Toddlers are notoriously fussy eaters, so cooking meals for them that they will eat and enjoy is often challenging. However, with a little planning and creativity, you can prepare a healthy and nutritious dinner that your toddler will gobble down.
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Plan your toddler's meals around the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Pyramid's suggested foods and serving sizes. A two year old toddler who engages in 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day should have 1 cup of vegetables, 3 ounces of whole grains, 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of fruit and 2 ounces of meat.
Cut a baked chicken breast, which is high in protein, into strips and provide your toddler with a small cup of low-sugar barbecue sauce or pureed vegetables for dipping. Toddlers love to dip meats and vegetables into sauces, so try cutting up his vegetables into strips as well and give him a cup of ranch dressing for dipping.
Create a vegetable snowman out of mashed potatoes. Spoon three mashed potato balls onto your toddler's plate. Add two peas for eyes, a slivered carrot stick for the nose, and a red pepper slice for the mouth. Group the rest of your toddler's dinner foods around the snowman.
Add grated cheese to your toddler's rice, pasta and vegetables to make them more appetizing for him. The cheese is also high in calcium, which will help his bones to grow properly.
Prepare a healthy and vegetable-packed turkey meatloaf recipe in a muffin pan, instead of the traditional loaf pan. The small-sized portions provided by the muffin pan are perfect for a toddler's dinner.
Serve your toddler brown rice, whole wheat pasta or a slice of whole wheat bread to meet his whole grain requirement for the day.
Offer him a small and healthy dessert if he finishes the rest of his dinner. Nutritious choices include chunks of fruit, low-sugar pudding or a small dish of low-fat frozen yogurt.
Tips and warnings
- When planning meals for your toddler, think of the colors of the rainbow, and try to serve her something from each color group every day. For example, give him red tomatoes and apples, orange butternut squash and peaches, yellow zucchini and bananas, green grapes and peas and purple eggplant.
- Keep in mind that most toddlers do not eat as much for dinner as they do for breakfast and lunch, so don't force your toddler to eat a big meal if he isn't hungry. Assuming the earlier meals you prepared for him were healthy, he has already eaten 85 percent of the nutrition he needs in one day.
- Always ensure that the food you're serving to your toddler is appropriate for his eating abilities. For example, some toddlers can eat whole grapes without a problem; while others will need them cut in half in order to swallow them without choking.