How to feed your toddler during growth spurts

Jennifer Pinarski’s daughter has hit a growth spurt — and she needs tips on how to satisfy her hunger.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences about giving up her big city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband, while staying home to raise their two young children.

On Tuesday morning, I went grocery shopping. By Wednesday afternoon, my fridge and cupboards already looked bare. My three-year-old daughter seems to be going through a growth spurt — no amount of fruit or vegetables fill her up. By noon on Wednesday, she had eaten half a mini-watermelon, an apple, a pomegranate, a breakfast smoothie, homemade granola and yogurt, homemade mac and cheese, sliced vegetables, a glass of milk and two glasses of water. As we were washing up the lunch dishes, she was wondering what was for supper.

I’m lucky in that she has always been a good eater — not picky, enjoys a variety of foods and I never have to worry about “hiding” vegetables inside smoothies or casseroles. She also has always been an all-day grazer which, depending on your view of eating habits, is either awful or awesome. But I have to admit, I was frustrated on Wednesday when she simply would not stop eating.

I checked in with a few friends for their advice on how to tame my daughter’s hunger beast. Here’s what they had to say:

● Have snacks on-hand and a stocked fridge. By the time my first son was three I had cleared part of the bottom shelf of our fridge. There were always drinks ready and small snacks prepared (yogurt, sliced veggies/fruit). That way, I didn’t always have to stop and dig things out — he could do that himself. He felt great that he could “feed” himself and I liked I didn’t have to always stop to feed him. — Michelle B. via Facebook
● My youngest is my grazer. I also have snacks ready to go (homemade granola bars, whole wheat fruit scones, fruit, cheese). One of my guilty secrets is I that leave her sister’s leftover breakfast out and she often eats that over the course of the morning. Not cereal, but toast or oatmeal for sure. — Cara Y. via Facebook
● Meat! The protein will fill her up. And I guess we’re the opposite of you — we don’t allow our kids to graze — because we eat three big meals a day and always have! — Angie J. via Facebook
● Go with it. She’ll be eating two nutritional snacks a day while at school, so if it works for her, and doesn’t drive you batty, let her graze. — Allison K. via Facebook

Indeed, once I stepped back and thought about the types of food I have ready for snacking — fruits, vegetables and yogurt — none of them had the nutritional heft of protein or healthy fats. Fixated on fruits and vegetables, I’d developed tunnel vision and overlooked other snacks and breakfast options. As a habit, we serve our protein at dinner.

Read more: Protein-rich vegetarian recipes kids will love >

Luckily, I have really smart friends, who shared their favourite (and easy) protein-packed snack and breakfast ideas:

● I make homemade egg muffins. The egg, ham, and cheese are a good sources of protein and it’s a warm, hearty breakfast. To make it super fast I prepare six scrambled egg circles in a silicon jumbo muffin “pan” in advance. Then I just pop one in the microwave while the English muffins are toasting. — Kelly W. via Facebook
● Turkey pepperoni, cheese cubes, hard boiled eggs, nuts if you can have them, quinoa, chicken salad, ham wrapped around cheese strings, cream cheese and crackers. — Danielle G. via Facebook
● We have a black bean and spinach omelette every morning for breakfast — holds you through until lunch! Beans are a great source of protein if your kids like them! — Angie J. via Facebook

Armed with new snack ideas and an alarm clock set earlier to allow time for scrambled eggs, the heartier breakfasts and snacks have helped reduce the number of times a day my daughter hits the fridge.

What are your favourite on-the-go protein-rich snacks? Tweet me @jenpinarski. 

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