I’ve put together this list of the best toddler foods for you. Toddlers are a wonderful thing. They’re curious little people, and will explore their world with as much gusto as they can muster. This phase of toddlerhood is relatively short, but you want to pack in as much fun and nutrition as possible to make sure your toddler has a great start in life.
Toddlers can be a challenging lot. Even the best behaved toddlers have their moments and will test the boundaries of your patience in ways you never imagined. Espie is one such toddler and I am her mommy. In my attempts to guide her, it occurred to me that there are some really great toddler foods out there.
Best Toddler Foods
Coming up with healthy toddler meal ideas after a long day—whether you work, stay home, or do some mix or in between—is a challenge. It’s often the time of the day when they need our attention most, yet they also need to eat. (Did someone say hangry?) These quick toddler meal ideas are quick, easy, and nourishing so that you can get the food onto the table fast.
Healthy Kids Food
I hope that these ideas provide inspiration on those busy nights when you’re scrambling to serve up something healthy. And that they give you permission to take shortcuts in the kitchen whenever you need to. Because feeding our toddlers is hard work, and it’s 100% okay to make it easy on yourself when needed!
Planning Toddler Meal Ideas, Step-by-Step
- Consider your child’s eating abilities and preferences and adjust as needed. If she’s not using a spoon with any accuracy, let her use her hands! If he prefers his meals deconstructed rather than mixed together, serve the food that way. It’s okay to be flexible!
- Balance what you offer by including a protein (meat, dairy, nuts, or beans), a complex carb (like a whole grain or a whole grain bread product), fruit, veggies, and some healthy fat. This will help ensure your toddler is exposed to a variety of nutrients and textures.
- Vary the protein to make them vegetarian or vegan as needed. Sub in gluten-free or dairy-free substitutes if there’s an intolerance in your house.
- Adjust the produce based on what’s fresh at your store and what your kids like.
- Keep it simple! Serving toddler meals does not have to be complicated and little kids often enjoy foods that are very simple and straight forward.
Toddler Meal Ideas #1: Chicken And Corn Tacos
Rotisserie chicken + thawed frozen corn + tortilla + salsa
Warm all ingredients except the salsa in the microwave for 15-30 seconds. Serve with salsa for dipping. (Trade in cocktail shrimp or beans for a vegetarian option.)
Easy Meal Idea #2: Quick Pasta And Peas
Star or alphabet pasta + peas + butter + Parmesan
Cook pasta according to package, adding frozen peas to the pot during the last 1-2 minutes of cooking. Serve with butter and cheese. You can also do couscous, quinoa, or rice instead of the pasta.
Toddler Meal Idea #3: Quick Pizzas
Whole-wheat pita bread (or tortillas or English muffins) + pizza sauce + shredded cheese
Cut pita into wedges and top with pizza sauce and cheese. Heat in the oven at 325 F or in a pan on the stovetop just until cheese is melted.
Kids Meal Idea #4: Cucumber Hummus Wrap
Tortilla + hummus + thinly sliced cucumber
Spread hummus and cucumber on tortilla and roll up or fold. Slice in half to serve. (Flour or multigrain tortillas tend to be softer than corn, which can be helpful for younger eaters.) You can also serve this deconstructed for younger eaters.
Easy Meal Idea #5: Cheesy Veggie Toast
Toast + shredded cheese + thawed frozen veggies
Top toast with shredded cheese, thawed frozen peas, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, or corn, and microwave for 10 seconds to melt. You could also simply serve the veggies alongside cheesy toast too!
Kids Meal Idea #6: Quick Yogurt Parfait
Plain yogurt + leftover roasted squash or sweet potato + granola
Layer all ingredients in a small mason jar or bowl. Serve immediately. This also works with the yogurt and squash or sweet potato blended together—or with applesauce! (Use a favorite nondairy yogurt if needed.)
Easy Meal Idea #7: Apple Pancakes
Pancake mix + ½ cup grated (drained) apple + nut butter
Add the apple to your favorite pancake batter (add 1 teaspoon cinnamon if it doesn’t have any) and cook as directed. Serve smeared with nut butter or a little honey. Toddlers (and big kids) love breakfast for dinner!
Toddler Meal Idea #8: Pasta With Jarred Tomato Sauce
Mini shell pasta + jarred marinara sauce + parmesan
Use your favorite pasta (or try Banza garbanzo bean pasta for extra iron) and a jarred tomato sauce like Rao’s for a simple and satisfying meal.
Kids Meal Idea #9: Shortcut Fried Rice
Fully cooked rice + frozen peas + scrambled eggs + soy sauce
Scramble an egg, stir in a ¼ cup peas and ¼ cup of rice and with a drizzle of reduced-sodium soy sauce. Add a fruit on the side like cut up cherries or melon.
Toddler Meal Idea #10: Fruit And Yogurt Dip
Low sugar vanilla yogurt (like from Siggis) + almond butter + sliced fruit and veg + graham crackers
Stir together nut butter and honey to make a dip. Serve with sliced apple or pear, squash or cucumbers, and graham crackers. We love this sort of breakfast-for-dinner as a super quick toddler dinner!Toddler Meal Idea #11: Bean and Cheese Quesadillas
Tortillas + cheese + beans
Add cheese and beans to one side of a tortilla. Warm in a skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes, fold the empty side of the tortilla over and press slightly. Flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes to finish. You can also warm this in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Add fruit on the side.
Kids Meal Idea #12: Veggie Grilled Cheese
Whole grain bread + cheese + roasted mashed sweet potato
Spread the sweet potato on on side of the bread. Add cheese to the other. Prepare normally for a comforting and veggie-packed sandwich. You can also try omitting the sweet potato and adding snipped spinach or kale instead. (Or even omitting the cheese and just using mashed sweet potato!)
What Foods Do I Offer My Child To Eat?
Offer your child the same healthy foods that you and the rest of your family enjoy. Give your child foods with different flavours and textures. Include a variety of:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Whole grain foods
- Protein foods
Make sure that the foods you offer are prepared with little or no added salt or sugar. Include foods that are higher in healthy fat like salmon, avocado and nut butters.
To learn how to help your child eat, see HealthLinkBC File #69d Helping Your 1 to 3 Year Old Child Eat Well.
What Do I Offer My Child To Drink?
You can continue to offer your child breastmilk until they are 2 years of age or older.
- If your child no longer breastfeeds, offer 500 mL (2 cups) of pasteurized whole cow milk (3.25% Milk Fat) with meals and snacks. If your child does not drink cow milk, talk to your health care provider about what you can offer
- When your child is 2 years old, you can start to offer lower fat milk options such as skim, 1% or 2%. You can also give unsweetened fortified soy beverage. Limit milk or soy beverage to no more than 750 mL (3 cups) every day
Water is the best beverage when your child is thirsty. Offer water in between meals and snacks.
Children do not need sugary drinks such as pop, sports drinks, sweetened milk, sweetened fortified soy beverage, 100% fruit juice, fruit beverages and fruit flavored drinks made from powders or crystals.
All fruit juice, including 100% fruit juice, are high in sugar and low in fibre. Offer your child whole fruit instead.
What Are Some Snack Ideas For My Child?
- Whole grain cereal or oatmeal with milk
- Bite-sized pieces of leftover cooked beef, chicken or tofu and soft cooked vegetables
- Milk or yogurt-based fruit smoothies in an open cup
- Plain yogurt with pieces of soft fresh fruit
- Applesauce with whole grain crackers or roti
- Grated or small cubes of cheese with whole grain crackers
- A small whole grain muffin with fresh fruit
- Small amount of nut or seed butter spread thinly on whole grain crackers
- Mashed avocado on whole grain toast
- Yogurt and fruit popsicles
- Whole grain pita bread triangles and bean dip
What Are Some Meal Ideas For My Child?
- Sandwich triangles made with egg, tuna or chicken salad, served with chopped fruit
- Hummus, whole wheat pita and soft cooked and cooled vegetables
- Brown rice with cooked pieces of fish and peas
- Oatmeal served with milk and soft apples
- Whole grain pancakes or waffles topped with thinly spread nut butter and fruit
- Mini omelets or scrambled eggs with cooked vegetables and whole grain toast
- Cooked tofu pieces, sweet potatoes and whole grain pasta
- Congee or rice porridge with small pieces of meat, chicken or fish
- Whole grain tortillas filled with beans or ground meat and tomato sauce
- Vegetable, split pea or bean soup served with whole grain crackers or a whole grain bun
- Fish chowder with whole grain bread sticks
- Whole grain macaroni and cheese with tuna and peas
- Whole grain pasta with tomato or meat sauce
- Chicken, beef, pork or tofu cut in small pieces stir-fried with soft cooked vegetables and brown rice
- Baked beans with soft taco or whole grain toast
- Chili and whole wheat or corn bread
- Dahl or lentils with chopped tomatoes and whole grain rice
- Soft veggies, tomato sauce and grated cheese on a whole wheat pita, pizza shell or English muffin
How Do I Help My Young Child Eat Safely?
Children under the age of 4 are at higher risk of choking than older children and adults. They have small airways and less control over swallowing. Always stay with your child while they eat and drink. Avoid feeding your child in a moving vehicle or in a stroller.
To prevent choking:
- Watch your child and make sure they sit down to eat or drink
- Encourage them to take small bites and to chew the food well
- Cook or grate hard vegetables like carrots
- Chop soft fruit into small pieces. Remove pits, seeds and tough skins before serving
- Remove any bones from fish and flake before serving. You can rub fish between your fingers to find and remove bones
- Cut round foods like grapes, cherry tomatoes and hot dogs lengthwise first and then into pieces
- Spread smooth peanut butter thinly on toast or crackers or stir into warm cooked cereal
- Do not feed your child foods with toothpicks or skewers
Do Not Give Your Child:
- Whole peanuts, nuts, seeds or popcorn
- Whole grapes
- Fish with bones
- Dried fruit such as raisins
- Hard candy or cough drops
- Gum or marshmallows
- Peanut butter, nut or seed butters on a spoon
For more information about choking in babies and young children, see HealthLinkBC File #110b Preventing Choking in Babies and Young Children: For Child Care Providers.
How Do I Prepare Food Safely?
Young children are at increased risk of food-borne illness. Bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria are killed when foods are heated to safe cooking temperatures. To avoid food-borne illness, do not offer your child:
- Raw or undercooked meat, fish or poultry. Make sure that meat, fish and poultry are cooked to safe internal temperatures
- Raw or lightly cooked eggs. These may be in homemade mayonnaise, sauces and dressings or homemade ice cream
- Unpasteurized milk or dairy products or unpasteurized juice
- Raw sprouts, such as alfalfa, clover, radish and mung beans. Only offer thoroughly cooked sprouts.
What If My Child Has Food Allergies?
If you have questions or concerns about food allergies, talk to your child’s doctor, pediatrician, a registered dietitian or a public health nurse.