Feeding a Toddler During a Growth Spurt


Kat has the most dramatic growth spurts I have ever seen.

I didn’t have big growth spurts, exemplified by periods of eating like a horse and sleeping long hours, until I was a pre-teen and a teen. I remember the summer I was twelve, being so hungry at my Grandma’s farm, that I could literally eat two hamburger patties, a pile of mashed potatoes and beef gravy, FIVE ears of corn, a passel of tomato slices and two helpings of green beans, plus a piece of cake or pie or a cookie for dessert. For lunch.

And nearly as much at dinner, and certainly that much at breakfast.

Sure, I was running around like a mad creature, playing basketball, chasing dogs, swimming in the pond, climbing trees, racing through the woods, not to mention hoeing garden rows, feeding cows and chickens, helping build pole bean trellises, staking tomatoes and other assorted chores. I know I burned a lot of those calories, but I also slept a lot, and I remember my long bones–the ones in my arms and legs–aching. If I wasn’t moving, I would fall asleep.

I remember Mom taking me to the doctor, and he just laughed and showed her how much taller I had become since my last checkup, and he asked if my arms and legs hurt and he said, “She’s grown three and a half inches in height in a few months, Mrs. Fisher. No wonder she eats so much and sleeps a lot. Growing happens when a child sleeps. Stop worrying about her.”

When I was little, even though I always had a good appetite, my growth was much less dramatic and slower.

Morganna was the same way–she didn’t do dramatic growth spurts until she was a teenager. Then, she started shooting up in height, and put on muscle. And she ate and slept a lot, just like I did.

Not so Kat. She is growing almost so fast you can see it happen before your eyes.

I guess it is because she was a preemie–her body is working hard to catch up with itself.

But, you know how everyone says that toddlers barely eat anything and yet still buzz around like little hummingbirds?

Not so Kat.

She can eat six silver-dollar sized waffles with real maple syrup and blueberries at a sitting. With a whole adult-sized piece of bacon.

And then she tucks into dehydrated strawberries. She can eat a whole apple at a sitting, and not a little one, either. A nice handful-sized one.

Her favorite lunch is either refried beans or black beans and rice or the ever-beloved “Cheesy Rice” which is a casserole of fresh broccoli florets and tiny stalks, chopped fine, jasmine rice and a heavy cheese sauce with gouda, sharp cheddar, havarti and Parmesan flavored with garlic, mild chilies, a bit of mustard, chives, shallots and tarragon. She can eat an inordinate amount of that stuff–which is fine–it is delicious and good for her, filled with dairy protein, and since she doesn’t drink cow milk, it is great for her.

For dinner, she usually eats what we do, and her favorites are stir fried Chicken with Bacon and Bok choy–or any kind of stir-fried chicken for that matter, so long as there is plenty of jasmine rice involved. And carrots and snow peas–she has decided she loves those. Peas are especially good in Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas. That is a favorite. Or chicken curry. Or Singapore rice noodles with chicken. Or ham. Or quesadillas with refrieds, shredded pork and cilantro–she loves cilantro. And scrambled eggs with cheese–all of these are big favorites for dinner time.

She also likes fried catfish or fried chicken, but we don’t have those too often. Homemade macaroni and cheese is beloved. Spaghetti is a classic that she cannot help but love, no matter how it is sauced

When she is growing, her hunger becomes urgent and her mood will spiral down into a tantrum quickly if her stomach suddenly becomes empty. I try to avoid this by having bits of bread, shreds of raw carrot, diced apple or dehydrated strawberries around to keep her snacked up so she doesn’t suddenly freak out for lack of food.

And then she eats a substantial snack before bed. Often a scrambled egg with herbs and cheese–a lazy Mom’s omelet, in other words, or a bowl of MiniWheats with milk–this is the only context in which she will drink milk–with cereal in a bowl. Sometimes she will have a bit of peanut butter with bread or a grilled cheese sandwich. Matzo ball soup with chicken is also highly favored.

And she is not a chubby kid at all–if anything, she is quite slender.

Now, I will say, we can always tell when the growth spurt stops, because she will go back to eating like a regular toddler. She will become pickier, and will eat only a small amount, though her mood is still quite dependent on how much she eats and when.

I can’t wait until spring and summer come–because then we can go back to feeding her fresh local strawberries and blueberries–two of her favorites from last summer. And fresh corn on the cob–she loves that, though last year she ate it raw! And cherry tomatoes–she loves those, too–I can’t wait!

I feel blessed that I have a little girl who eats such a wide variety of foods–it makes it easier to be certain that she is getting a wide variety of nutrients.

The one food group she doesn’t eat much of is fish–so she gets supplements of cod liver oil that is certified to be free of mercury, and is refined to remove the fishy taste. It has been infused with orange oil, so I put it in her orange juice in the mornings. The omega-3 fatty acids in this supplement are essential for brain development, about which I will write more later.

I am just amazed at how fun it is to feed this little creature. Her higher nutritional needs reminds me to eat, too–I am still losing weight, but I find that my mood is much better when I do eat regularly. Kat reminds me to eat at decent intervals and to eat nutritious foods. I have to be a good example for her, after all.

But lest you think that it is all healthy food around here, I have to tell you that Kat and I like to share chocolate ice cream, a shortbread cookie or two and kettle cooked potato chips or fresh tortilla chips from time to time, too.

I don’t want her to fetishize “junk” foods because they are forbidden. I want her to learn to eat all foods in moderation, and to not over-value foods if she is denied them.

I guess my method of toddler feeding is all about balance–and I think that is a good thing.


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  1. I would love the recipe for cheesy rice–it sounds delicious.

    Comment by Natasha — March 13, 2009 #

  2. Natasha–I am going to be writing a post about cheesy rice next week. As well as a broccoli cheese soup recipe, a vegetarian skillet pasta recipe and another fabulous curry. And a post about food in the news and suchlike as all that.

    Comment by Barbara — March 13, 2009 #

  3. I made the chicken and bacon with bok choi this week… it’s the first time I’ve ever successfully made a Chinese-style dish! Even Charles liked it, and he isn’t much into unfamiliar vegetables.

    Comment by Lucy — March 13, 2009 #

  4. Excellent, Lucy! Now maybe you will have the confidence to try other Chinese recipes–there are certainly plenty of them here for you to try!

    Comment by Barbara — March 13, 2009 #

  5. I wish my rail-thin toddler would eat solids during a growth spurt. Instead, I spent today with a solidly attached boob barnacle. I love nursing him, of course, but it would be nice to have something else share the duty. He’ll eat a wide variety of foods, but our household food allergies limit the spread.

    Comment by Jocelyn — March 13, 2009 #

  6. My two teenagers eat like this and my Tween has days he can gorge himself also. I like your comments on eating balanced meals. Giving in to some junk foods in moderation lead to a healthier adult lifestyle.

    Comment by Baby Gift Baskets — July 15, 2009 #

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