I’m the mother of a toddler. “What am I gonna make her for dinner?” plays on a constant loop in my brain. Yesterday, she squealed with delight at the sight of a sliced banana . . . today she threw a sliced banana on the floor and cried.
Now she (sorta) eats grilled ham and cheese every day for lunch (because I haven’t yet come across any articles saying that she shouldn’t). The ham was my attempt at sneaking in some non-dairy protein. Well, she’s smarter than she looks. She inhales the grilled cheese in minutes and I return to an abandoned little pile of plucked-off ham.
She hasn’t yet developed the most diverse palate. If there’s no cheese, it’s “b*tch, please.” I’m running out of ideas and I physically cannot make another grilled cheese sandwich (my daughter is starting to resemble one), so I’ve reached out to ten mommy-of-toddler friends for recommendations. I told myself that even if each person just shares one meal, that’s ten new meals in the mix! After polling my toddler mommy tribe, I’ve compiled our list of healthy meals that kids will actually eat.
It’s in a cup! What non-water drink has your kid turned down recently? Let them drink their meal. Just throw Greek yogurt and ice in a blender and then go crazy with apples, banana, avocado, pineapple, and your choice of kale or spinach to round it out. It tastes delicious and you have the peace of mind that your child consumed vegetables today.
When I’m pressed for time (when is a toddler mama not pressed for time?), I microwave the sweet potato (six minutes vs. an hour in the oven!) or just bake a few at a time and keep them on hand in the fridge. Make a huge batch when your child is napping and freeze these bad boys for later. These pancakes are a godsend. Packed with protein and easy for kids to pick-up. They’re gluten-free, dairy-free, and tantrum-free. Get the recipe.
And if your kid’s not a fan of sweet potato, make these:
Protein and vegetables wrapped up in a mini dumpling that’s easy to hold. And they can be dipped. Check and CHECK in a toddler’s mind!
My daughter refuses all meat . . . if she sees it. I’ve learned to pull apart a rotisserie chicken and weave it through cheesy rotini or elbow pasta. Hidden protein! Kids just think they are eating pasta. If they don’t see it, they can’t reject it. Pro tip: This also works with mashed potatoes.
You can try out these tots on your tot even if they typically refuse broccoli. Why? The broccoli taste isn’t overpowering. They’re also easy for tiny hands to maneuver and you can dip them. Are you picking up on this theme? Get the recipe.
Butternut squash ravioli . . . beef ravioli . . . spinach and cheese ravioli . . . any entree with ravioli in the title! They’re delicious, they surround proteins and vegetables, and (I sound like a broken record) they’re easy to pick up. Here’s a simple recipe your kids can help out with.
If you’re short on time, try KidFresh Easy Cheesy Ravioli (all natural with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives).
For a richer flavor, you can even roast the carrots and applesauce. It tastes just like applesauce and I have yet to meet a child who refuses applesauce. If your kid curses carrots, just hide them in some applesauce.
Serve with (read: hide them in) homemade sauce.
Perfect for tiny hands! It gets messy, but I’ll take a mess over an empty stomach.
Pro tip: Freeze leftover sauce into ice cube trays, then just pop them out and reheat in the microwave the next time you serve meatballs.
Crockpot Mexican Chicken
A friend of mine swears by this recipe for her two and four year-olds. It’s not too spicy for tiny tastebuds and it’s topped with toddler gold (cheese).
3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (not frozen)
15 oz can of diced tomatoes (not drained)
1 jar of salsa
15 oz can pinto beans (drained and rinsed)
15 oz can black beans (drained and rinsed)
Small bag of frozen corn (optional)
1. Spray crockpot with coconut oil or nonstick spray of choice.
2. Place 3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of crockpot.
3. Pour one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes on top of chicken (do not drain).
4. Top with 1 jar of salsa, 1 can of pinto beans, and 1 can of black beans.
5. Last, pour in 1 small bag of frozen corn.
6. Cook for 4-5 hours on high and then shred chicken with a fork.
7. Serve over brown rice or quinoa and top with shredded mozzarella cheese.
These recipes are toddler-tested and accepted. But when it comes to feeding these tiny humans, it’s really all about keeping them engaged and entertained. Make it fun!
Use an empty egg container or ice cube tray to portion out each element of your child’s meal, unless your child is under two. If they are under two, your fun tray will inevitably end up under their high chair before any actual food has been consumed.