Toddler Nutrition and Meal Ideas {+ Giveaway}

Update :: After receiving so much positive feedback from this post, I decided to put together another post on toddler nutrition which includes tips on preparation, presentation, eating out…AND a handy-dandy printable for shopping and meal planning.  Be sure to head on over and check out that post too!

Toddler Nutrition and Meal Ideas. A photograph of two meals in divided plates. Having personally struggled with my weight for much of my adult life {and my husband in his adolescence}, something that we felt especially strongly about with regard to raising our daughter was her nutrition, and giving her the best possible start. We made the decision to forgo rice cereal {after consulting her physician} as we struggled to find the nutritional benefit of giving her rice versus mashed or pureed fruits and vegetables full of vitamins and nutrients.

Now knee deep into toddlerhood, we have maintained our philosophy of feeding her nutritionally rich foods with little or no processing and/or preservatives and minimal gluten. This is not to say that she doesn’t get the occasional cookie, she definitely stuffed her face with cake on her first birthday, and grandma has snuck her a few fries, but give her a plate of grilled chicken and vegetables and the girl will chow down. With new research coming out regularly about the risk for diabetes and obesity being determined earlier and earlier, we feel incredibly confident in our decision.

I get asked many questions about how we deal with Caroline’s nutrition, so I thought that I would compile some of these questions and answers, as a resource to others ::

:: How did you get her to start eating well? :: We started feeding her mashed and pureed fruits and vegetables around 5.5 months, and just continued. After her first teeth cut {late! around 8.5 months} we began to give her small pieces of cut up fruit and veggies, as well as tiny pieces of chicken and salmon. We constantly changed up what we gave her so that she wouldn’t get used to eating just one thing. Once we safely introduced a food, we continued to give it to her with others so that her “plate” always featured a variety of flavors/colors/textures.

A toddler with a meal in front of her in a divided plate.

:: What if she refuses to eat something? :: If she refuses to eat something, that tells me that she is tired and fussy or not really that hungry. I immediately take her from her high chair without offering anything else. If she is tired, I put her down for a nap, and as soon as she expresses hunger after waking, I sit her back in her chair with the same type of food that was earlier refused. Generally, she will just start eating it. I have refused to make excuses for her such as “she doesn’t like the texture” because quite frankly, she can’t tell me that, so I don’t ever make that assumption.

:: If you are so strict about her eating, why do you sometimes let her have things like cookies, etc.? :: Our goal is not to be strict about her eating. If she needs a snack and another mom has teddy grahams in her purse and offers them, that’s totally fine. Our goal is to introduce her to lots of different foods and to grow her palate for foods that are rich in nutrients, that are beneficial to her growth and development, as well as her long term health. That being said, we don’t want to deny her foods like goldfish, etc. as that will only strengthen her desire to eat them and increase the likelihood of creating unhealthy relationships with food. I credit this to the fact that given the choice between something like animal crackers or fruit snacks and sliced fruit – she will chose the fresh fruit every time.

:: What does her typical meal look like? :: I have to admit, we feed Caroline a lot more chicken than I would like, so the protein source for many of her meals is chicken. Every meal that we feed Caroline {except breakfast} contains at the very least a protein and a vegetable. Most of the time we also give her a fruit. For breakfast we give her a protein and a fruit, and try to add a vegetable if possible {think spinach and/or kale in her eggs}. Our goal is always simple and nutritious.

A meal in a divided plate including scrambled eggs, a waffle and blueberries.
:: Sample Breakfast :: 1 egg, scrambled {grease pan with coconut oil}, 1/3 c. blueberries, 1/2 gluten free waffle {drizzled with local honey – my allergy suffering girl can use all the help she can get!}


A meal in a divided plate including broccoli, a rice cake with hummus, chicken breast and raspberries and blueberries.
:: Sample Lunch or Dinner: : 1/2 small baked chicken breast cut into bite size pieces, 2/3 c. steamed broccoli, 1/2 brown rice cake – spread with hummus, 1/2 c. raspberries and blueberries.

:: Where do you get feeding ideas? :: Most of what Caroline eats comes from our meals, and what we have on hand. Early on, most dishes we would eat, I would just prepare hers without a lot of the spices that I would use on ours. Nowadays, she eats virtually the same dish, unless it is very spicy, or uses a lot of salt. There are LOTS of ideas for toddler meals on Pinterest, but you have to beware of broken links, etc. Something that I am not a fan of is smoothies. If your child willingly eats fruits and vegetables, there shouldn’t be a need for #1 – Disguising them #2 – Drinking their calories #3 – Dirtying a blender. One of my favorite resources is Weelicious. Have you seen this website?! Amazing. So many recipes, beautiful pictures, and very much focused on whole, nutritionally dense foods.

A cookbook titled Weelicious Lunches by Catherine McCord.

Weelicious is SUCH a great resource for fun, healthy meals, and they are giving us a copy of their latest Weelicious cookbook Weelicious Lunches to give away to a lucky Houston Moms Blog reader!

This week we are giving one lucky reader ::

Weelicious Lunches

by Catherine McCord

Winner :: Melissa F.

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Amy was born and raised in Northern California before moving to the Houston area in 2003. Amy has a degree in Corporate and Organizational Communication from the University of Houston - where she met her husband Tate, a former football player for the Cougars and current CrossFit gym owner. Amy and Tate enjoyed their first year of marriage as Inner-Loopers before moving out to the suburbs to start a family. Caroline joined their family in September 2012, and life has never been the same since! Aside from her job as mom, Amy works full-time as an English teacher at the junior high level. She loves fresh air, online shopping, baking, and finding new things to do in and around Houston. Amy writes at New Mom Problems where she chronicles her life as a California girl living in Texas, motherhood, being a wife, and teaching middle school.


  1. Great post Amy! I love Weelicious and I’m also a strong believer in a balanced diet for my kiddos. I do many of the same tactics as you and as a result I have 5 great eaters. 🙂

    • We love picking out new fruits and veggies when shopping at the store. Currently my daughter is obsessed with purple cauliflower because it is her favorite color!

  2. While I agree with your opinion on healthy eating, I do not agree with gluten free eating unless someone has celiac disease. Your body needs gluten, especially being so young.

    Good job though in caring for your child! I would also like to commend you in directing your child in eating what’s put in front of her.

  3. It’s great what you have established with your little ones diet! I wish I would have started this with my kids early on, who are now picky eaters.


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