Check out these sneakily healthy toddler meals for picky eaters, plus some tips on getting through the picky eating phase.
I never thought I’d be sneaking veggies into my kid’s food, but here I am talking about how to sneak nutrition into meals for kiddos. Isn’t it funny how your ideas about parenting change once you pop out a baby?
My son Darrol Henry has always eaten his veggies like a champ. He would pick the kale out of his bowl of pasta, sure. But it was because he wanted to eat it, not toss it onto the floor. Then one day it was like a switch had flipped. Suddenly, my agreeable baby was tossing all things green. All this kid would eat were pasta and bread. It was a foodie mom’s nightmare. These are some of the healthy toddler meals that got me through.
7 Healthy Toddler Meals
1. Veggie Potato Cakes – Hide pureed veggies in mashed potatoes, then bake them in a muffin pan. These work great for lunch or supper, and I pack them in Darrol’s daycare lunch, too!
2. Creamy Kale Pasta Sauce – If your picky eater wants to live on pasta alone, sneak some veggies and protein into the mix!
3. Green Smoothies – When all else fails, serve up those greens in a sippy cup. The recipe I have linked is a good base, and if you need to turn this into a full-on healthy toddler meal, 1/4 of a Haas avocado and 1/2 a banana instead of the whole banana. You can also use protein-rich hemp or soy milk in place of the water to make this more of a sippable meal.
4. Vegan Nuggets – These plant-based nuggets are a great toddler finger food recipe with lots of nutrition hiding inside.
5. Hearty Homestyle Spaghetti – Kids love pasta, and that sauce is perfect for hiding extra veggie power.
6. Creamy Mashed Cauliflower – Mashes potatoes, schmashed schmoschmatoes! Serve up this bowl of kid-friendly cruciferous power!
7. Farmhouse Veggie Burger – Veggie burgers are an easy finger food, and this recipe’s a great one. Just skip the fried cabbage if your toddler is on a no-veggie kick.
4 Tips for Picky Eaters
My son’s picky eating phase only lasted three or four weeks, thank goodness, and I’m pretty sure there are a few specific strategies that helped us through. Here are some tips on dealing with your picky eater and keeping your sanity while you do it:
1. Keep offering veggies. I know. I wanted to cry every time Darrol tossed a piece of broccoli onto the floor. But keep offering up fresh veggies, even if your kid takes one bite and spits it out. Sometimes it takes a few tries for kids to get used to new tastes, so keep offering those fresh, whole veggies alongside the more “sure thing” healthy toddler meals listed above.
2. Embrace what he likes. Even during his pickiest period, Darrol would still eat sweet potatoes and avocado, so I made sure to have that available to him at every single meal. This was more a sanity thing for me than anything else. At least you know that your kid is getting some sort of fresh veggies!
3. Offer choices. You can offer a variety of veggies, sure, but also change up the vessels and utensils that you’re using. It might sound crazy, but Darrol Henry will eat roasted summer squash if I offer him a bite from a fork. Present a few pieces on a plate, and he tosses it all onto the floor. He will grudgingly eat a few pieces of organic steamed edamame on his tray, but he’ll gobble it down by the handful if I put it in a bowl for him. Toddlers are made to explore, so mix things up! If they reject that sauteed broccoli on a plate, offer it in a bowl next time.
4. Don’t blame yourself. By week two of Darrol’s picky phase, I was feeling pretty despondent. When you spend 45 minutes lovingly preparing a dish, it’s heartbreaking to watch your kid reject it. This is easier said, but try to remember that this is less about your cooking and more about your toddler asserting his independence. Can I have that on a wall poster, please?
Are you dealing with a picky toddler? What healthy toddler meals are a hit at your house?
I originally published a version of this piece at Eat Drink Better.