One of the most frustrating facets of being a mom is the never ending meal-planning and cooking. Add in the mind-boggling food preferences of a toddler and it’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. Then there’s the stay-at-home moms who often feel like all they do is cook and clean, on repeat, every single day. This post provides over 20 examples of easy meals for a toddler as well as ideas for making the cooking process simpler.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the abundance of picture-perfect meals out there. While we all strive to feed our picky toddlers well-balanced meals, sometimes we just need quick and fuss-free solutions. It’s important to both keep us moms sane, but our littles one fed.
Preparing meals shouldn’t be a daunting task – read ahead for some great advice to make meal time easier as well as convenient freezer options that toddlers love.
Food Neophobia and Picky Eating
As moms, we are often worrying that our toddler isn’t eating enough vegetables or we’re concerned if they have gotten enough to eat. It is important to understand that at such a young age, toddlers are still at the learning stage and are only just developing their taste preferences and self-regulatory processes (1).
Between the ages of 2 and 6 there is an increase in the child’s independence and autonomy concerning food choices, which can lead to food neophobia. Food neophobia is characterized as the refusal of new or unfamiliar foods, both visually and in terms of taste (2). It is considered a natural stage of development that usually gets better with age, and only considered to be a concern if it worsens (1).
Why do some children seem to have worse neophobia than others? It has been shown that genetics does play a role. According to a literature review, food fussiness can also be attributed to genetics, parenting style, breastfeeding or formula feeding, food availability, and exposure to a variety of foods (3).
Although this phase is considered “normal”, it’s important that we continue to offer new foods to combat picky eating. It may take a two-year-old up to 10 times to accept a new food, and three or four-year-old up to 15 times (3).
As a Registered Dietitian, my nutritionist heart was sad and disappointed when my toddlers’ eating habits drastically changed. I was educated on baby-led weaning and offering a variety of foods – I felt like I did all the things! Now, I can’t remember the last time my oldest daughter ate a vegetable!
Easy Meals for Toddlers (that can be frozen)
The list below includes toddler-approved meal ideas as well as tips and tricks to make meal time less stressful and more enjoyable. These ideas are simple, and meant to make your life easier- but be sure to try and offer new foods occasionally (specifically new fruits and vegetables).
That being said, there are many times us moms just want to feed our children something we know they like and will eat. If I offered my toddlers whatever it is that I make for dinner, the chances of them eating it are pretty low (but still there’s a chance). When you’re not sure if your child will eat what you have planned for dinner, these simple meal ideas will come in handy.
The biggest recommendation I have is making large batches of each item, then freezing the extra. This will save you a lot of time and effort on days where you need quick and easy meals. You can spend a day doing all the meal prepping, or just freeze ANY extras you have leftover on any given day.
If you’ve ordered out any food that is a sure-fire hit with your toddler, don’t throw it away! For example, here is a picture of extra pizza we had that I will then freeze in these freezer gallon bags for easy reheating.
Feel free to get creative, and switch up any food items for others – just ensure each meal is well-balanced and contains a carbohydrate, protein, and fruit or vegetable.
- Pancakes/Waffles + Sausage + Fruit
Use any pancake or waffle mix that you want. Kodiak Power Cakes are a great whole grain, high protein option. For even more protein, add 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt with 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup and use as a pancake topping!
**Prepare an entire package of sausage, which is easy to freeze and takes about 20 seconds to heat in the microwave!
- Egg Cups + Toast
Egg cups might be time consuming to make but are super easy to freeze for future meals. Check out this toddler-approved recipe and make adjustments per your kids’ preferences.
- Omelets + English Muffin + Fruit
If your toddler accepts vegetables, you could add in spinach or broccoli to the omelet in replace of the fruit
- Egg Sandwiches + Avocado Slices
Bacon, egg and cheese on mini bagels are easy to freeze and reheat!
- Oatmeal with Blueberries and Almond Butter
- Peanut Butter Toast + Fruit
- Nutella Sandwiches + Fruit
While not the healthiest choice in the world, my kids love “chocolate sandwiches” and it’s something I can count on them actually eating.
- Cereal + Fruit
- French Toast Sticks + Sausage + Fruit
Lunch and Dinner Ideas
- Chicken, steak, hamburger, pork chops + Rice + Vegetable/Fruit
Cook and freeze small portions of meat for easy meal prep. You can use saran wrap or sandwich bags for easy portioning. Make large batches of rice and portion them out as well, or buy the 90-second microwaveable pouch.
- Quesadillas + Guacamole
They are easily customizable based on your child’s preferences, and again, easy to freeze. Use chicken, steak, or black beans for protein. Get creative here! Hide some vegetables and spread on a little ranch for better acceptance.
- Pasta + Meat + Vegetable
You can make a large pot of pasta noodles with your favorite sauce and either freeze small portions with the sauce or use an ice cube tray and portion out the sauce to freeze! Thaw each portion in the microwave for quick results, along with some portioned out meat you have frozen. Try this hidden vegetable pasta sauce recipe which has great reviews. You could also try Banza chickpea noodles or Barilla Protein + for additional protein.
- Homemade Uncrustables + Side of Fruit or Vegetable
This sandwich cutter creates a fun Uncrustable dupe without the hefty price. For some reason, toddlers seem to love these crustless sandwiches over just a regular one.
- Pizza + Vegetable
- Macaroni and Cheese + Meatballs + Peas
- Grilled Cheese + Corn
Add a slice of turkey for protein, or smashed sweet potato or avocado for hidden veggies.
- Super Simple Dot Soup (my toddlers’ favorite)
It’s basically just chicken bouillon, butter, and Acini de Pepe. Recipe in my Best Foods After the Stomach Flu Post.
- Hot Dog + Fruit
Hot Dogs are quick to make, less than five minutes in the air fryer.
- Buttered Noodles + Black Beans + Vegetable
Buttery noodles are always a toddler favorite! Black beans in a can are an easy add on for protein and fiber.
- Toddler Charcuterie Plate: Lunch Meat, Crackers, Vegetables and Fruit
A fuss-free option that requires no cooking at all, with so many ways to customize.
- Tacos + Guacamole
Use the burger meat that is already frozen with packaged tortillas.
CONVENIENT TODDLER-APPROVED FREEZER ITEMS
- Frozen Pretzels
My kids are obsessed with these frozen pretzels. I often cook them without the salt and with a side of ranch.
- Macaroni and Cheese Single Serving Cups
- Chicken nuggets and French Fries (in the air fryer)
- Totino’s Pepperoni Pizza
It’s cheap, and you can actually break off pieces if you don’t want to use the entire pizza at once.
- Kidfresh Chicken Meatballs
- Kidfresh Ravioli Bowl
- Green Giant Veggie Fries
- Mini Frozen Quiche
A convenient option if you don’t feel like cooking egg cups or homemade quiches
- Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup
Bonus if it’s a fun one, like the Princess or Paw Patrol shaped noodles
- Tater Tots, Veggie Tots, French Fries, Sweet Potato Fries
- Dr. Praeger’s Spinach Littles
If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s that meal planning doesn’t always have to be a challenge. It’s OK to feed your toddlers easy meals – especially if that’s what you know they will eat.
Whether you spend a few hours of your Sunday meal prepping, or just making extra food when you cook dinner at night – don’t throw away the leftovers. Freeze in small portions for easy reheating. Stock that freezer full of easy meals for a toddler! Why spend all that time making pancakes to feed a family of four, when you can make a large batch of 16 and freeze them? Or just buy frozen pancakes!
Just know that you are not alone in your toddler meal struggles, and millions of other moms feel the same. Even as a Registered Dietitian, as you can see from this post, my kids eat frozen meals that aren’t always the “healthiest” option. I will continue to feed them convenient meals, but also offer new foods at times in hopes their food neophobia improves.
Full disclosure: I made that pancake, sausage, and fruit plate for my two-year-old (shown above) and she ate NONE of it. She ended up having the mini quiches.
What part of this post was most helpful to you? Do you think you’ll do anything different?
*This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I receive a small compensation when a purchase is made.