Quick and Easy Meals That'll Make You and Your Toddler Happy
To set the record straight, there's nothing wrong with you or your parenting skills. Getting a toddler to eat is challenging for all moms. These tiny beings are gaining new skills almost everyday, from walking to talking to doing their business on the potty, and in order to assert their new-found independence, they may run away when you wave apple slices in their faces. To save your sanity – and make sure you're not late for work – offer nutritious options at all meals and let your toddler decide if he wants to eat. That being said, having a list of healthy options to choose from certainly doesn't hurt.
1. Yogurt, Fruit and Breakfast Bar
For those mornings when cooking isn't an option, pull yogurt and fruit from the fridge and serve with make-ahead breakfast bars. A baked oatmeal bar made with oats, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, sweet spices and dried fruit such as raisins makes a healthy bar for your toddler. For something a little more fun, make your own no-bake honey-nut cereal bars using whole-grain toasted oat cereal, butter, honey, brown sugar and super chopped up almonds.
2. Egg Cups With Last Night's Veggies
Eggs are a good source of protein for your toddler, and these cups are fun to eat and easy to make. Beat 6 eggs with milk and a touch of salt. Add a few pieces of your toddler's favorite veggies, such as broccoli, carrots, spinach or peppers, to 6 muffin cups and sprinkle each with a little cheese. Pour egg mixture over veggies and cheese, filling three-quarters of the muffin cup. Bake the cups in a 350 F oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Not only are these cups a good use for leftover veggies, but also a good make-ahead breakfast.
3. Deconstructed Turkey Sandwich
If your toddler is a picky eater, she may not like her foods touching each other and may cower in fear over sauces of any kind. Instead of stressing over why she didn't eat her sandwich at day care, deconstruct it and see how she does. Pack rolled turkey, sliced cucumbers, lettuce leaves and a couple of slices of whole-wheat bread or a whole-wheat pita. Include sliced grapes and cheese to round out the meal. Be sure to explain the plan to your toddler's caretaker so she knows not to put a sandwich together.
Beef-a-roni is a classic favorite with kids. While you may remember eating it out of a can, making it yourself is super easy and a lot healthier. Use leftover browned lean ground beef or turkey and mix with whole-wheat rotini pasta and your toddler's favorite pasta sauce. Toss in some finely chopped cooked carrots for a little extra nutrition. This meal makes a good packed lunch or a quick dinner.
5. Cheese and Bean Quesadilla
All kids love bread and cheese, but you can do one step better adding a few beans to the mix. Beans are a good source of protein, fiber, B vitamins and iron. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat, place one whole-wheat tortilla in the skillet and top with quesadilla cheese and black beans. Add a second whole-wheat tortilla to cover and cook until the cheese is melted, turning once. Serve with corn and salsa.
6. Homemade Chicken Nuggets and French Fries
As a mom, it's hard to escape the chicken nugget. But if you're trying to offer your toddler healthier options, you might want to leave the frozen nuggets at the store and make them yourself. Cut boneless, skinless chicken breast into bite-size pieces. In a medium bowl, mix seasoned bread crumbs, panko and Parmesan cheese. Dip the chicken pieces in oil then cover in the breadcrumb mixture and place on an oiled baking sheet. Bake the nuggets in a 425 F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with baked sweet potato fries and your toddler's favorite dipping sauce.