meal prep

5 Meal Ideas for Picky Toddlers

picky toddler meal ideas

Before Forrest turned 1, he was an excellent eater. He would regularly eat meals of chicken, broccoli, and potatoes, or pasta, or just about anything. He ate protein and vegetables great. 

But a few weeks after he turned 1, everything changed. Like most toddlers, he became increasingly more picky--and any change in his temperament (say, a molar cutting or a cold) made him unwilling to eat just about anything.

As he's gotten older, I've found ways to sneak in everything he needs: fruits & veggies, vitamins, protein, meat, and more. Here are a few meal ideas that I always return to. They're easy, they produce the least amount of waste, and they make it easy to hide things!

1. Quesadillas, Grilled Cheese, or English Muffin Pizza

Forrest will eat carbs and cheese all day, every day. These three foods all fall into this category: carb + cheese + the capability to hide other foods. When I make quesadillas, I will mash black beans (a great source of protein) with some veggie puree and then mix it with cheese; that's the filling of the quesadilla. All he cares about is the cheese, anyway!

For grilled cheese, I layer a little turkey or chicken, as well as an leftover roasted veggies, between layers of cheese. English muffin pizzas are so easy to make and if you mix the pizza sauce with veggie puree, you can easily hide an extra serving of veggies--but all he knows is there is cheese, as usual. 

2. "Snack Lunches" 

This is an infinitely popular toddler lunch that I think every mom has done before: you let your toddler have a variety of their favorite snacks. A lot of Forrest's favorites are "sneaky" healthy things: he really loves the Ella's Kitchen oat bars (the carrot + mango flavor is his favorite), as well as the Nature's Bakery oat bars which has whole wheat and real fruit. One of these bars, plus a banana and some yogurt mixed with a pack of Similac Mix-In, is as well-rounded of a lunch as I'll get sometimes! 

3. Mac & cheese 

You know that carb + cheese equation I posted above? This is the same principal. I like the Annie's Organic Mac & Cheese bowls because I can make a single serving (although Forrest usually only eats about half). I make him a bowl and then add half a packet of vegetable and meat puree. (Yes, I know that sounds great.) But he eats it, loves it, and gets a serving of veggies and meat in! 

4. Green Juice

Having a day where you simply cannot get your toddler to eat anything that isn't in the form of white bread? Been there! Forrest had croup recently and all he wanted to eat was milk. Seriously. I decided to take a chance and bought a bottle of Naked Green Machine juice; I mixed half juice and half water. He drank it up in barely 10 minutes. Hey, it's a serving of fruit and vegetables if nothing else. Smoothies and homemade juices are a great way to get some nutrition in your kiddo who is refusing everything else. 

5. Pancakes

If it is in pancake form, Forrest will (usually) eat it. I make both fruit pancakes AND oatmeal pancakes. Here are my basic recipes: 

Fruit Pancakes

  • 1 banana, mashed 
  • 1 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • About 4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

Oatmeal Pancakes

  • 1 serving of oatmeal, cooked
  • 1/2 packet of fruit + veggie puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • About 3-4 tablespoons of flour
  • Vanilla + cinnamon 

Mix well and cook like normal pancakes. 

The possibilities for adding to these recipes are endless. I will often use leftover oatmeal, add a bit of yogurt to up the calories, and try new combinations of fruit and vegetables. Forrest will eat them, covered in peanut butter, every day. 


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4 Genius Meal Prep Ideas to Save Time & Money

Every Sunday, I do meal prep. This isn't something I've always done and to be completely honest, I dread it every single week. It's something I cannot do when Forrest is around because he loses his mind the moment he sees food. 

This is my way of saving: meal prep isn't fun. I won't pretend it is. However, I always thank Sunday me when Wednesday rolls around and Forrest is scream-crying because he has a fever from his molars and I just cannot cook

If you're like me and you end up buried up to your eyeballs by halfway through the workweek, then these meal tips are for you. 

1. Set aside one day, two hours, and do it. 

This is the most basic of basic tips, but meal prep doesn't have to take an entire day. In fact, I beseech you: don't torture yourself by meal prepping all day. Here's how I typically meal prep: 

  • I make my husband's lunches for the week (always stir fry). 
  • I make my husband's breakfasts for the week. 
  • I make something we can use in meals every single day (like a huge batch of roasted veggies or a bunch of rice). 
  • I make something I can grab as a quick lunch every single day (like pasta or chicken). 

That's it. I don't make huge batches of overnight oats or cute little jars that take up way too much room in my small fridge. I don't torture myself. Don't torture yourself. Set aside two or three hours in one day, plan a menu for the week, and execute it. 

2. Remember to actually eat the things you prep. 

Okay, another really basic tip: remember to eat all this stuff. Whenever my husband forgets his lunch, I basically want to start tearing the doors off our house. (I don't. But I want to.) Remember to keep a list on your fridge or phone of what you have prepped, as well as a rough outline of things you can make every day. I personally do not like to do a menu plan for each day because, guaranteed, by Tuesday evening, I will rebel. Instead, I just make a list of what I have and what possible combinations can come from that. 

3. It's ok to be simple. 

I recently started following a budgeting program and one of the most revolutionary tips was, dinners don't have to be over-the-top insane, crazy. Dinners don't have to be three or four courses. BLTs and salad is fine. Chicken and veggies is fine too. You don't need to go crazy! It's healthier, and will save you money, to not feel like you have to prep a ton of food for each dinner. My advice is to go after simple meals and items. Chicken with rice and veggies can be just as delicious as a huge, hearty, steak-and-potatoes meal. My husband's favorite dinners are stir fry days, when I literally just reheat roasted veggies with some teriyaki sauce, add some chicken, and cook some chow mein noodles. Minimal effort, truly. 

4. Stretch what you make with bulk items. 

When I prep rice and vegetables for the week, I make sure to have things like pre-cooked chicken, beef, and meatballs in the freezer. I usually keep a batch of turkey meatballs and beef meatballs frozen and thaw as needed. I also cook ground beef with peppers and onions and freeze in bags to use for spaghetti, tacos, lasagna, and more. Chicken is easy to cook in the oven, cool, and freeze in individual servings to be de-thawed as necessary. Having these things in your freezer can be added to your weekly prepped items, like rice and roasted vegetables, for a quick lunch or dinner. Keeping canned goods (like black beans, corn, and chickpeas) on hand can also be a quick addition. 

When you meal prep ahead of time, you save yourself time and you save money. None of these items are particularly expensive and if you shop sales, you can get good deals on ground beef and ground turkey to cook in advance. 


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