I don’t really have a frame of reference, but apparently, James isn’t as picky as he could be. He eats, and more than one thing. Apparently, that’s good. Idk. But I still wish he ate more and a greater variety of foods. I try my best, but frankly, while balancing work, a side hustle, James, Dakota and everything else, I find it hard to cook let alone get creative with my cooking. If I’m being totally transparent, most of James’ meals are pre-prepared foods I just need to heat up — we’ve been doing a lot of meals from Fresh Direct as well as from our local grocery store that has a great selection of everything from salmon and turkey ricotta meatballs to flank steak along with a variety of sides. It doesn’t really bug me. Honestly, they do a better job of cooking than I probably could and it saves me time and frustration. Plus, we all like it, so my family is nourished and I don’t have to come home from a long day and worry about what to make and clean up. However, I still struggle with variety, since most of their offerings are the same types of things. and sometimes James just won’t eat them. I want to try to prepare more meals in advance so that I can freeze them or stick them in the fridge so we can just heat them up and know James is having a nutritious meal. While I do really believe in having James eat the same foods as us, mostly because French people do that and they seem to have a much better relationship with food, and because I’ve noticed that James is most interested in eating what we’re eating and not so much something different we serve him. So to finish my three part series for toddler meals (check out toddler breakfast ideas and toddler lunch ideas), here are some easy, totally doable toddler dinner ideas.
Pasta with Chicken
James loves pasta anything, so this is an easy one. Sometimes I order it, but other times, I’ll just make some whole wheat or lentil or vegetable pasta, toss on either a meat or veggie sauce, or just add some butter. I like to include some sliced chicken or meatballs of some variety to give it some protein. Sliced carrots also seem to go down well with this. I’ve tried really thinly diced broccoli but he still always finds them and picks them out.
I’ll make quesadillas with low-fat organic cheese and diced veggies on multigrain tortillas. I make guac the side even though James doesn’t like and it takes like ten minutes tops to make.
Turkey Meatloaf with Spaghetti Squash
I got this idea from another one of our pre-made Fresh Direct meals, but sometimes although confession I pretty much always get the meatloaf already made from our grocery store because I have no idea how to make meatloaf (and no interest at this point in my life). Then I’ll cook some spaghetti squash in olive oil and toss them together for a healthier version of ‘spaghetti and meatballs’. This is a bigger hit with James than Andrew but he likes the meatballs for the most part, and I love the squash so together, it’s a win.
This is such an easy meal that we can all eat. I basically just pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, pull it apart for James and then I usually pick up a premade side like a barley or rice dish or potatoes and veggies (our local grocery store is really good). This is hit with everyone and couldn’t be easier or faster.
Andrew is a huge fan of these frozen pizzas and recently, James has been sneaking bites when Andy is eating them, so I’ve been experimenting with healthier pizza options. Sometimes we’ll order a veggie pizza with whole wheat crust from our fave local pizza place, but it’s usually too much for him to eat and cheese pizza is easiest for him to handle at this point. However, I’ve been looking for a feel good version we can try, and I’ve heard Trader Joe’s cauliflower pizza crust is delicious so I’m going to try a version with a pureed veggie-filled spread, low fat cheese and some veggie toppings.
Mini Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries
Sometimes if we’re grilling or I’m in the mood for a turkey burger (my current obsession), we’ll make a mini one for James. Usually we’ll go bunless for him and cut it up with ketchup, but recently, he really wants to eat like mom and dad, so we’ve been trying to make him a thin patty with a bun so he can have himself. I love these bake-able fries — they’re easy to make and taste good but note they always take like 10 minutes more in the oven than the bake time in the directions.
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
This is one of those heat and eat kids meals from Fresh Direct that I order for when we’re in a pinch. There’s squash mixed into the sauce, so it’s better than just standard mac and cheese and James gobbles it up. Win-win.
Salmon with Apple Sauce and Mashed Sweet Potatoes
James isn’t that into salmon on its own, but I find if I mash it into something like apple sauce or sweet potatoes, he’ll eat it. This is an easy toddler meal we can eat too.
Chicken with Broccoli Tots
Sometimes I’ll pick up a chicken breast and slice it up and then make some broccoli tots to go with it (tater tots but made from broccoli). Tbh, he hates broccoli but I won’t stop trying to force him to eat it. If I’m lazy, I might just serve up these chicken nuggets that he likes and are hormone-free, organic, all that good stuff.
Cauliflower Fried Rice
I’m really into cauliflower rice right now. Sometimes I’ll make it in a pan, stir-fry style with peas, carrots, onions and some grilled chicken.
I just tried this recently and it’s really good and so much better for you. It’s an easy way to get in a veggie and James liked the savory, soft, oatmeal-like consistency.
I’ll put shredded chicken in a soft corn tortilla with some black beans and rice and James loves to eat it/ unravel it and make a mess, but I like to think some gets in his mouth. I try to add corn or tomato sometimes too (he’s not into salsa really). He doesn’t like avocado or I would try lining the tortillas with some mild guac.
Rice Crusted Fish Sticks
I buy these Dr. Praeger’s fish sticks and James likes them. They’re an easy dinner to whip up on nights when I just don’t have time and frankly, I like them too. I usually combine with a veggie and sweet potato or broccoli fries or a mashed sweet potato.
Honestly, I buy these at a specialty grocery store near us, but there are also some easy recipes you can follow like this one and this one. James isn’t the hugest fan of salmon on its own or some of the veggies we’ll meld it together with but he’ll eat the ones they have that have spinach and kale, especially if it’s dipped in ketchup (of course).
Ok, I need more help clearly. Send me some of your fave toddler-friendly dinner recipes that even a novice can make.