In a food rut? Hopefully these 10 healthy meals for toddlers and preschoolers inspire you to switch things up in an simple way!
I’m convinced one of the most trying tasks as a mom can be feeding your kids. Get around any mom and I guarantee the topic will come up whether it’s mentally calculating ounces of milk or the struggle with finding a vegetable that isn’t broccoli that a kid will eat. (Surprisingly in my very unofficial, anecdotal research, I’ve discovered that broccoli actually seems to be a kid favorite- who knew?!).
From the beginning with baby led weaning, Hailey has always been a pretty adventurous eater. She had her moments of asserting her independence and opinion, but for the most part she’s been a great eater. Kaitlyn has had more opinions about food from the start. I resolved to not get overly concerned about it and I’m so glad I stuck it out because now, at 19 months, she has really come around on her eating. She still lacks focus so I’ve been known to chase her around to offer a bite, but for the most part, she eats what her sister eats, which is awesome because there is no time (or patience) to cater to varying food preferences.
If you are here for meal ideas, read on, but first and foremost, I must share this.
My biggest tip for successfully feeding toddlers and preschoolers? Buy these silicone cups.
By far, they are the most helpful item I’ve ever used when feeding toddlers and preschoolers. They make plates visually appealing. They keep food separated (for the kids that hate food to touch) and usually properly portioned. They can be used to serve dips, from maple syrup to ketchup. I’ll even find success by putting the least favorite food in the most favorite color- totally messes with their minds, but Hailey can’t stand to not eat the food from the PINK cup!
I’m so serious. Get them.
OK, on to meals! Here are some meal successes we’ve had lately.
Grilled Cheese, Grape Tomatoes, Sliced Pear and Kale Salad with Craisins.
I’ve found that the toddler eats much more if I cut her sandwich into bite sized pieces.
Simple Tuna Fish Salad with Crackers for Scooping, Steamed Green Beans, Pears and Craisins
For green beans, I trim, chop and blanch. Sometimes I saute them in a little butter, then finish them with a squeeze of lemon and salt.
Mozzarella Sticks with Marinara, Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
You can make your own mozzarella sticks if you prefer, otherwise Alexia sell pretty good option.
As for the Brussels, they are Hailey’s favorite vegetable. I cut them in half, toss them in olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. I sprinkle them with salt and garlic powder, then roast at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until the reach my desired level of crispness.
Turkey and Cheese Sandwich, Carrots and Hummus with Garlic Dill Pickle Kraut
I always pre-dip carrots for my girls like a sucker. However, I find they eat more of it that way, so it’s a labor of love.
This garlic dill pickle kraut tastes incredible and the girls will both eat it as is as a side.
Chicken & Broccoli Stir-fry, Roasted Sweet Potato Sticks and Apple
Honestly the girls meals are usually so simple that when I cook something up Hailey is always super impressed, ha. I cut chicken tenders into bite-sized pieces and sauteed in olive oil. Then I added some frozen florets, along with a little teriyaki and soy sauce.
Keeping frozen broccoli on hand is a must- it saves me so many times!
Pretzel Crisps in Hummus, Pomegranate Arils, Steamed Broccoli, Cheese and Leftover Chipotle
This is real life folks. Random snackable creations are a household favorite.
Pomegranate arils are awesome for young kids because the size is right and the sweet ‘burst’ of flavor makes them fun to eat.
Turkey and Cheese Sandwich, Raspberries and Mini Pickles
Do pickles count as a vegetable?
Mini Omelettes with Red Pepper, Onion and Ham, Clementines and Biscuits
Eggs are one of my favorite ways to add more vegetables. I call them fiesta eggs (for what reason? I don’t know but it sounds fun!) but under that name I can add red peppers, onions and spinach and Hailey loves it. However, mushrooms get noticed and picked out every single time.
Shrimp over Brown Rice & Quinoa with Steamed Broccoli
I love keeping these awesome Seeds of Change pouches on hand for nights when I’m in a pinch.
Black Olives, Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Brussels, Pomegranate Arils and Mac ‘n Cheese
I love the shell mac n cheese, but the bug shapes have now taken over as a household favorite.
I will also sprinkle a little nutritional yeast into the mac and cheese for some added b-12 and protein.
For the most part the girls’ meals are simple, as you see above. Kaitlyn will usually eat most of her plate and I need to get better about upping Hailey’s portion. Quite often after meals Hailey will ask for more and I end up giving her a yogurt, banana or crackers and hummus to finish filling her up.
We are starting to venture into a new era for our house, the family dinner! Usually the girls eat early, around 5:30, and I eat with David later around 8:00, but things are starting to shift as they get older and we’ve had a couple sit down family dinners. I’m excited to see how this next phase develops!
What are your kids’ ages and favorite foods?
Great ideas. Love these types of posts for inspiration.
My little buddy (12 m) is such a great eater – I feel so lucky. 🙂 His current favorites are tofu, pear, and curry.
Oh my gosh, I’m so inspired by these ideas – I may print this post out and stick it on my fridge 🙂 Thank you! And by the way, I packed your kale salad for lunch today!! It’s one of my favorites (and it takes all of 5 min to pull together in the midst of the morning rush out the door!). Can’t wait to dive into it in a few hours 🙂
We are definitely in picky eater zone, arianna same age as Hailey will not try new things. I do bribe with dessert and ridiculously spoon feed my 4 year old. she ate sweet potato the other day, Victory! She likes meat, chicken salmon in Mac and cheese, bolognese, baked beans, eggs and certain veg (broccoli, peas, corn, cauliflower) and pasta and rice. Try to give her something with soy sauce or teriyaki or any sauce or mixed together ina bowl no way she will eat it. Try to give her anything new wont try it. Oh dear and I have baby no. 2 on the way and desperate not to make the same mistakes. I think I need your baby led weaning book this time.
Love these type of posts!!! Such great ideas for my two year old. Would love to see a what they ate type of post to get a view of a day of all their eats breakfast lunch dinner and snacks …would be neat to see.
Does kaitlyn eat the raw carrots already or are they steamed? I he sent done raw yet not sure what age I can.
Also do you put anything in the sandwiches like mustard so it’s not dry for them?
What brand are the mini pickles I will have to try those?
Thank u!!! This is great!
Brittany Dixon says
I will totally snag your idea for next kids food post- maybe I’ll do a three day diary since things change so much day to day. Thanks for the idea!
As for the carrots- they are raw. I cut hers pretty thin, but she is able to take bites and chomp them up now.
Yes, I put mustard on the sandwiches! I tried mayo but it wasn’t as well received.
I think the pickles are Woodstock brand. I got them at Whole Foods. Beware, they are addicting 😉
Glad to hear you are getting in some family dinners. I totally understand the kids eating early and then you eating with your spouse but I really feel the family dinner is so important and powerful. Not sure powerful is the correct term here but sitting down for a meal together has always been so important to me and because of it I feel we are a very close knit family. I also have 2 girls (late teens now) and dinner time is a great discussion time of how their day was or what happened that day or for the parents just to share some good news, etc. Once they started working after school and wouldn’t get home until after 7:30pm–somehow I managed to have dinner ready at that time. I must say I do complain about eating so late at times but to me, it really is worth the time together. There really is something about sharing a meal together. Of course, from reading your blog, I know your husband works crazy hours and with your girls so young it may be hard to do often but seize the opportunity when you can. 🙂
Brittany Dixon says
Oh I just love that you’ve made family dinners so special! I think that is wonderful. I had them growing up too and really loved that together time. Now that the chaos is getting easier to control, I hope to make them more of a regular occurrence. We probably do 2 full family dinners a week, but hope to increase it from there 🙂
Love the ideas (as usual)! I’m going to add the silicone cups to my least and I hadn’t thought of adding nutritional yeast to mac ‘n cheese! I’m also beginning to think the presentation is everything and I really need to up my game. Can I ask where you find your fun plates?
Brittany Dixon says
Target! I’ve just grabbed whatever the girls thought were cute. We probably have about 8 kids plates total, the butterfly plate being the favorite.
Courtney @ Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life says
These are all such great idea…now if only Lucas would eat them! He became very picky around 18 months or so, and ever since it’s been up and down. This past week has been better (he actually tried 3 bites of grilled chicken!), but most of the time, he’ll turn his nose up to new foods. Even when I include it with foods he DOES usually like! Ahh well…I guess we’ll get there. Still pinning this for the days I decide to get adventurous with him. 😉
Michael Johnson says
Your kids are going to be HOW old before you start having family dinners together? Let me guess, your husband doesn’t get home early enough to eat a dinner at a decent time? Maybe he should try kids>work. Separate foods is also ridiculous. I guess when you are stay at home you have time for that. Setting them up for eating disorders too.
Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That! says
I agree! You and your husband have a wonderful relationship with the girls, and it doesn’t matter that you may not all be at the table at the same time–it is clear that there is so much love in this family! This is a post full of marvelous ideas–negative comments like that are just unnecessary!!
Brittany Dixon says
Thank you Liz and Lauren! I know sharing life opens myself up to criticism. It sucks to read comments that are spiteful, but in my heart I know we are doing what works for us and feel good about our decisions. I appreciate your support! <3
What kind of plates do you use? I need new ones for my 18-month old and am having trouble deciding which ones to get
Brittany Dixon says
I’ve seen a lot of cool plate options, but the ones we use were just whatever I’ve found at Target over the years- nothing intentional or special, but the kids like the designs!
My daughter is 9 months and loves to eat ANYTHING. I bought your book and it has helped guide me with BLW. My question is- she is a bottomless pit…how do you know correct portion size when you baby is a just that, a baby, and can’t yet feel “full” or “satisfied”?
Brittany Dixon says
How awesome to have a happy eater! Honestly, I let them go until they want to stop and don’t really worry about portion size. The silicone cups usually just end up being the amount they prefer, but I don’t limit their food. There have been times where I’ve stared at Hailey in disbelief a the amount of food she’d put away- it’s impressive haha! I’d let your daughter go to town- it’s so much fun to have an adventurous eater! Hailey was like that for me but Kaitlyn isn’t quite so much.
Great ideas! What kind of bread/bunz do you feed your girls? I try to make our bread, but some weeks it doesn’t happen. I haven’t found a store bought loaf that I’m happy with the ingredients!
Brittany Dixon says
It depends on the week! I love to make our bread too, but it doesn’t always happen. I love Ezekiel bread for me, and it works for anything open-face with the kids, but it’s a little thick and tough for sandwiches for the girls. For them it is sometimes homemade, other times it’s Whole Foods’ store brand bread and occasionally it’s whatever we have left over (like wheat hot dog buns from a weekend cookout).
Okay, thank you! I like Ezekiel bread too, but our girls have trouble chewing it (ages 1 and 3) – similar to what you were saying. I wish we had a Whole Foods nearby!! Thanks for your response!
Thank you for ALL of these wonderful ideas! I think your Silicone cups are great, and I am curious if you (or any of the readers out there) have tried the EZPZ Happy Mat. I think I stumbled upon it on Instagram but it’s great for toddlers and preschoolers who need/want specific portion sizes and foods separated. It’s easy to clean and is dishwasher and microwave safe. We love it in house!
Love this post! My two year old is allergic to Nuts and seeds so ideas are always great to hear. He also loves avocado and sweet potato fries. What bread do you use for the turkey sandwiches, it looks good?!
Thank you!! I need this inspiration so badly this week!
Lauren Brennan says
These are all such great ideas! I have felt lately like we’ve fallen into a “kid food” rut. Inspiration renewed!! Thanks!
Heather H says
I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I love these posts SO much because my girls are very, very close in age to yours, and they are both picky about *some* things but I am always on the hunt for new ways to sneak in veggies or make things more fun!! We eat together as a family every night, so they eat what we eat (although I will sometimes spice ours up a bit, etc). I think I am going to buy those silicon cups, thank you for the tip – my 4 year old will absolutely HATE to abandon anything in a pink cup too, I bet! hahaha
Love this post!!! I can’t imagine Georgina eating 1/4 of the meals but I love the ideas in any case! We did baby led weaning also- and I wonder now if I did it “wrong” as G only eats separate & plain/unseasoned food like plain noodles, rotisserie chicken chunks, raw cucumbers, boiled potatoes, or unsurprisingly French fries :-/
But your post is an inspiration & I am inspired to try some new plates and options with her!!