When it comes to meals for toddlers, nutritional needs and food preferences aren’t always the same. It can be a challenge to get them to eat some days, let alone to eat what they need to. They can be very particular about texture, taste, temperature, presentation and quite commonly, the familiarity of food. This is all normal.
Our role as caregivers and parents is to introduce healthy food early, persistently and with appeal. By offering healthy choices to toddlers they learn to appreciate a wider range of foods and obtain the energy they need to fuel their busy days.
Keep offering healthy foods
It can take months of seeing the same food for some toddlers to feel familiar enough with it to try. Just persist in putting a little on their plate. It can be tempting to always ‘hide’ foods they don’t like but it is important to let them see it sometimes so they become familiar with it.
If you have a particularly fussy eater, our guidance notes on ‘Managing Preferences’ may be able to help you further.
Healthy, fun and tasty meal tricks for toddlers
The best toddler meal is quick, nutritious and interesting. Often it will be the same as yours. Here are some meal ideas, including healthy recipes for toddlers that meet all the criteria:
- Build your own – burger, salad, wrap or sandwich
Toddlers and even older children love to get involved, select what they want and put it on their plate. This is a great meal for the whole family to enjoy together. Use family favourites or get creative, think lettuce wraps with rice, fried pork mince and soy sauce or falafel burgers with yoghurt sauce and salad.
- Tasting plates
Meals for toddlers don’t have to be complicated to be healthy. Get creative and arrange simple foods in a shape to entertain your child. Alfalfa makes great hair, cucumber rounds with a sultana each are eyes and houmous spreads into a lovely smile. Use whatever you have. Toddlers can taste individual flavours or mix together creating new tastes. These are also a great way to include new foods with familiar ones.
- Simple recipes for toddlers
Yes, toddlers need exposure but they also need nutrition. Try some of these simple healthy meals for toddlers that hide a few vegetables:
- Blended soup. This recipe can use almost any vegetable. Try cauliflower, potato and leek; tomato, pepper and onion or plain butternut squash. Boil the vegetables in low salt stock until soft. Add herbs of choice then blend. Serve with a swirl of yoghurt or soft cheese and dipping soldier bread sticks.
- Blend banana, milk, yoghurt and a few cubes of frozen spinach for a smoothie treat.
- Try adding finely diced celery, mushrooms, courgette or carrot into your shepherd’s pie or pasta bolognaise.