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Meal Plans for Toddlers

Updated on July 4, 2012

Meal Plans for Toddlers (1-3 years old)

Toddlers are tricky when it comes to nutrition. There are so many avenues for them to follow, but it is your job to help them choose the path that best suits them and insure proper growth. This lens is dedicated to helping YOU, the parent, help your one, two, or three year old get a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats.

Again, as there are so many people in the world, I want to cover every possible variation of diet. Here you will find meal plans for nursing toddlers, non-nursing toddlers, vegetarians, non-vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans, picky eaters, etc.

Remember that feeding your toddler is not a battle, it is a journey. There will days, weeks, or months that your child eats seemingly nothing and other times when he/she cannot get enough. This is normal.

Meal Plan for All Toddlers

This Menu is designed to get as many healthy, yummy, fruits and veggies, and whole grains, and protein in that little mommy monster in one day. Think yummy apple bars and grazing snacks. The recipes included. Not to mention, these can be served for most of the week as the batches make more than one servings worth...meaning less kitchen slaving and more playground playing =)

Breakfast:

Apple Breakfast Bars

1 1/2 cups quick rolled oats

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

2/3 cup dates, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup orange juice

1 1/2 cups raw apples, shredded

Combine all ingredients. Let stand 10 minutes. Press mixture into 8" x 8" baking dish. Bake at 375? until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Loosen with spatula, and cut into bars while warm. Serve hot for breakfast or snack **Freezes Well**

Snacks

ENERGY BALLS

1/4 cup finely grated carrots

1/4 cup rolled oats or Granola*

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 Tablespoon honey

3 Tablespoons peanut butter

Mix and roll into balls. Easy carrots in the tummy!

*Granola makes these Energy Balls more tasty and adds a nice crunch!

Lunch

PASTA SALAD

1 bag of tri-color pasta (shaped in wheels or another "fun" shape if possible)

1 C chopped fresh broccoli

1/4 C sliced black olives

1/2 C baby Carrots, julienne

1/2 C zucchini, sliced thin

1/2 red onion, sliced very thin

2 T olive oil

black pepper and lemon juice (low-fat salad dressing if your choose)

Boil pasta al dente. Sauté broccoli, carrots, zucchini in olive oil until crisp yet tender. Drain & rinse pasta. Combine pasta and vegetables in large bowl and add parmesan cheese to lightly coat. Add black pepper and lemon juice if you wish. Serve warm or cold

Snack

ANTS ON A LOG - An Old Favorite

Celery sticks filled with either

peanut butter, cream cheese or hummus

and topped with raisins, apple dices, seeds, nuts, banana dices etc..

These are great snacks for Toddlers! Many toddlers will just eat the "filling" and the raisins, which is just fine! Ensure what you add is appropriate for your Toddler

Dinner

STUFFED PITAS - The greatest for travel as they act like a plate/bowl!

1 whole grain or oat bran pita pocket

Stuffing such as:

cheese, turkey, chicken, peanut butter-n-jelly, hummus, veggies

Cut off one "top" portion of the pita to enable opening

Stuff pita with your choice of ingredients

Warm in toaster oven or microwave if desired (when melting cheesy-veggie pita for example)

Serve with fruit slices, yogurt and drink

Guidelines for Feeding a One Year Old

Babies and toddlers are very good at listening to their hunger cues, so leave it up to them to decide how much to eat.

Remember not to give him liquids; i.e. milk or fruit juices just before meal times. If you are breast feeding, whole milk will not need to be offered as frequently. Serve no more than 24 ounces of milk per day by one year of age. This will promote an increase in the amount of food your baby eats.

Too much milk and too little food may lead to iron-deficiency anemia.

Babies are reluctant to try new foods, so you might have to introduce a new food multiple times before he will accept it.

Lastly, model good eating behavior. This is the best way to create good eating habits for life.

Toddler Meal Plan #1

Non-Vegetarian Meal Plan, but Can Become a Veggie Menu Quickly

This meal plan from Superkidsnutrition.com is a full of wholesome fruits, vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates. There is chicken listed on here, but for the vegetarian sorts (like my and my daughter), swap the meat for more beans or rice. If you are vegan (again, like myself and my daughter), this menu is trickier. I suggest taking the good pieces out of this menu and readjust it for your lifestyle.

Breakfast: 1 - 2 tbsp blackberry applesauce; 1/4 cup Cheerios or toasted O's cereal; 1/2 cup whole milk yogurt

Snack: 1/2 ounce cheddar cheese; 4 wheat crackers (no trans fats); 1/2 cup whole milk or breast milk

Lunch: 1 ounce roasted chicken minced; 1 tbsp of brown rice and 1-2 tbsp of black beans with minced tomatoes and 1/2 tsp olive oil; 1 to 2 tbsp cooked yellow peppers; 1/2 cup whole milk or breast milk; 1/2 banana

Snack: 1/2 slice whole wheat toast with 1 tsp of non-hydrogenated margarine; 4 ounces of frozen mango chunks defrosted; 1/2 cup whole Keifer milk

Dinner: 1 Tbsp serving of olives; rinse well & chop; 1 1/2 ounce chicken thigh minced; 1 to 2 tbsp mashed sweet potato mixed with 1 tbsp of sour cream or whole milk yogurt or mashed avocado; 1 to 2 tbsp of chopped green beans; 1/2 cup whole milk or breast milk

Vegan Toddler Meal Plan #2

Breakfast

1 cup iron- fortified breakfast cereal

1 cup spy milk or breastmilk

1 banana, sliced

2-3 large sliced strawberries

Snack

1 slice toast or whole wheat muffin with 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter

1 cup soy milk or breastmilk

Lunch

1 sandwich with peanut butter

1 cup cooked green vegetables

1 cup soy milk or breastmilk

Snack

2-3 tablespoons fruit or berries

1 cup soy milk or breastmilk

Dinner

2-3 ounces cooked beans

1 cup cooked yellow or orange vegetables

1 cup pasta, rice, or potato

1 cup soy milk or breastmilk

Please remember that your child may not eat all of this, but it is important to continue to present meals to him/her.

Information on Feeding One-Year Olds

Embrace Toddler Grazing

Toddlers graze because they are too busy with life. Let them graze. Here are some ideas:

The Glorious Divided Dish (or the Mighty Muffin Tin)

1 divided dish, divided plastic storage container or muffin tin

diced fruits or diced veggies

yogurt dip

pita chips or toast points

Rice Cake Fiesta

Rice cakes are great grazin' foods and they are available in whole grain, unsalted versions too!

Prepare rice cakes with your Toddler's favorite spread or dip. Grate an apple, carrot and/or other fruits and veggies over the rice cake. Colour and taste to tempt the Toddler to slow down and refuel!

Crackers Smackers

Whole grain crackers - unsalted

Toddler's favorite spread or dip (we like peanut butter for this one!)

1 grape or 2 raisins or 2 Cheerios or 1 cube of cheese

Spread dip or spread on the crackers and top a cracker with 1 grape, another cracker with 2 raisins, another cracker with 2 Cheerios and yet another cracker with 1 cube of cheese. Make as many of these as you feel your Toddler will eat. It's the variety that will catch her eye and tempt her to at least nibble each cracker.

Meal Plan For a Toddler Who LOVES DAIRY

Toddlers are funny in that they choose foods that they will just eat. And just eat that. Many children, after the introduction of cheese turn into cheese-aholics! Don't worry they will grow out of it. Here is a menu in the meantime.

Breakfast:

Grated mild cheese, cooked whole wheat pasta shells, tender cooked broccoli florettes, apple apricot juice

Snack:

Cheerios, ripe banana sticks, yogurt mixed with pureed prunes

Lunch:

Firm bread or toast to dip into any baby food puree (vegetable or fruit), large curd cottage cheese, cooked green beans

Snack:

Cream cheese on a mini muffin (or finger of banana or pumpkin bread (can be store bought), ripe peach cut up into piece they can hold, milk

Dinner:

Ripe pieces of avocado, Macaroni and cheese ( 1 cup cooked pasta mixed with 1/4 cup grated cheese, 1/4 cup cottage cheese, a pat of butter, a little milk and heated for a couple of minutes to melt the cheese and butter), cup of milk or juice

Older Toddler Meal Plan

A sample breakfast, with 1/2 cup (4 ouces) of cereal, 1/4 cup of milk and 4 ounces of orange juice would give about 230 calories. If you instead gave a slice of bread with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and jelly and 4 ouces of orange juice, your toddler would get over 250 calories.

For lunch, consider a 1/2 sandwich (one slice of bread), with 1 slice of lean luncheon meat (90 calories) and cheese (45 calories) . Or a tuna fish sandwich (add 1/2 tablespoon of mayo to the tuna to get 50 extra calories). Or a sliced and quartered hot dog. And water, juice or milk.

Dinner might include 1-2 ounces of chicken (75-100 calories) or beef (120-165 calories), 2-3 tablespoons of vegetables (50-75 calories), some whole wheat bread (40 calories) and 1/2 cup of milk (76 calories).

Plus, your child will likely need a couple of small snacks mid-morning and in the early afternoon. These might include 1/2 cup of milk (76 calories) or juice (60 calories), 2-3 tablespoons of fruit (50-75 calories), or a slice of cheese (45 calories). Alternatives might include some jello, pudding, or yogurt.

Vegetarian Meal Plan for A Toddler

For the Breastfed Baby

DAY ONE

BREAKFAST

Warm Oatmeal+Applesauce mixed into the Oatmeal+Breastmilk

SNACK

Rice Cakes with Peanut Butter and grated carrots on top - drizzle with honey

LUNCH

Warm Whole Grain Pita with Sliced Bananas + Chopped Cooked Broccoli+ Sautéed Spiced Tofu Cubes+ Breastmilk

SNACK

Baked Apple Slices topped with Muesli & blueberries

DINNER

noodles + vegetables+ breastmilk+ cheese cubes

DAY TWO

Breakfast

Veggie & Cheese Omelet +Whole Grain Toast + Diced Peaches

Snack

Muffin with Cream Cheese & Fruit spread - cut into small sections; arrange with apple dices in the middle

Lunch

Grilled Whole Grain Sandwich with Peanut Butter + Tomatoes, Broccoli, Carrots, Celery, Cucumbers with Yogurt Dipping Sauce+ Carrot Sticks & Dipping Sauce+ Milk or Yogurt Smoothie and/or Cheese Cubes + Breastmilk

Snack

Fruit Dices & Cheese cubes Milk or Water

Dinner

Rice+ Vegetables + Fruit

The Nursing Toddler

Cow's Milk Optional

I despise that doctors (not all of them) inform mother's that introducing cow's milk is vital at the age of one. Are you serious? Not true. Not true in the slightest respect if you are breastfeeding. Babies only need your milk and be sure to laugh or brush off anything that anyone says about the need to introduce cow's milk into your child's diet.

Breastmilk has a higher fat content than whole cow's milk (needed for baby's brain growth), and all the nutrients of human milk are significantly more bioavailable than those of cow's milk because it is species specific (not to mention all the components of mother's milk that are not present in cow's milk).

There is no need to add cow's milk to your toddler's diet (or the equivalent nutrients from other milks or foods) as long as your baby is nursing at least 3-4 times per day.

This is a great tidbit from KellyMom.com: "Some toddlers are eating very few solids, or even no solids, at 12 months. This is not unusual and really depends on your child - there is quite a big variation. We like to see breastmilk making up the majority (around 75%) of baby's diet at 12 months. Some babies will be taking more solids by 12 months, but others will still be exclusively or almost-exclusively breastfed at this point. It is normal for baby to keep breastmilk as the primary part of his diet up until 18 months or even longer. An example of a nice gradual increase in solids would be 25% solids at 12 months, 50% solids at 18 months, and 80% solids at 24 months."

Meal Plan for the Breastfeeding Toddler

Breakfast

½ cup oatmeal with maple syrup

1 slice whole wheat toast with fruit spread

breastmilk

Morning Snack

½ whole wheat bagel with margarine

1 banana

Lunch

Veggie burger on whole wheat bun with mustard and ketchup

1 cup steamed collard greens

Medium apple

breastmilk

Afternoon Snack

¾ cup ready-to-eat cereal with ½ cup blueberries

breastmilk

Dinner

¾ cup tofu stir-fried with 1 cup vegetables

1 cup brown rice

Medium orange

Evening Snack

Whole grain crackers with 2 Tbsp. peanut butter

Weekly Toddler Menu

Toddler Friendly Snacks

Need some healthy snack ideas? Try these the next time your toddler is hankering for a bite to eat:

Ants on a log - spread peanut butter on celery sticks and sprinkle them with raisins (Experts used to recommend waiting to serve peanuts until a child was age two or three - to help prevent a peanut allergy. But now, experts believe there may be no benefit to waiting that long. Talk with your pediatrician about when you should offer your tot peanuts and other allergenic foods, especially if food allergies run in your family.)

Whole-grain tortilla chips topped with veggies, salsa, and shredded cheese, alongside guacamole for dipping

Apple slices with string cheese or peanut butter (if your pediatrician says it's okay to introduce peanuts to your toddler now)

Frozen no-sugar-added fruit bars with a glass of milk

Berries topped with a smidge of low-fat frozen yogurt

Crinkle-cut carrot "chips" with hummus

Whole-wheat pita-bread triangles or baked wheat crackers with melted reduced-fat cheese for dipping

Dip a banana in yogurt, roll it in crushed cereal, and freeze it for a tasty frozen snack

Whole-wheat tortilla chips with bean dip

Low-fat yogurt topped with granola and fresh or dried fruit

Guestbook Comments

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    • profile image

      Becky 12 months ago

      I am raising my daughter as a lacto ovo vegetarian but am trying to limit soy (when she is older she can decide if she wants to eat meat). It can be really stressful to make sure she is getting everything she needs. I am trying to make sure she gets enough iron but the only way I know is to keep feeding her Happy Baby rice cereal or oatmeal since they have 80% of iron in that. Do you have any meal plans that are lacto ovo that have her absorbing all her iron? A lot of these meal plans have dairy with every meal which would have her absorb less iron or there is soy everyday which we are trying to limit to once a week.

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 5 years ago

      Great ideas. I will put these to good use. We have a semi-picky 3 year old. She really loves fruit so that makes it easier to stay on the healthy side. Now vegetables on the hand... Lol. Not so easy a sale.

    • seedlingspublis profile image
      Author

      seedlingspublis 5 years ago

      @Kailua-KonaGirl: Thanks for the comment. Fortunately, much of the world including first-world nations(Japan, Germany, UK, France...) practice breastfeeding into the threes and fours. At this stage they are nursing twice per day. From experience, my daughter is the most independent girl I know and our relationship is extremely secure, so I disagree with your perspective.Many women and studies will disprove your feelings that it is psychologically damaging. I appreciate the comment nonetheless.

      Here are some great articles for you to read:

      Casey CE, Neville MC, Hambidge KM. Studies in human lactation: secretion of zinc, copper, and manganese in human milk. Am J Clin Nutr 1989 May;49(5):773-85.

      Hamosh M. Bioactive factors in human milk. Pediatr Clin North Am 2001 Feb;48(1):69-86.

      Breastfeeding and Cognitive Function Bibliography by Marsha Walker,RN,IBCLC

      Bauer G et al. Breastfeeding and cognitive development of three-year-old children. Psychological Reports 1991; 68:1218.

      Taylor B, Wadsworth J. Breastfeeding and child development at five years. Dev Med Child Neurol 1984;26:73-80.

      Ferguson DM et al. Breastfeeding and subsequent social adjustment in six- to eight-year-old children. J Child Psychol Psychiatr Allied Discip 1987; 28:378-86.

      And with the response to meat, I agree, which is why this is a Toddler Menu Lens, not infant.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 5 years ago from New York

      Over all, I think this is a very good lens with a pretty decent meal plan for a toddler that is 24 months or more, but I completely disagree about breast feeding toddlers. Children should be completely weaned from both bottles and breast by the time they are 18 months. They should not be relying solely on mother's milk or on formula at 12 months. By the time they are twelve months they should be having grains in the form of cereal and strained fruits such as mashed bananas, applesauce and pears. Weaning is not only a part of teaching a child how to partake in other foods that their bodies will need for fuel, it is also the very beginning lessons of independence for a child. It is not psychologically a good thing to keep a child nursing when they are two and three years old. Mother's that do not wean their children by the time they are that old have their own psychological problems that need to be address through therapeutic help for their own unstable independent emotions. By the time a child is two the child should be weaned and potty trained. A two year old is perfectly capable of both!

      I also do not agree with feeding a child meat of any kind before 12 months. Their digestive systems have not yet developed enough to properly digest meat at this age. Keep feeding them the grains, fruits and vegetables until they actually have their teeth. Just because you can buy meat in baby food jars doesn't mean it should be introduced too soon.