As many parents know, little people are notoriously picky eaters. My little two-year-old son, Owen, is one of them… when I try introducing a new food he doesn’t recognize, it’s pretty likely that I’ll hear, “no… that’s ucky” or “no cank you momma” upon offering.
What I’ve found, however, is that Owen is MUCH more likely to try new foods if he gets to help make them, if mommy and daddy are eating it first, and/or it looks “fun” to eat (colorful foods, animal shaped foods, foods that resemble Play-Doh etc.)
You wouldn’t think presentation matters much to a toddler, but… you’d be wrong. Smiley-faced pizzas mean everything to a 2-year-old.
So, without further ado… here are my (or Owen’s) top 6 favorite toddler meal ideas:
1). Whole Wheat Pita Pizzas
Look for mini whole-wheat pitas at your local grocery store. Top with homemade pizza sauce, cheese and any other toppings you think your little one might like (veggies, ham, pepperoni, etc.) If you have extra time, set out small dishes of optional toppings and show your toddler how to make a smiley face or another shape with the extra toppings. Serve cold like “Lunchable pizzas” or bake at 350 for about 6-7 minutes.
2). Ice Cube Tray Tapas
Little people have little stomachs, but they have big, curious minds. They may not always be willing to eat a full serving of veggies, but they might try a bite or two if it peaks their interest enough.
One of my favorite quick & easy meals is to take an empty ice cube tray and fill each opening with a couple bites of anything we have on hand—a couple slices of apple, a few grapes, a couple cheese cubes, animal crackers, carrots, cucumber, turkey, bite-sized chicken pieces, etc. This makes an especially great snack for little ones who have a hard time staying seated for an entire meal—they can take a few bites, play, and come back to their food when they’re ready for more.
3). Mickey Mouse “Cancakes”
My son LOVES Mickey Mouse almost as much as he loves pancakes (or as he calls them—cancakes). We have a cute little Mickey Mouse waffle-maker that we use, but you can easily make Mickey-shaped pancakes by pouring a large circle with two smaller circles near the top for ears or make regular, circular pancakes and cut them into shapes afterward with a cookie-cutter. I also love to load up the pancake batter with flaxseed, chia seeds, bananas and other goodies to pack in a little extra nutrition.
4). Veggie-egg Muffins
I don’t know why, but scrambled eggs that are shaped like mini-muffins are much more appealing to toddlers than their non-muffin shaped counterparts (maybe because it reminds them of cupcakes!) This recipe is super simple and you can easily freeze whatever is leftover. I like to sauté bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and other veggies to mix in with my eggs, but you can easily cook up some sausage, bacon, or anything else you like inside your scrambled eggs.
Once you have your mix-ins cooked and ready to go, you just combine them with your whisked eggs (12 eggs is a good number to fill your muffin pan, but you can easily make more or less depending on the number of mouths you’re feeding). Pour the mixture into your muffin tin and bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes (or until you can stick a toothpick in and have it come out clean). Freeze what’s leftover for a quick breakfast on a busy morning some other day!
5). Sushi-Style Sandwiches
Sandwiches are one of the most classic meals for lunch of all time. But, after a while… they can get boring even if you’re mixing up what’s inside. Switching up the shape of the sandwich to be “sushi style” is a fun way to change the way your toddler looks at this quick and easy lunchtime fix!
To make sandwich sushi, all you have to do is cut the crusts off each side and then flatten your bread with a rolling pin. Get out your desired fillings (peanut butter & banana, turkey & cheese, PB&J, etc.) and spread a thin layer over your bread. Roll it up into one long roll and then cut into sushi style pieces. If it easily unrolls, you can try placing it in the freezer for a few minutes before cutting to keep everything intact.
I hope these toddler meal ideas inspire you to make something new and exciting for your little one! Do you have any fun recipes that your kids love? I would love to hear some of your ideas in the comments!