Are you looking for easy dinner ideas for toddler that the whole family will love? Including those picky toddlers?
Have you ever had those busy weeknights where it’s 5 o’clock, you’re tired, hungry, and ready to eat but then you realize you’re the mom and you’re the one who has to come up with something to eat and fast before everyone gets cranky? And you don’t want to be a short-order cook making a separate meal for every family member.
In this post, we will cover easy dinner ideas and quick meal ideas that offer a variety of foods and can be adjusted for your toddler and the rest of the family. Having a list of family-friendly meals on hand to rotate makes dinner time so much easier. It’s a good idea to prepare ingredients earlier in the day so you don’t have so much to do later when you are tired. Prepping ingredients when you are making breakfast or lunch can be a great way to cut out some of that dinner-time work.
Everyone has different standards of what they consider healthy but these are go-to meals that can be adjusted to meet different dietary needs. All the ideas listed here are vegetarian but can easily be paired with portions of meat. You can also add your favorite vegetarian protein sources like tofu and tempeh.
3 Easy Toddler Meals Even For Picky Eaters
Most children love pasta and it’s a family favorite too. It can be made healthier in sneaky ways.
Ways To Make Pasta Healthier:
- Swap out white pasta for whole grain pasta, quinoa pasta, brown rice pasta, etc.
- Use plant-based milk like soy milk or homemade vegan cheese sauce to make creamy pasta like Mac & Cheese or Alfredo.
- Try making a sauce with avocado or white beans. This adds healthy fats and protein.
- If using a traditional tomato sauce get a low sodium and low sugar one from the store or make your own.
- Hide veggies in a pasta bake. You can do a baked mac & cheese and add cauliflower for instance.
- Try a simple version of spaghetti with olive oil and lemon. Toss some cherry tomatoes on top and fresh basil. Yum!
Eating more whole grains versus white versions of our favorite foods adds more fiber and nutrients.
*Bonus Tip: Talking about the different shapes and colors of food can make toddlers more curious to try also. Heirloom tomatoes and carrots that are multicolored can be fun.
This is another traditional food that families love and you can make so many variations. Add lots of veggies and fresh herbs for a healthy twist. The great thing about pizza is you can put ingredients out and let each family member build their own. You can set parameters like everyone has to use at least 3 ingredients.
You can try pizza with corn, broccoli, fresh basil, etc. If children are helping build their own pizza they may be more willing to try different ingredients. You can make your own personal-size crusts or buy them at the store. You can also use whole wheat tortillas.
You can bake the basic pizza dough with cheese and saute the toppings and make them available on the table or let everyone build their pizza first uncooked and then bake them. This can make a great family fun dinner night.
You can try it with tomato sauce, a white sauce, or no sauce. Experiment and have fun together.
Quesadillas are another favorite among both children and adults that also can be made in so many different ways. My family loves a quesadilla with broccoli, shredded carrots, and onions. I put some cheese on both sides to melt everything together but really pack it with the veggies. Cheese quesadillas but with veggies! These are some of my favorite fast lunch ideas too.
Pizza quesadillas are delicious. Black beans and sweet potatoes together are another low-fat and healthy option.
These are quick toddler meals that families can enjoy too. Now on to some family meals that take a little more prep but are still easy and kid-friendly with healthy foods. Have you tried one of these dinner ideas for toddler?
Healthy Meals That Are Kid-Friendly Dinner Ideas
Veggie Fritters, Mashed Potatoes, and a Side Salad
Shred veggies like carrots and zucchini add an egg and some bread crumbs and fry or bake them. They’re crispy and great finger food with *gasp veggies hidden inside! Serve with a side of mashed potatoes and a salad.
If your littles are old enough to chew raw veggies don’t bypass trying salads. Sometimes they like the crunch on their little rabbit teeth and with a flavorful dressing, they’re delicious.
Veggie Burgers With Carrot or Sweet Potato Fries
On those days when you are having a hard time a simple veggie burger may do the trick. You can make your own and save them in the freezer or buy store-bought veggie burgers. We keep black bean and veggie burgers in the freezer most of the time. Chop up some carrots or sweet potatoes in sticks for a more nutritious side dish. It’s fun if you can stand them up in a little fry basket and serve them with a side of no-sugar ketchup. If you can use wheat buns even better. You can use dinner-size rolls to make a small portion burger for littles.
Stir Fry Over Rice
A great stir fry is easy. Just chop and throw the veggies in a hot wok or frying pan with a low-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos. We like bell peppers, onions, zucchini, cabbage, and mushrooms. My toddler loves mushrooms. Weird I know. But you can use whatever veggies your family likes. Snap peas are great too.
Serve with rice. We go back and forth between white rice and brown rice. If you have an instant pot it makes cooking rice so fast. They’re excellent for fast soups and stews too! You could even buy those 10-minute microwave rice packs if you are short on time.
Another similar meal is veggie fried rice. The homemade version is so much healthier than takeout and is easy to make. Day-old rice is great for this so it can be a way to use up leftovers. I keep a bag of mixed frozen veggies in the freezer for just such an occasion. They have corn, carrots, and peas.
Gyros and Hummus Wraps
How does your family feel about Greek food? Hummus has great nutrition for littles. If you have a small food processor you can easily make batches of hummus yourself. Roasted red pepper hummus is my favorite.
We like to make our flatbreads for Gyros too. They are surprisingly easy and it’s fun to let toddlers help make them and roll them. But you can always buy flatbreads at the store if that is more your jam.
You can make a tzatziki sauce with cucumbers and Greek yogurt. This adds a fresh element and protein. We fill our gyros with roasted chickpeas and veggies. Chickpeas are a great source of protein.
Tortilla hummus wraps are another great option. You can smear them with hummus, add your veggie filling, and roll them. You can even cut them into pinwheels which are more fun for the little ones.
Casseroles and Baked Dishes
One-dish recipes are great when you need to just pop something in the oven and do other things. Some of our favorites are baked burritos, Taquitos, rice and broccoli casserole, and pasta bakes.
I also like to do sheet pan roasted veggies from time to time to add as a side dish with other easy toddler meal ideas. Sometimes I’ll roast veggies to add to leftovers to make a bulkier meal when we need to use up items from the fridge.
Keep Trying Easy Toddler Dinner Ideas Even If You Have Picky Eaters!
I know how frustrating it feels to spend your precious time cooking and your valuable resources only to have your meal rejected or picked over. But small children are ever developing their pallets so be sure to continue to try things even if they don’t like something the first time. Try different seasonings too. Some children find even black pepper too spicy. Others enjoy a bit of heat.
Try seasonings from different cultures and see what your family enjoys. I know it is extra work at first but if you keep notes and just try things when you are cooking anyway it can save a lot of time in the long run.
Also, simple meals are usually the healthiest so we don’t have to be chefs to nourish our families. But if you do want to try out your chef skills Gordon Ramsey has some dinner ideas for toddler and bigger kids too.
Breakfast For Dinner?
On the days when I don’t know what to cook I like to flip the day on its head and have breakfast for dinner- think grits and eggs, avocado toasts, pancakes, etc. Add a bowl of fresh fruit and call it a night.
I didn’t include actual recipes in this post because I wanted to share meal ideas to help you make a list of favorites for your family. But we have a Pinterest board with recipes for a lot of these ideas here Dinner Ideas For Toddlers.
Nutrition Over Perfection
Something that has helped me is to think about a meal for its overall balance of carbs, fats, and protein and the variety of nutrients. Eating whole foods versus a lot of packaged items. Some packaged items are ok and can save time like frozen fruits and veggies. I like to check ingredients and try to stick to as simple and real as I can for our little one. If we try to be too strict we can cut needed nutrition and make meal times too hard.
As a busy mom getting healthy meals on the table can be a challenge but keeping a running list of kid-friendly meals and family favorites helps so much. You can even print off pictures and put them in a binder in your kitchen or on your fridge.
This post is not meant to be nutrition or medical advice. If you want to go deeper there are great books out there on toddler nutrition and family food prep.
If we don’t make it easy, it is too tempting to grab whatever may not be balanced or the most nutritious. After all, what we really want is to be able to sit down at the dinner table together as a family and enjoy. So I want to know, do you have a list of favorite easy toddler dinner ideas and dinner recipes the whole family enjoys? Let me know your top meals and favorite weeknight dinner in the comments.
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