to work for Ochsner’s Eat Fit NOLA program. A few years down the road, she took a leap and started her own franchise business with her husband, brother, a few founding team members—and Main Squeeze Juice Co Franchise was born! Julie now serves as the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Chief Operating Officer for the company, with 25 locations across the Southeast. New to motherhood, in the middle of the pandemic, and still running a business was a true test to her multitasking abilities. While the newborn days were sleep-deprived, the toddler days have her just as busy! Something as simple as packing her daughter's lunch has been a learning curve for her, and she wanted to share her experience with other parents out there!

 

Feeding our toddlers feels like an Olympic sport some days. And as much as I would like her to be, my daughter Amelia isn’t the most adventurous eater, which makes it really difficult to plan her lunches while not feeling like I’m serving her the exact. same. thing. every day.*
(*guilty as charged)

There is no perfect formula for a toddler meal, but I shoot to incorporate a variety of food groups in each meal (protein, carbs and fats). Most days, I focus on things that are quick for me but still dense in nutrition for my daughter. I also strive to add the “new” foods and textures at breakfast or dinner, so I’m not wondering all day if she ate the lunch I spent hours planning and preparing. 

A few of my personal go-to lunch ingredients include:

  • Fruit, fruit and more fruit. This is the one thing I know Amelia will eat, so I really try to include it at every meal. Fresh, freeze dried and canned (in 100% juice) are all great choices and can change up the textures for your child. Fruit pouches are also a favorite, and we’ve recently discovered That’s It. fruit bars, and she loves them!

  • I also like the Once Upon a Farm smoothie pouches. We purchase these specifically because they are dairy-free, but StonyField has some great options, too. They provide our little ones with lots of calcium and extra servings of fruits and veggies. I love to give Amelia yogurt at home, but I feel guilty sending it to school knowing she prefers to eat it with her hands…

  • Banza chickpea-based pastas and mac n cheese are my favorite! Chickpea pasta is full of hidden protein; my toddler has an obsession with carbs (like her mama ;). However, some days are just… well, Annie’s easy mac days. Amelia has not complained once though! *A tip: Sometimes I’ll add savory veggie pouches to the mix. It exposes her to flavors and nutrients but in something (mac n cheese) that I know she loves and will eat.

  • Egg bites! You can make these yourself in muffin tins; Pinterest has an incredible amount of recipes available that you can make in bulk and freeze for later. If you’re pressed for time, there are great options at Target called Veggies Made Great. We love their superfood veggie bites!

  • Oatmeal bites are an easy, homemade and repurposed option I utilize. We have oatmeal for breakfast, and I’ll make extra each time, rolling the leftovers into little “bites” to pack in her lunch throughout the week. I love to layer in sunflower seed butter, chia seeds, flax seeds and coconut flakes to boost the nutritional value. 

For pre-packaged foods, always compare options for the lowest sodium and added-sugar levels. It’s never perfect, but it’s always about moderation. Some of the brands I use in Amelia’s lunch include:

  • Dr. Praeger’s fish bites, sweet potato bites or kale bites

  • Earth’s Best chicken nuggets and meatballs

  • Triscuits —thin crisps or simply sea salt

  • Flapjack protein blueberry muffin (mix) 

A few snacks I’ve found include:

  • Lesser Evil Lil Puffs: I love these because they’re made with a cassava flour base and are low in sodium.

  • Cerebelly bars: These are nut-free with no added sugar.

  • Paw Patrol-themed cheese sticks can also be found at Target, and whose kid doesn’t like Paw Patrol?

I just started ordering Little Spoon meals for her (an online individually-packaged meal service like Freshly for adults), and the jury is still out, but it’s definitely something I’m very excited about! There are other similar companies you can try: Nurture Life, Yumi, and Babyganics.

I’m working with my daughter’s preferences—but also my schedule. My husband and I work full time, and, at the end of the day, I know that the majority of what Amelia is eating is wholesome and healthy for her development, no matter whether I rushed to put it together that morning. 

As a nutrition professional, I still feed my kid Easy Mac if I have nothing else—and that’s okay. It’s not all or nothing. Our kids learn and grow through every experience, so it’s important to instill in them a mentality that food is not just good or bad; it’s fuel to help them grow big and strong!

 

 

  • Early Childhood
  • Parent Voice