Healthy toddler meal and snack ideas
If you are the parent of a toddler, you have a very important role in developing your child’s nutritional habits. If started early on, you have the potential to create healthful eating habits in your child that will carry on through his or her lifetime.
However, many parents do not know how many unhealthy foods are available to children…or, on the other side, how easy it can be select nutritious foods kids love. Amidst the chaos of the supermarket aisles, you can either select foods that help nourish your child to give him or her the best chances of a healthy, successful life or you can select the cheap, fake foods that kids are often drawn to (through advertising, especially) that do little to healthfully nourish a growing body and may even cause a child harm. I am convinced our health is a direct result of how we take care of our bodies, with nutrition being at the top of the list.
So, to help guide you in selecting foods for your toddler, here are some tried-and-true examples. Bring this list with you to the grocery store to help you when you shop:
- Offer about 2 snacks per day – one in between breakfast & lunch and the second in between lunch & dinner. Ideally, make at least one snack each day be a fruit or vegetable selection.
- Up to 4 oz of 100% juice per day (mix with water to increase the fluid amount) or one naturally diluted juice box (such as RW Knudsen Organic Sensible Sippers, Honest Kids organic thirst quencher or Motts for Tots).
- Other healthy drinks for the day include organic cow’s milk or milk alternative such as soymilk, water or sparkling water.
Fruit/vegetable-based snack ideas:
- Organic apple/pear/plum slices
- Organic applesauce with optional 4 whole grain crackers/pretzels
- Orange, banana or kiwi pieces
- ½ cup organic fresh/frozen organic berries
- Box of organic raisins
- Packaged fruit cup (4oz size) in juice (not syrup or gel)
- Melon (1/2 cup) if the rind is washed very well first
- Single piece of organic fruit leather (Fruit-A-Bu, Target’s Archer Farms) with one handful pretzels
- Organic seedless grapes – cut in half if they are large (1/2 cup)
- Organic or homegrown baby carrots/bell pepper pieces/cucumbers/sugar snap peas/green beans/other veggie with 1-2 tbsp hummus
- 1/8 of an avocado with 4 crackers/pretzels
Other snack ideas:
- 4-6 oz organic or natural lowfat plain yogurt (i.e. Stonyfield Farm brand is best since it is fortified with calcium & vitamin D). Alternatively, other organic versions that state “no BGH” or “no antibiotics” are next best.
- Organic cheese (i.e. Horizon organic string cheese) & a couple crackers
- 5 organic vanilla animal crackers
- Small organic/natural granola bar (Earth’s Best or Clif Z Bar)
- Serving of whole grain cereal
- ½ cup of Annie’s Naturals Bunny Grahams/Cheddar Bunnies/Whole Wheat Bunnies
- ½ serving of HT Organic Cheese Duck Crackers/Thin Wheats/Stone Wheat Crackers
Mealtime (most meals pair well with a glass of milk, unless otherwise noted)
- Natural mac & cheese (i.e. Annie’s Naturals). Serve with fruit or veggie and milk.
- Annie’s Naturals boxed Tuna Noodle Spirals made with canned Wild Alaskan Salmon (i.e. Chicken of the Sea brand) or canned organic chicken, instead of tunafish.
- 1/3 – ½ of a frozen organic/natural meal. Serve with mini salad or fruit if needed.
- Amy’s Naturals
- Moosewood Organic vegetarian (i.e. Mac & Cheese or Pesto Portabella Pasta)
- Organic Classics (i.e. Chicken Spinach Fettucini Alfredo)
- ½ cup edamame/beans with ½ cup rice and a side of fruit
- Whole grain pasta (i.e. Barilla Plus or organic pasta), couscous or quinoa with a protein option and fruit or veggie
- Tossed salad with 1 tbsp dressing, ¼ cup beans or other protein and glass of milk
- Sandwich (Grilled cheese with 1 slice natural bread and organic cheese slice; or, 1 tbsp sunflower seed butter with banana slices or 1tbsp jam), applesauce or green veggie and glass of milk
- Sautéed/poached natural chicken breast pieces with ¼ cup organic canned corn and a few pear slices
- Natural lean ground beef burger (1-2 oz) with ¼ cup canned organic carrots and ½ bun
- Shrimp with ½ cup pasta tossed with ¼ teaspoon olive oil or butter and romaine lettuce pieces topped with drizzle of dressing
- Broiled tilapia, HT organic farm raised salmon or wild salmon. Serve with rice, ¼ teaspoon olive oil or butter, cucumber/veggie pieces and diluted juice
- Homemade chili or plain beans with side or rice, fruit and glass of soymilk
- Hardboiled or scrambled Eggland’s Best/organic egg with piece of toast, fruit and soymilk
- Dr Praeger’s spinach, sweet potato or broccoli pancake (frozen section) with fish/chicken, side of fruit and glass of water
- Dr Praeger’s/Ian’s/Organic/Natural frozen chicken nuggets or fish sticks. Serve with ¼ cup veggie (i.e. corn) and ¼ – ½ cup applesauce
- Tofu – super firm cubed tofu (drain water and serve raw), serve with ½ cup rice or pasta, vegetable and diluted juice
- Canned Amy’s or Health Valley lower sodium soup. Serve with piece of bread, optional fruit and water
- Frozen organic whole grain waffle with ½ cup berries and 4 oz yogurt. Serve with water or diluted juice
Things I try to avoid all the time (for young children)
- Peanuts/peanut butter
- Artificial sweeteners, colors & flavors
- Hot dogs
- Deli meat
- Chef Boyardee
- Processed cookies with artificial ingredients
- Non-organic dairy (unless at a restaurant)
- Non-organic meats
- Fried fast foods (i.e. French fries, Chicken nuggets, Hamburgers). Occasionally, I allow Chick-fil-A kids nuggets with fruit and milk – about once per month.
- Sugary, artificially colored cereals
- Donuts & pastries
- Little Debbies
- Cake (unless on someone’s birthday or a special event)
Things I prefer
- Fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables instead of canned
- Kiddie size ice cream (i.e. Ben & Jerry’s or organic or softserve or gelato) occasionally
- Organic or natural breads. Good brands include Pepperidge Farm thin sliced, Arnold 100% Natural, Nature’s Own organic and bakery fresh natural bread
- I choose whipped cream over cool whip since cool whip is “fake”