Toddler mealtime. Dun dun duhhhh. In our house, I feel like meals are a constant struggle. Toddlers can be SO picky and fickle and their moods and tastebuds seem to change at the drop of a hat! At least… mine do. I don’t THINK I’m alone here…? I feel like we eat breakfast, followed by snacks on snacks on snacks, then lunch, and then come dinnertime they’re like “NAH MA, WE GOOD.” It’s so frustrating!!! Maybe I should start calling dinner a “really big snack…” Parenting: the art of mind games. So. I’m here to hopefully help someone else in a similar boat. I.E. the toddler mealtime boat. Correction: the sinking toddler mealtime boat. ;)
So. The other day I went to my Instagram community and asked for toddler meal ideas. I love that I can go to such a supportive group of people (all with awesome ideas, always!) and can get an influx of amazing tips and ideas!!! Naturally, there were just so many great ideas, I just HAD to share on here in one blog post, so it’s all together and easy to reference.
You’ll see some repeats or similar ideas on this list. That’s because they are really good ideas and were suggested by multiple moms!
I present to you: A ton of toddler meal ideas! YAY!
First, suggested by quite a few people, was the book French Kids Eat Everything. While I appreciate some of the thoughts in this book, I also understand that not all kids are the same (au contraire, they are all SO vastly different!) and what works for one may not work for another. We all are in various situations, some kids have medical issues, developmental issues, neurological disorders, etc, so while this book may be a great reference and have some awesome takeaways, I myself have not read it (yet) and thus am not backing it or supporting it by any means. Also, please don’t be discouraged if it simply doesn’t work with your situation. I GET IT and I got you.
Okay, on to the food!
- Eat early and try to avoid late afternoon snacks.
- You can expect toddlers to eat one meal, play with one meal & throw one meal (a good thing to keep in mind when you feel like you’re going crazy!)
- Cut out all snacks except for 2 preplanned ones (we have additional if we do big activities like swimming) and tell them that’s all until dinner. It may take a few days of getting used to, but then they will start eating more at snack time and EVERYTHING at dinner/lunch – including things like beets, asparagus and Brussels sprouts. So worth the few days of tantrums for me!
- I’m going with there’s absolutely nothing wrong with snacks all day as long as they’re healthy(ish).
- Make mealtimes fun! Buy different apples and talk about how they’re the same and different etc. If you can do that with food and incorporate sorting into it, then they eat the things they sorted.
- Make at least ONE thing you know they’ll eat, and leave it up to them to fill up.
- We forget sometimes about how tiny their stomachs are. It’s ok if they don’t eat much one or two or even three days. Being a parent is so hard and I know it’s tough when eating is a battle but you’re definitely not alone.
- Put veggies out while you cook dinner so they can snack on them. At least they’ll fill up on some healthy food before dinner! Then all I really push is protein once they sit down!
- I roast broccoli, sweet potatoes, and chick peas a lot so we have them for snacks.
- They like mac and cheese, homemade wheat pizza, quesadillas, or grilled cheese … hint throw cheese on something and they’re bound to love it!
- I try not to let him eat 2 hours before dinner!
- My kid loves to dip her food! So we give her mustard with her meat!
- I’ve started this new thing where I give my daughter a really early dinner. Instead of snacking after nap time it’s straight to dinner even if it’s like 4pm. She wakes from her nap hungry and if she wants a snack before bed she can have a yogurt or something hardy as a late snack.
- I flipped our meals and we have a dinner at lunch time and a lighter snack in the evening at dinner time. If he doesn’t eat the dinner time snack I don’t mind because he’s already had a good dinner early in the day.
- Let the kids help make dinner!
- Get creative with a healthy protein they already like. Sometimes I’ll mix chicken with rice or buttered noodles. Make it a sandwich, or do tuna fish.
- We started the one hour rule at our house. No snacks within one hour before or after a meal! Now they actually eat!
- My main goal is to keep offering healthy foods and letting her eat however much she wants. Trying to keep her association with food on the mentally healthy side. Although it pains me to throw out perfectly good food on those days she doesn’t seem hungry.
- A fun shaped waffle with a fruit of choice and a Greek yogurt
- LaraBar and yogurt with fruit
- Boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast (let them peel the egg themselves for motor skills)
- Ezekiel muffins with cream cheese and fruit
- Homemade wheat banana bread. I like that I know what goes into it.
- Smoothie packed with greens!
- mini pancakes, sausage bites, waffles with peanut butter, yogurt parfaits, cereal, dinosaurs eggs oatmeal, and fruit cut up
- Turkey lunch meat, crackers, a string cheese and a fruit of choice
- Almond or peanut butter and honey sandwich
- Hummus and carrots
- chicken fries, sweet potato bites, green beans, peas, corn on the cob, fruit , diy lunchables
- shaped peanut butter sandwiches. Use cookie cutters to make them fun!
- Trader Joe’s Mac and cheese and a fruit of choice.
- He won’t eat any veggies knowingly so I make a “Hulk” smoothie with riced cauliflower, spinach, banana, strawberries, pineapple, coconut water, ice, and protein powder. And if I give him chocolate milk I mix in amazing greens in cocoa flavor in it. (Not a whole serving cause it’s nasty) it tastes best with dark chocolate almond milk ;)
- Noodles with butter, cucumbers and watermelon are a hit lately.
- Chicken apple sausage.
- Homemade popsicles
- Loooove tacos here, falafels and koftas. Anything on a wrap basically!
- Pasta with red sauce (pack the sauce with veggies- onions, chopped spinach, chopped broccoli)
- Homemade pizza (sneak veggies in!)
- Pork chop baked with cream of mushroom soup on top, homemade mashed potatoes, and green beans.
- Taco Tuesdays! Ground turkey, beans, cheese and whatever toppings. I add non fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and can often sneak in some tomatoes and avocados. Each of my kids have things they like/dislike but the combo of flavors (mixed in a bowl, in a shell or served with a couple chips) everyone seems to be satisfied!
- Trader Joe’s cauliflower rice stir fry is a favorite over here!
- Nachos! Black beans, cheese, avocado, pico de gallo and tortilla chips!
- We love making “healthier” mini personal pizzas with 100 cal sandwich rounds, veggie pasta sauce, mozzarella cheese & turkey pepperoni.
And now for my favorite part: SOLIDARITY, sisters.
“We are going through a rough time with toddler mealtime too! All she will eat currently is cheese.” – Andrea T.
“My toddler asked me for a snack in the middle of dinner last night” – Olya W.
“Mine will declare she’s full after only eating half her dinner and then ask for a snack 5 mins later. What!!” – Ashley T.
“Uggghh my toddler is SUCH a picky eater! We offer her everything but she pushes it away and won’t even try it. She eats the same thing every day and it’s so hard. I think I need to try making her shakes again.” – Ashley M.
“OMG YES. I’m so glad my kid isn’t the only one who this happens to. And then 5 min before bedtime “Mama I’m hungry.” And WHAT. WHY.” – Karla D.
“Man my 2 year old changed his mind about what he likes to eat everyday ! He could eat 10 meatballs the night before and would love it and the next day he’s like nope I’m not touching it…” – Jasiminie
And probably my favorite: “I hate feeding my kid.” – Laura R. (love the honesty!)
Do you have any amazing suggestions for toddler meal ideas to add? :) We’re all ears!