Toddlers are notoriously finicky eaters, but even their picky palates can be tempted by these tasty meal and snack suggestions.
Every parent knows how tough it can be to plan healthy meals that a toddler will actually like. Even the best eaters have their picky days. How can busy parents plan meals that will appeal to toddlers and provide the balanced nutrition they need?
First, parents should know how much food a typical toddler needs in one day. Here’s a rough guideline of what approximately 1,000 calories ¿ the healthy average toddler intake – looks like. You may be surprised that there’s not that much food here! These calories should be divided up throughout the day. Meals will be small, and snacks ¿ low in fat and sugar – should round out the diet.
- Milk: 2 cups of whole milk for kids between ages 1 and 2, or 2 percent milk for older toddlers
- Lean meat and beans: 2 ounces (1 small hamburger is about 2 ounces; an egg is 1 ounce)
- Fruit: 1 cup
- Vegetables: 1 cup
- Grains: 3 ounces (1/2 cup of cooked pasta, 1 slice of bread, and 1/2 cup of cooked rice each equal 1 ounce of grains)
Banish mealtime boredom
Many mom-and-dad “chefs” fall into a rut when it comes to making food for toddlers. Sure, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese are easy to cook or reheat, and they go over well at mealtimes. But if you offer children only these “kid-friendly” options, this limited menu may become all they’ll be willing to eat.
To the rescue are these healthy, delicious, and toddler-tested meal and snack ideas. Some of the ingredients may seem exotic. But exposing children to a variety of flavors and textures over time helps to expand their palates. Sometimes, just serving something familiar in a new way will spark a child’s interest. Bon appetit!
- Bite-size whole-wheat pasta shapes are great for a main course served with tomato sauce. But plain leftovers are an easy snack. Serve them cold with pesto, hummus, or even a plate of shredded cheese for dipping.
- Fresh raw shredded veggies like carrot, cucumber, zucchini, and mushrooms can be tossed with low-fat ranch dressing for a quick, vitamin-packed coleslaw. Serve with sandwiches.
- An antipasto platter can be a draw.This array of meats and cheeses will appeal to many toddlers, and there’s hardly any prep work involved! These foods can be high in salt, though, so make this an occasional treat. Include sliced cold cuts like salami, ham, and turkey, as well as sliced soft cheeses, like provolone and fresh mozzarella. Serve whole-grain crackers on the side.
- Hot pureed cauliflower makes a wholesome dip for whole-wheat toast sticks. Kids won’t realize they’re eating veggies! Add garlic or grated Parmesan cheese to the puree for extra zest.
- Homemade “fries” can be cooked in the oven using veggies other than plain old potatoes. Toss half-inch sticks of turnip, zucchini, butternut squash, or sweet potato with a little olive oil. Bake in a 450 degree F oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Green eggs make a great surprise for breakfast or lunch. Steam spinach or broccoli florets until tender, then puree with a little water. Stir the puree into beaten eggs, add some dried minced onion and scramble in some butter over medium heat until well done.