Feeding toddlers can be quite a challenge, especially when you have a picky eater. Texture, color, and smell can all pose challenges when trying to make sure your kids are getting a well-rounded diet. Introducing a variety of foods and trusting your judgment (along with cues from the toddler) to determine whether they are getting enough to eat is key. While their diet doesn’t need to meet every textbook recommendation, there are some important things to make sure they’re consuming the right stuff!
- Fruits and Vegetables – Although fruit juice is an easy, and tasty, way for your child to consume fruit, it doesn’t offer the same benefits as whole fruit and typically contains added sugar (sometimes LOTS of sugar). Stick to a variety of whole fruits and limit juice intake. Vegetables might be hard to convince your toddler to eat, but they contain important nutrients. It can take multiple times serving a particular food for them to learn to like it or for their palate to adjust to a certain texture. Try things like zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash…which can be disguised as pasta! Play games…fresh brocolli becomes a “tree” when planted in mashed potatoes. Challenge them to eat the “forest” of trees. Making it a fun game can encourage them to eat the right things.
- Grains – Whole-grains offer valuable nutrients, including fiber. Choose whole-grain bread, rice, cereals, and pasta over things like white bread. Keep white flour out of their diet as long as you can control it. Once they get to elementary school, it’s more of a challenge, but remember, at this point, YOU are in control of what you buy and what you serve them.
- Protein – Protein aids in muscle growth and repair, something a growing child needs. Lean proteins like chicken and lean ground beef are good, but fattier meats from red meats and fish contain important fatty acids that are involved in brain development.
- Variety – Making sure your toddler eats a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, other proteins, and grains will ensure they are receiving a multitude of important vitamins and minerals. Introducing them to more foods will allow for more options when it comes to vegetables and protein, which most children can be picky about. Learning to like food groups starts when we are young and so does learning to make healthy food choices!
No-Bake Oatmeal Bites
These sweet snacks can be made with 4 ingredients and no baking. Simple! These are perfect to pack for errands or as an addition to a meal. Store them in the fridge for up to a week! Find the recipe here.
Eggs can be a tough texture for some kids, but they are a great source of protein and healthy fats. These mini quiches can be adjusted to include any meat, cheese, or veggies. Add some ham, turkey sausage, or a different kind of cheese that your kids prefer. These quiches are fun for toddlers to pull apart with their hands, and for any anti-egg kids, it might be a good way to disguise this protein source. Read here about how to make your own mini quiches.
Mini Chicken and Carrot Meatballs
Chicken is a great lean protein source and can be flavored in so many ways. Meatballs are an easily handled item for toddlers and can be served alone, or on top of some pasta (or zucchini noodles). We love this recipe because it includes some hidden veggies, and you’re given more ideas for other healthy things you can sneak in without a fight from your kids. Give them a try here!
Broccoli and Cheese Sticks
Broccoli and cheese is a classic combination, but this recipe actually doesn’t include cheese. Instead, nutritional yeast is used which has a cheesy, nutty flavor that is packed with B vitamins. Your toddler will be too excited about the cheesy goodness to realize they’re eating *gasp* broccoli! Follow the recipe here.
Frozen Yogurt Covered Blueberries
Fruit is an easy and healthy sweet snack, so spice things up and toss in some yogurt, then freeze. Find the recipe for this yummy snack here!
Avocado Toast…and More!
It seems like the popularity of avocado is not slowing down any time soon, and for good reason! It’s versatility when it comes to using it in a dish has nothing on the health benefits. Try spreading avocado on whole-grain toast for your toddler to introduce them to it. This post here has several great ideas for how to introduce avocado to your little ones. It can easily be hidden in a dish or be the star of the show.
Avocado Blueberry Smoothie
We told you avocado is taking the world by storm! This time it’s hidden in a yummy fruit smoothie, adding heart (and brain) healthy fats and a creamy texture. Smoothies can be a great way to buy some time to prepare your own breakfast since a smoothie is far down on the list of potential choking hazards when it comes to food. Give the ingredients a quick blend and pour into a toddler-friendly cup, and voila, breakfast (or a snack) is served! Try it here.
Mini Spinach and Cheese Pizza Rolls
Pizza is a universal favorite, and these are a perfect bite-sized variation of a classic. These are made from rolling the pizza dough, with all the toppings, into a log and cutting it into slices and baking them in a muffin tin. This form of pizza might be easier for your toddler to feed themselves since they can pull it apart themselves instead of you cutting up a normal pizza slice into pieces. Change up the toppings according to your toddler’s taste. Find the recipe here!
PB&J Pinwheel Sandwich Skewers
Take the classic PB&J and turn it into a fun meal for your toddler! PB&J pinwheels are put on skewer with fresh fruit, making a cute meal for your toddler as well that they’ll enjoy. We found this idea here!
Goldfish-Crusted Chicken Fingers
Goldfish are popular crunchy snack for kids, so why not use them to bread some lean protein? Using Goldfish as breading will add a delicious cheesy flavor that your toddler will love. Try this simple and yummy recipe here!
Make sure to introduce a variety of foods and reintroduce them to get them accustomed to things they don’t like. Look for recipes where you can hide vegetables if your toddler is especially picky, and don’t be afraid to experiment. A good rule to follow to ensure they enjoy their meals is to include at least one thing you know they enjoy and will eat; this makes eating the not-so-fun things a little less of a battle.