Healthy Toddler Meal Ideas & Tips
Are you on the hunt for healthy meal ideas for your toddler? Do you feel like you are always spinning your wheels trying to come up with something new? These healthy toddler meal ideas and tips are nutritious, quick, easy and are sure to keep both your toddler’s plate and belly full time and again.
Hello TNNers! Hardly a day goes by without an email or DM on Instagram from a mama or papa of toddler looking for tips, tricks or meal ideas. The toddler years can be tricky when it comes to food. Children are going through growth spurts left and right, are exploring their independence and have likely found that oh-so-powerful word “no”. Toddlers also can start developing strong food preferences that can make meal time a bit of a guessing game for adults.
And while I still use many of the tips, tricks and recipes I discovered during toddlerhood with my 8-year-old daughter, I have invited my favorite toddler mama onto TNN to offer some fresh toddler wisdom for y’all! Krista is not only a personal friend that I adore, but a fellow early childhood educator, mama to a busy 3-year-old and naturally-minded blogger over on HAPPy Healthy Casa who is all about keeping things simple and healthy. I adore her ideas and advice and am sure you will too!
Hi everyone! I’m Krista from HAPPy Healthy Casa. I’m a holistic health enthusiast, teacher and stay-at-home mama to a busy three-year-old. You may remember me from another guest post I wrote a few months back entitled “6 Ways to Get Toddlers to Love Veggies“. I am honored that Taesha has invited me back to The Natural Nurturer today to share in some of my favorite meal ideas for toddlers.
How to set the stage for healthy eating habits
Did you know that children develop their eating habits early in life? Some may say they start as early as infancy. Therefore, it is important we seek to foster healthy habits from the start. In addition to using body and food positive language in our home, there are three things we seek to do to set these healthy habits in motion with our little one:
Serve a variety of different foods. I am continuously exposing my toddler’s palate to new tastes and textures. Don’t be afraid to serve them something they won’t “like”. Sometimes toddlers need to be exposed to a food 10-15 times before they will eat it. So keep offering it.
Plan “balanced” meals. When planning a meal, I always seek to include a balance of nutrients on our plates – ie. veggies, fruits, carbs, protein and a high quality fat source. At the same time, I also like to strike a balance among foods I know my toddler “loves” (always eats), “likes” (sometimes eats), and at least one that is new or he is still warming up to.
Eat meals as a family. Our toddler eats what we eat. Not only does this give him a chance to see us enjoying the food on our plates, but it encourages him to give new things a try more readily as well. Not to mention, it makes meal planning a whole heck of a lot easier.
Healthy toddler meal ideas and tips
So now let’s get to what you all came here for – healthy toddler meal ideas! My goal in writing this post was to share a variety of foods that you can add to your toddler’s plate. But even more than that, I hope to share ideas that you can walk away with and use time and again as part of your daily meal-building routine. Making healthy meals for your toddler doesn’t have to be overwhelming or complicated. I promise!
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #1: Beef up the classics.
One of the easiest ways to up the nutrient content on your toddler’s plate is by simply building upon what you already have in place.
- Do you have a little one that loves pasta? Toss in some peas with it!
- What about grilled cheese? Have you ever tried adding some beets or greens in the mix?
For toddlers that are slower to warm to “new” foods, making small changes to the ones they already love can be a great way to ease them into the idea of trying them out.
If you are looking for some ideas to get you started with this one, you’ve come to the right place. A quick search of The Natural Nurturer’s recipe list will give you tons of ideas to “beef up the classics”.
Some favorites in our home include
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #2: Use a muffin tin.
I am a huge fan of using muffin tins over here for both snack and meal times. Why? Because they enable me to provide my toddler with the same variety I have on my plate, but in a less intimidating way. Take a salad, for instance. My toddler may potentially be turned off by the entire thing simply because I put tomatoes (a food he is still warming up to) in the mix. However, by separating each part of the salad and giving him more choice and control over which elements he eats, I often find he actually ends up eating a lot more.
The other nice part about muffin tin meals is that you can use them to make a “meal” with just about anything. Aiming for an evening where don’t have to cook?
Pull together a variety of things from your fridge like….
- a few apple slices
- pieces of spinach
- leftover shredded chicken or hard boil egg
Simple use what you have on hand! Place each one in a different space. Voila – instant meal! Use a larger muffin tin and the whole family can indulge.
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #3: Repurpose leftovers.
As a kid, I loathed leftovers. As an adult, I live for them. Does this resonate with anyone else? I think the reason I wasn’t so into them as a child is because I got bored eating the same thing day-after-day. But as an adult, boy do they make life easy. So I’ve become a master of “repurposing” leftovers. It keeps things simple and interesting so that everyone is happy.
For instance, the other night, I made tacos. The next day I put our leftover ingredients on top of some plantain chips and called them nachos. I could have just as easily made burrito bowls or taco salads as well!
Or lets talk about the meatballs I made last week that my toddler devoured. The day after, I sliced some zucchinis in half, scooped out the inside, placed the meatballs, marinara sauce and a little vegan cheese on top and roasted them to repurpose them into something completely new – zucchini boats!
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #4: Make a smoothie bowl.
Yes, smoothies can be a meal! Along with muffin tin meals, this is hands down my favorite go-to for my toddler when we are limited on groceries. Plus, the combinations you can create are virtually limitless.
If you are in the habit of making smoothies with fruit alone, I would encourage you to think about how you can add to them to make them a well-rounded meal. Try nut butter or hemp hearts as a source of protein. Add some avocado, chia seeds or coconut oil/milk as a source of fat. Oats and bananas are great all natural carbohydrate sources. And don’t forget those veggies! Check out my post on “The Best Veggies for Smoothies” as a guide.
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #5:Ditch the rules.
Have you ever eaten “breakfast” for dinner? Or what about leftovers for breakfast? I’m all for ditching the rules surrounding what can or should be eaten at certain times of the day. Sometimes we have eggs with fruit and veggie-loaded oatmeal for dinner. And sometimes we have quinoa bowls (or muffin tin trays) for breakfast. When you ditch the rules, you begin to see that there are so many more options available to you throughout the day to feed your family.
Healthy toddler meal idea and tip #6: Put a twist on traditional.
Does your toddler love sandwiches? What about pizza? Put a twist on these “traditional” dishes, to keep them both healthy and exciting!
We love making sandwich “bread” out of everything from almond flour tortillas to sliced red peppers to lettuce from our garden. Homemade bagels and roasted zucchini rounds work great as a base for toddler-sized pizzas. And just the other day, I even did a twist on traditional french toast. By preparing and cutting a grain-free English muffin into sticks, I created a whole new dish!
For more healthy toddler meal ideas and holistic living tips and tricks for the whole family, check out my blog HAPPy Healthy Casa. Or you can follow me on Instagram @happyhealthycasa. Special thanks again to Taesha for inviting me back into this incredible “veggie-loaded” community she has created alongside all of you!