Toddlers just learning how to chew and feed themselves can still handle a variety of healthy foods. "You want to instill a good appetite for these foods right away," says Chloe Devening, a registered dietitian in Glen Allen, Va.
Some of her ideas:
Serve small bites. Food should be pea-sized or smaller to prevent choking. Cut up rounded items such as grapes and melon balls, grate firm foods such as apples and don't give anything hard (candy, nuts, popcorn) or sticky (marshmallows, gummy candy).
Introduce the healthiest versions. Start off with whole-wheat bread and fiber-rich bran cereals before kids know about "popular" kid foods such as white bread or Froot Loops.
Go orange and yellow. Fruits and vegetables of these colors, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash and cantaloupe, are rich in fiber and vitamin A for eye, bone and immune system strength.
Include meats for iron. Most "adult-style" meat is too chewy, but you can soften it through stewing or in a slow cooker, or grind it into sauces for first pastas and pizzas. Or make healthier chicken nuggets by baking -- not frying -- with just a little breading.
Don't forget vitamin C... The vitamin helps with iron absorption, growth and immune power. Try citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes and steamed broccoli.
... and D. Fortified cereals, eggs and fish contain this vitamin, which along with calcium builds bones. Note: Canned light tuna and wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon are lower in mercury than other types of those fish.
Offer non-meat proteins. Beans, eggs and cheese are good options, especially if kids balk at meat.
Don't fear fat. For healthy brain development, include unsaturated fats (avocados or very thin spreads of nut butters, if approved by your pediatrician) and some saturated fats (full-fat cheeses are best before age 2). But avoid trans fats in processed goods.