A few tried and true recipe ideas in a neverending quest to find easy and healthy meals that kids will actually eat.
As the mother of a toddler “what am I gonna make her for dinner?” plays on a constant loop in my brain, mashed up with “Baby Shark,” of course. Yesterday, she squealed with delight at the sight of a sliced banana . . . today she threw a sliced banana on the floor and cried.
What to do doo doo doo doo doo doo?
A few months ago, all was well in the world as my daughter dined on the sacred sustenance that is Annie’s healthy and organic mac and cheese. It was our go-to. Our staple. And then this. 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 which makes healthy eating a tricky proposition. 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.
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It’s in a cup! What non-water drink has your kid turned down recently? Let them drink their meal. Just throw healthy 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. Get our Tangy Banana Smoothie recipe.
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When I’m pressed for time (when is a toddler mama not pressed for time?) and need a quick and healthy meal for my little one, 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 our Sweet Potato Pancakes recipe.
And if your kid’s not a fan of sweet potato, make these:
Minimal ingredients. So easy and so good. My 18-month old inhales an entire batch. So when your bananas are getting too ripe, or even if they’re not, make banana pancakes and get rewarded with smiles. Get our Banana Pancakes recipe.
Ground turkey is so fabulous for easy, healthy weeknight meals; high in protein and doesn’t dry out easily so kids love it. Try this mini meatloaf and see how delighted the young ones are to have their own personal loaf. Also, feel free to sub in different ground meat if you’re not a turkey family. Get out Mini Turkey Meatloaf recipe.
Mini Meatloaf Tray, $11.99 on Amazon
Make mini meatloaf for the whole fam with this smart non-stick tray.
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! This is a super-fast and healthy meal for kids when there’s just no time to cook.
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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. Get our Fettucine Alfredo recipe.
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.
Ravioli (& Other Stuffed Pasta)
Butternut squash ravioli . . . beef tortellini . . . spinach and cheese cappelletti . . . any entree with these kid-friendly winners 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. Get our Autumn Squash Ravioli recipe.
If you’re short on time, try KidFresh Easy Cheesy Ravioli (all natural with no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives).
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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. Get our Easy Applesauce recipe.
Trader Joe’s Mini Turkey Meatballs
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.
Pixar Themes Slow Cooker, $25 on Amazon
With this crock pot you might even get the kids to help.
Crockpot Mexican Chicken
A friend of mine swears by this Crockpot Mexican Chicken recipe for her two and four-year-olds. It’s not too spicy for tiny tastebuds and it’s topped with toddler gold (cheese).
Crockpot Mexican Chicken
- 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)
- 1 small bag of frozen corn (optional)
- Spray crockpot with coconut oil or nonstick spray of choice.
- Place 3-4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of crockpot.
- Pour one 15 oz can of diced tomatoes on top of chicken (do not drain).
- Top with 1 jar of salsa, 1 can of pinto beans, and 1 can of black beans.
- Last, pour in 1 small bag of frozen corn.
- Cook for 4-5 hours on high and then shred chicken with a fork.
- 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.
Header image by Chowhound