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Toddler Meal Ideas

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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 your toddler with huge portions of food on their plate. Start with just a couple of tablespoons if your child is just 18 or 24 months old.

Day One Menu

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

1 piece string cheese
3 wheat crackers (4)

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

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

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

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



Member comments

Great article
Definitely will try these foods out on my picky toddler.

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What's on the menu these days? Our kids will thrive on soft table foods — unsalted and cut into small pieces — plus baby cereal and milk. It can be good to introduce foods with different textures, too, to expand their palate. Learn more.
Read Child-Friendly Cuisine