Cooking for and feeding a toddler can be one of THE most frustrating, stressful things for us moms. It’s so hard to consistently feed them healthy, wholesome meals and snacks, and their bi-polar appetites don’t help the situation! Plus, we’re moms, not chefs, and mealtime isn’t the only thing on our minds. We need convenience and don’t know how to make that work with nutrition.
My pediatrician has really encouraged me to stick with what he calls “God’s Diet” (an ongoing joke with my extended family, who did not grow up on “God’s Diet”) — raw fruits, veggies, dairy, meats, all prepared with little to no salt, sugar, or seasonings. Since I love cooking and eating healthy food and tweaking recipes to make them more nutritious, I was instantly on board. For purposes of practicality and flexibility, though, I have to give myself some grace with this. Sometimes, convenience wins. And eventually, they’ll find out about pizza and fried chicken fingers and sugary snacks. It will happen. But I can do my best to give my girls a great foundation.
I try to plan and prep ahead: slicing a large container of berries at the beginning of the week, keeping frozen veggies on hand, offering string cheese instead of cheese crackers at snack time. Being intentional about their nutrition doesn’t have to mean buying all things organic or freaking out if someone feeds them a cheese puff. It just means planning ahead and doing the best you can.
When it comes to meals, finding go-to recipes like the ones I share below has been a game-changer for me. These meals allow me to spend as little time as possible cooking but deliver maximum nutrition and yumminess. And bonus points for them being meals the whole family can eat!
5. Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash
This recipe from A Sweet Life sat on one of my Pinterest boards forever until I recently saw it and thought it would be a great one for the girls. We all ended up loving it and now have it on the regular. Squash is such a versatile vegetable, and I love how simply nutritious this recipe is — full of vitamins and nutrients, and plenty of protein from the cheese.
I decided to tweak it a bit so here’s what I do, and we love it just as much:
- Omit 1 tbsp butter
- Omit salt (in my opinion, the saltiness of the parmesan adds enough flavor)
- Omit the provolone
4. Blueberry Baked Oatmeal
Here’s some newness for your morning routine. I wanted to make some sort of oatmeal bake for my girls, and now we’re all addicted to this yumminess by Cookie and Kate. Try some of these tips to make this recipe work for you:
- Babies can’t eat nuts. I’m no doctor but I’m horrified of the choking that could occur, so I recommend omitting the 2/3 cups pecans and replacing with an additional 2/3 cups of oatmeal. Works fine for me!
- I compared maple syrup and honey and was surprised to find that maple syrup has considerably less sugar per serving than honey! But either is yummy and nutritious, so whichever fits your fancy.
- I opt to use frozen blueberries — they’re cheaper and you can buy them by the bag at most grocery stores (my pick is Costco).
- I let this cool and then slice it into little baby/toddler-friendly chunks. My girls can pick it up so easily. Rylee likes to pick the blueberries out and eat them — little stinker.
3. Roasted Sweet Potatoes
This is so easy, I’m not even sure it is a recipe. But sweet potatoes is one of my (and now my girls’) favorite foods and we eat them year round, so I had to include this. You can get sweet potatoes as cheap as .49 per pound, and they can be prepared in so many ways. Here’s my girls’ favorite:
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 TBSP olive oil
- a dash of cinnamon
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off each potato.
- Slice each potato in half, from top to bottom lengthwise. Repeat with each half, slicing lengthwise. Chop into 1/2 inch cubes.
- Toss cubes in olive oil and cinnamon.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the potato pieces in a single layer.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
2. Slow Cooker Lasagna
Any Emily Ley fans out there? She’s a graphic designer who focuses on simplicity, and her products are beautiful. One of her money-saving tips for meal planning is to stretch your proteins/meats. Meat’s expensive, right? So I came across this AMAZING meatless lasagna recipe at Don’t Waste the Crumbs. I know, I know … I was skeptical, too. No meat in lasagna? Sounds crappy. But y’all. I don’t know what makes this meal so, so stinking good, but it has instantly become a family favorite. And the girls DEVOUR it every time.
Tip: Instead of the 24 oz. jar of marinara she calls for, I like to use the 24 oz. Classico Tomato and Basil sauce — simple ingredients and it tastes excellent as the sauce for lasagna.
1. Roasted Chicken and Veggies
It’s no surprise to me that my number one go-to meal comes from Katie Ferrell at Dashing Dish. Have you ever heard of this site? If not, it’s your new best friend. You can thank me later. Katie dealt with an eating disorder in the past but now is passionate about recipes that are comforting, delicious, clean, and nutritious. She has SO many tips and tricks for eating healthy but practically. I have her cookbook (here on Amazon) and the pages are literally falling out because it’s the only one I use, and use it I do!
Her one pan roasted balsamic chicken and veggies recipes is one of my all-time favorites, and my husband’s too. Oh, and the girls? They love every bit of it. Absolutely can’t get enough. What makes this dish great:
- Swap out the veggies for whatever veggie you have on hand.
- Take a few minutes in the morning (or whenever you’re most free) and chop up the veggies, throw in a ziplock along with the raw chicken and spices and oil and vinegar, and let it sit and marinate in the fridge all day. Then when dinnertime comes along, all you have to do is dump everything out onto a lined baking pan and you’re good to go!
- I seriously can’t understand how balsamic vinegar gives so much flavor. Pure magic. Vinegar of the gods.
- Keep whatever doesn’t fit on the pan in a ziplock and bake the next day! I find it makes more than a pan full. Two meals for the work of one! #winning
I hope these recipes give you new inspiration and hope in the everyday grind of feeding toddlers!
Do you have any simple and healthy go-to meals that your kids love? Comment below!