Healthy Toddler Meal Ideas

What parent hasn't racked her brains over what to serve her picky toddler, or felt guilty when her child gorged on ice cream and skipped dinner? Fortunately, eating healthfully is all about variety and balance over several days. With a variety of foods on the menu, your toddler will receive all the nutrients he needs. And if one day falls short on vegetables, it'll all even out over the period of several days or a week.

A Caution on Portions Make sure you offer reasonable amounts of any food. Small children become overwhelmed if you put huge portions on their plate! By age 4, most kids can eat adult-size servings regularly. Two- and 3-year-olds should be served smaller portions. The best thing you can do is start small with a couple of tablespoons and let your child ask for seconds.

For this meal plan, approximate maximum serving sizes for children 18 months to 3 years are listed first, and those for 4-year-olds are indicated in parentheses. Remember, don't overwhelm toddlers with huge portions of food on their plate and avoid feeding large junks of food (like hot dog “pennies”) that they can choke on. Start with just a couple of tablespoons if your child is just 18 or 24 months old.

Day One Menu

Breakfast 1/3 cup cooked oatmeal, made with milk (1/2 cup) 1/3 cup honeydew melon and cantaloupe chunks (1/2 cup) 1/2 cup milk

Snack 1 piece string cheese 3 wheat crackers (4)

Lunch 1/3 cup tuna salad stuffed in whole-wheat pita pocket half (tuna salad made with mayonnaise and pickle relish) 1/3 cup baby carrots, cooked (1/2 cup) 1 small plum, cut into pieces 1/2 cup milk

Snack 1/2 piece wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (1 piece) 1/3 cup red, yellow, and green bell pepper strips (1/2 cup) 2 tablespoons low-fat ranch dressing for dipping

Dinner 4 oven-baked chicken nuggets with honey-mustard sauce for dipping (6) 1/3 cup cooked brown rice with 1/2 teaspoon butter (1/2 cup) 1/3 cup cooked green beans (1/2 cup) 1/2 cup milk

Snack 1/3 cup trail mix made with oat-ring cereal and dried fruit, cut into small bits (1/2 cup)

Day Two Menu

Breakfast 1 frozen pancake with maple syrup (2 pancakes) 1 sausage link, cut into very small pieces (2 links) 1/2 cup calcium-fortified orange juice (3/4 cup)

Snack 1 hard-cooked egg, cut into pieces 1/2 cup milk

Lunch 1/2 grilled cheese sandwich made with 1 slice whole-wheat bread, 1 teaspoon butter, and 1 slice (about 3/4 to 1 ounce) American or Cheddar cheese (1 sandwich, made with two slices of bread and 2 slices of cheese) 1/2 cup tomato soup made with milk and topped with a few oyster crackers (3/4 cup) 1/2 small pear, cut into slices (1 pear)

Snack 1/2 cup strawberry yogurt (1 cup) 2 graham cracker squares (4)

Dinner 2 ounces broiled or grilled boneless pork chop (3 ounces) 1/3 cup cooked baby red potatoes, cut up and topped with butter (1/2 cup) 1/3 cup steamed broccoli (1/2 cup) 1/2 cup milk

Snack 1/3 cup sliced peaches (1/2 cup)

Day Three Menu

Breakfast 1 scrambled egg topped with shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 eggs) 1/2 slice cinnamon swirl toast with butter (1 slice) 1/2 cup pineapple-orange juice (3/4 cup)

Snack 1 oatmeal cookie 1/2 cup chocolate milk

Lunch 4 oven-baked fish sticks with tartar sauce for dipping (6) 1/3 cup mashed sweet potatoes, topped with butter and cinnamon (1/2 cup) 1/3 cup steamed zucchini or summer squash (1/2 cup) 1/3 whole-grain dinner roll (1/2 roll) 1/2 cup milk

Snack 4 mini apple-cinnamon rice cakes (6) 1/2 small banana, cut into pieces (1)

Dinner Spaghetti and meatballs made with: 1/3 cup cooked whole-wheat spaghetti (1/2 cup) 1/4 cup pasta sauce (1/3 cup) 3 small meatballs (4) Sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, if desired 1 garlic breadstick 1/2 cup milk

Snack 1/2 cup frosted mini wheat squares cereal 1/2 cup milk

Meal ideas

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