On Monday, I shared my strategies for meal planning and grocery shopping. I keep a running list of lunch ideas so I don’t have to recreate the wheel every two weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, we eat chicken nuggets, peanut butter & jelly, and turkey dogs just as much as the next family.
But from the time my first born could eat solids, we’ve been experimenting with foods, eating a variety of things, and praying we don’t have picky eaters.
Most of the time, they’re not picky.
Sometimes they are.
Here are some of the most served toddler-friendly meals in our house:
// cobb salad minus the salad \\
Hard boiled egg, cheese, avocado, and almonds.
// sub boats \\
Lunch meat & cheese on a hot dog bun with chips and carrots (for bonus points, add a toothpick flag to the sandwich).
// soft pretzel with cheese sauce \\
Dipping anything is a hit at our table; warm up a soft pretzel & allow dipping options (salsa, cheese sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc.) with fresh fruit.
// mini pizzas \\
Using a can of grand’s biscuits: roll them out, add tomato sauce, let the little ones add their favorite toppings, and bake–this one is a big hit with our girls (we’ve also used English muffins or bagels if we don’t have biscuits on hand).
// veggies & hummus \\
Buy or make your own hummus and then put together a little veggie tray with things such as carrots, celery, green peppers, yellow squash, etc.
// veggies & Greek yogurt ranch \\
Save the fat by using plain Greek yogurt and a package of ranch dressing mix as a dip for veggies, pretzels, or pita chips.
// movie night snacks \\
Mix popcorn and dried cranberries with a side of apples and carrots to dip in peanut butter. Feels almost too easy for lunch.
// pasta & breadsticks \\
Mini pasta with tomato sauce and toast some bread, butter it, and then cut it into strips (and some garlic powder if your kids will be okay with that). I occasionally hide veggies in the pasta sauce but that sometimes backfires–proceed with caution.
// hot ham & cheese quesadilla \\
Tortilla in a pan with shredded cheese and diced lunch meat, heat both sides and then cut into triangles. My kids like to dip it in salsa. Throw in a fruit and/or veggie side to top it off.
// cracker towers \\
Ritz crackers, cheese slices, pepperoni (or other meat cut into little squares) and let the kids make their own “sandwiches”–they get large and unable to fit in their mouths then they normally just take them apart and eat them. Either way, it’s a win for fun with your food. Applesauce and ants-on-a-log compliment the entree well.
// chips & salsa \\
With a side of black beans and a fruit are good for littles who want to eat big kid food. We buy the smaller round tortillas and the mild salsa. If you toddler doesn’t like anything with heat, buy the enchilada sauce or taco sauce which has little-to-no heat.
// fill-your-own pitas \\
Give each child a whole-wheat pita and then lots of different filler options, you’ll be surprised what they’ll put in there (and eat!) if you let them do it themselves. Ideas: shredded lettuce, chopped veggies, diced lunch meat, grilled chicken, and shredded cheese.
// cheese rollups \\
Sprinkle shredded cheese over a tortilla shell and microwave for 10-15 seconds. Once the cheese is melted, roll it up and serve with dipping sauce (salsa, ranch, etc.), fruit, and veggies.
// egg or chicken salad with crackers \\
As long as they can dip, my kids will mostly likely eat it. Serve chicken or egg salad (ham salad, tuna salad, etc.) with crackers, applesauce, and carrot sticks. They might start dipping things or mixing things differently than you intended, but as long as they’re eating, who cares?
// beans! \\
Chickpeas, black beans, butter beans, lima beans. When my kids were very small, they ate any and all kinds of beans. They’ve become a little picker as they’ve gotten older, but we can still open a can of beans, rinse them off, and warm them up for a quick meal every once in a while. Edamame has been a recent hit too. Add a side of goldfish crackers and some green peppers with ranch.
// banana bread \\
Yes, we make a meal out of this. Normally it’s banana bread, some almonds, a cheese slice, and some grapes. The kids love it and it’s filling although my husband calls this their squirrel meal.
// appetizers \\
Put cheese chunks, fruits, veggies, pepperoni, or bits of lunch meat on toothpicks in different bowls and let the kids grab what they want. It’s nothing fancy, but eating off toothpicks is major for my kids and you’d be surprised what they’ll eat if you give them a toothpick to stab it with.
// deli rollups \\
Using the same toothpick idea, I roll up turkey or ham with a slice of cheese in the middle and serve that with some goldfish crackers, a fruit, and a vegetable. Putting a thin layer of mayo or mustard in between the meat and the cheese works too.
// ants on a lily pad \\
Very similar to ants on a log, but we use English muffins (toasted or not) and spread some peanut butter on it and sprinkle raisins. I slice it into fourths and serve them with applesauce and pretzels. This is something I eat often too–minus the raisins and adding a little sea salt on top. Delish.
// pigs in a blanket \\
These are a hit with all members of the household. Buy little cocktail wienies (I like the turkey ones) or just use regular-sized hot dogs. Wrap them in a crescent rolls and bake. Dip in ketchup or mustard and serve with a fruit and veggie.
Obviously, I believe any food can count as a meal if you add a fruit and vegetable to it. We always make sure we’ve got at least one of those, if not both, at every meal. I have this weird almost four-year-old that requests “crunchy carrots” as a snack. I don’t know where she gets it, I much prefer crunchy chips as a snack. But apparently our strive for healthy food habits is paying off.
I don’t think it’s about only serving organic, low fat, high fiber meals to kids. I want to teach them good habits, but show them that not-so-good stuff can be consumed too. Just in moderation.
What are some of your favorite go-to meals with kids? Share your ideas or recipes, I’d love to throw them into our rotation.