Another topic requested by y’all — kid-friendly meals! Before I share some of our go-to meals for our kids, I have to make a few announcements/disclaimers:
2. I do not claim any of these meals as “balanced” or “healthy.” My goal is EASY. And if they eat it, that’s a bonus. Also, I’ve pretty much given up on vegetables at this point — unless they come hidden in a pouch or pasta noodles.
3. We rarely eat as a family…because sitting down to eat together is ummm, not really that enjoyable? So we sit with the kids while they eat their dinner and then I cook dinner for me and Matt after they’ve gone to bed. Sometimes I’ll use our dinner leftovers for their dinner the following night. But for now, eating one meal together at 6 pm just isn’t in the cards.
4. We are absolutely obsessed with these divided plates from Target! They are less than a dollar and come in a variety of colors (although we only have a stack of green plates to prevent arguments over who gets which colored plate).
Okay, a few meals we throw together for our picky toddlers on the nights we aren’t serving frozen pizza or Chick-fil-A…
Kiwi, Grapes, deli meat rolled up, cubed string cheese. We like to call this the “grocery samples dinner.” If played infrequently, the samples dinner is usually a success. Note: this dinner does not work without the toothpicks – not even close. And yes, Thomas has to be closely monitored with the toothpicks.
Shrimp poppers, cherry tomatoes and mac & cheese. Caroline hates tomatoes so she gets watermelon, which Thomas will then fight her for. Also, the shrimp poppers (found in the freezer section) are surprisingly delicious. I’ll usually bake extra for shrimp tacos for our dinner after the kids are in bed.
Hot dogs, french fries, watermelon and loads of ketchup.
Pork tenderloin, apples and broccoli. Only Caroline will eat the broccoli but hey, at least I tried. I love this dinner because the pork is a two-ingredient crock pot recipe — super easy and the whole family loves it!
Pasta, cheesy bread and blueberries. Buttered noodles are always a welcomed substitute when they are tired of pasta sauce. And I always use the hidden veggie noodles to make myself feel better about drowning the noodles in butter.
Grilled chicken, bananas, sweet potato fries and yogurt. One trick I picked up over the years of toddler meals is grabbing a pre-grilled chicken breast from the store on my way home from work. It’s SO easy, cheap and ready to eat.
Chicken nuggets + edamame + strawberries.
And now for my favorite meals to serve in a pinch…
Kid Cuisines. Also perfect for babysitter nights, Friday nights, “we’re tired” nights and well, any night really!
Lunchables. I go absolutely bonkers stocking up on these when they are on sale. I am totally “that mom” clearing the lunchables off the shelf. I am not ashamed of my lunchables addiction, not one bit. I love that these are portable meals I can easily throw in a lunch tote for the park, the pool, the car, etc. Easy, easy, easy.
For more food ideas from my lovely readers, check out my previous Toddler Meals post!
Alex K says
I LOVE this post and appreciate it so much. I'm excited to try these new ideas out. Thank you!
Lindsay Bononno says
I love the way you stress these are EASY meals! I wrote half a toddler meals post once before I gave up in fear of judgement! Love all these ideas.
Klein Dot Co says
The toothpick idea? To look like samples? BRILLIANT!!! Little Man loves getting to use hid kiddy chopsticks – same idea, novelty FTW 😉
Rebecca D says
Bento picks are a great sub for toothpicks. My kids get really excited to use them, and suddenly food they were against becomes a favorite because it's bite-sized and they get to eat it with a giraffe pick.https://www.amazon.com/CuteZCute-Bento-10-Piece-Giraffe-Monkey/dp/B002QEQR5A/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1499378276&sr=8-5&keywords=bento+picks
Alicia Rowland says
My toddler basically eats fruit, cheese, bread, and peanut butter lol. She does actually like the fish nugget from TJ, but she pretty much hates all meat and vegetables. At her 3 year appointment when the doctor asked about her diet I was like, ummm next question please?! Haha! Oh and she's SO picky with her mac n cheese. She will only eat the little single serving size Stoffer's cups. At least her milk is organic??? LOL!
I LOVE the toothpick idea!!! My little guy is obsessed with doing it himself, but that results in pretty much everything on the floor or in our dogs' mouths. These are great, easy, and I love how real you are. Toddlers are the most temperamental eaters and who knows what day they'll like something and another day hate it. I'm excited to add these to the rotation.
Elizabeth Chiaramonte says
I share your love of the lunchables! My 3.5 year old and 1 year old both love them! Also in our rotation are: pasta with red sauce, kelly sandwiches, grilled cheese, deli meat sandwiches, chicken nuggets (microwaved ?), Easy mac, and grilled chicken sausage (sun dried tomato is a fave). My 3.5 year old likes fruit cups and gogurts too. My 1 year old hates all fruit. He does like the chunks from soups…which is an easy option. I just strain out the broth and give him the chunks which are soft enough for me not to worry about choking. He pretty much gets all his veggies from pouches. We never eat dinner as a family either ?.
Toni :O) says
As a mom to a nearly 19 year old and a 14 year old, I can tell you they will grow out of their pickiness. Kudos to you with whatever works. The good news is our Pediatrician always said as long as they are eating and drinking something of any nutritional value and taking a multivitamin, they will survive!!
Owen Davis @ Davis Duo says
all such great ideas!! saving for when my girl gets a little older 🙂
Cupcakes and Curls says
Love this! We are all just trying to survive meal times – it's rough man. We have totally given up veggies too and just count veggie noodles and pouches. Cheese Quesadillas with plain Greek yogurt for dipping is a toddler favorite here in Texas. Black bean nachos on baked tortilla chip scoops too. I've been doing smoothies with hidden spinach this summer…it's almost more trouble than it's worth though!
Frozen turkey meatballs, quesadillas and eggs are also staples for our kiddos. And we have these adorable teeny tiny forks- shop them on Amazon where you see bento items- ours are Mickey and crew themed and L loves them. Also- kiddie chopsticks make everything more fun! Again. Amazon.
Jenuine Happiness says
Meal planning is so hard. My son has a gluten allergy so buying special, bread, noodles, snacks, etc. only adds to the battle, ha. And, I'm with you on the veggies. We still buy the veggie packs and he's 2.5! Whatever works! Thanks for sharing!
Talk about a labor of love to put a toothpick in each bite of turkey & cheese! I try that, but usually quit after like 3 toothpicks 😉 But my kiddos are a bit older, so they then just use them as a fork!
I appreciate the honesty! I always get side-eye from people when I tell them we don't eat together as a family because I don't enjoy spending my entire dinner telling kids to please eat. Also, veggies – yep! Sometimes the fight just isn't worth it. Only thing that consistently works for us is smoothies with spinach hidden in them. I feel like a top-secret agent when I sneak that spinach past the kids every night.
I've pinned so many of your parenting-related posts for the future – eating separately when kids are little is so smart! Kids get fed, and the two of you get time to yourselves to talk/actually eat instead of fighting the dinner battle (win win for sure).
I am a single lady with no kiddos – so no fave toddler meal to share. I definitely lived on Kid Cuisine as a child (I was so picky) and I turned out pretty alright…or so I'd like to think!www.natslife6.blogspot.com
We used to do a lot of cheese quesadillas, rice and beans…It was always accompanied with queso, guacamole and chips, of course. We also did a lot of shelled edamame. My kids still love the party size frozen meatballs from Trader Joe's. And they also like the Trader Joe's fish sticks. Sometimes, I buy twice baked potatoes and a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store for them too. I would also make mashed potatoes but do half of it with cauliflower. They never knew the difference. My youngest refuses veggies, so he still eats Ella's Kitchen veggie packets to this day!
Laura Darling says
Everything looks delicious! Those divided plates are brilliant.
Okay, I love this post. Not necessarily because you're feeding your kids much differently than I do but because it's weirdly reassuring that you're feeding your kids almost exactly like I do. My 10-month old eats everything, but my toddler won't touch a vegetable unless it's hidden, and I'm lucky if he eats fruit. Glad to know my kids aren't the only ones! Those plates are amazing though…I may need to add them to my Mama meal repetoire.
Julie @ Just the Joy's says
These are great meal ideas! And I love those plates! For less than a buck, you can't beat that! One of my kids is allergic to almost everything so he can only eat fruits veggies and meats. So that makes meals for him really boring! My other child is super picky so that just adds a whole other level of complication to the mix! We do a lot of waffle + PB + flax seed or rice cakes + PB + flax seed for her!
Traci Hutton says
Sweetballs. Mini turkey, beef or frozen meatballs in a sauce made from chili sauce and grape jelly. My boys are 7 & 12 and still ask for them once a week. Pretty yummy served over mashed potatoes or in a crockpot for a party. We love the popcorn shrimp too!
Awesome. THANK YOU! I feel like I serve him turkey hot dogs and turkey meat balls SO much. But it's what he'll eat!! AHHHH!!!! Luckily, he also likes turkey kielbasa sausage. Annnnnnnd…..cereal.
Caley-Jade Rosenberg says
Love the post my friend – been meaning to do one for ages! it's sitting in my Drafts but to make this all at once? Haha x
Reading through your old parenting posts….thanks for this one! It’s so easy to feel pressured to serve toddlers perfectly balanced meals when all they want is cheese and ketchup!