Here are some easy toddler meals to make getting a healthy, balanced meal on the table doable! One meal for the entire family with slight modifications, as necessary.
Tips for Serving Toddler Meals
- Aim to include a protein, a complex carbohydrate (like whole grains), fruits and/or vegetables to expose your child to a variety of foods (with different flavors, textures) and nutrition.
- Always make sure there is a "safe" food, something that your child enjoys eating. That way, even if your child is not happy with the meal or feels very strongly against trying new foods, there is something on the plate they will eat. They're still getting some sort of nutrition AND exposure to foods they haven't quite opened up to, YET.
- Along the same lines, what you don't want to do is offer a different meal from the rest of the family, which can quickly spiral into you becoming a short order cook and promote picky eating.
- As always, modify the size and texture of food according to your child's appetite, chewing abilities, food preferences, and allergies.
Easy Dinner Ideas for 1 to 3 year olds
Meatballs and Cakes
These are great make-ahead options for busy weeknights! Double or triple the recipe next time you cook up a batch and freeze the extra. Serve alongside whole grains (e.g. bread, rice, pasta) and whatever fruits/vegetables you have on hand.
You can serve whole or cut into smaller pieces to make them easier to eat.
You may also be interested in this Master List of Finger Foods.
One Pot Meals
These are my absolute go-tos when I’m feeling especially exhausted from the day. Just add all the ingredients into a pot! You’ll also be amazed by how flavorful they become over time.
Cooking everything together gives the ingredients and flavors an opportunity to meld, producing something incredibly satisfying! You will see ;).
They also mean less dishes!! Your child may struggle with mixed foods like these, especially if they weren't exposed to them as a baby, but keep trying and offering! It's never too late.
Start with a small portion so your child doesn't feel overwhelmed or scared and make sure you serve it alongside food they do enjoy.
Research shows that repeated exposures to food increases their familiarity which leads to acceptance.
So get out your trusty dutch oven or pot and let's get cooking!
If hungry for more, check out my One Pot Meals cookbook!
We do this a lot on Friday nights, and it is totally a form of self care for me.
There is no need to cook anything and you can get a well-balanced meal on the table in 5 minutes!
You can place a bunch of favorite snacks onto your child's plate or on a big platter (like a wooden board, food tray, baking sheet pan) for the whole family to share.
Toddler Pasta Recipes
Here are some healthy and flavorful recipes to try! I've also included some sauces that pair well with pasta.
If your child only likes plain pasta, then serve the sauce on the side. But do continue to offer this small portion (if they don't even want it on their plate, serve on a separate one and keep it nearby so they can still see it) for exposure!
We can all use some comfort at the end of the day with meals like these! Full of hearty grains, proteins, vegetables, and cheese, they are filling and satisfying.
These are especially great when your child isn't feeling well and dehydrated.
Instant Pot and Slow Cooker
You can't have an easy toddler meals round up without these two pieces of kitchen equipment! All of these are full of nutrition and flavor with minimal effort on your part.
Here are my healthier twists on classic dishes made without sugar and minimal sodium.
It doesn't have to be Friday or the weekend to get takeout. Give yourself FULL permission to take all the help that you can get! I don't know where I'd be if it weren’t for pizza and frozen vegetables.