Toddler Nutrition :: Part Deux

I wanted to do a follow-up to my previous post on toddler nutrition and meal ideas and share how to work healthy eating into your daily life. I am a working mom, and my husband is a business owner. We have a hectic life and odd working hours, so I would say the most important part of making sure our daughter eats healthy, balanced meals is prioritizing her nutrition and knowing how to work that into our schedule. Every day is not perfect. During STAAR testing last week, I definitely forgot to pick up chicken at the grocery store the 3 {!!!} times that I went, so Caroline’s protein in her lunch twice last week came in the form of the chicken from a Chick Fil A chicken biscuit. {#justbeingreal} So, there is certainly room for error.

Here are a couple of things that we do to help keep us on track though ::

:: Preparation ::

  • We try to always have healthy food on hand at our house – whether it’s a basket of berries in the fridge, broccoli in the freezer, or an apple on the counter, there is always something healthy that can be snacked on.
  • We plan! We know that Caroline will have a fruit, a vegetable, a protein, and a carb for lunch every day, so that makes it easy to plan out her meals.
  • Prepare the protein portion of lunches on Sunday {generally chicken for us!}, making it easy to cut and pack into lunch containers. Additionally, throughout the week, we will pack things that we have had for dinner the previous night – meat loaf, salmon, stuffed peppers, etc.
  • We keep vegetables in the freezer where we can easily take out the desired portion and steam on the stove, or put in a microwave safe bowl, covered and prepare almost instantly.
  • Keep it simple with the kitchen gadgets for quick cleanup! We use a collapsible mini colander for quick washing of berries, and our apple corer/slicer is one of the most used tools in our kitchen – whatever helps get the job done quickly and easily!

 ** Something I like to remind people of when they are purchasing foods for their kids is, just because it says it is organic does not mean that it is healthy! The Plum Organics Tiny Fruits come in a 10g package — a medium sized strawberry weighs approximately 12g. The Tiny Fruits snacks pack 8 grams of sugar into that 10g package, the same amount as THIRTEEN fresh strawberries! Not to mention, they are hardly a satisfying snack! When planning snacks, try to stick with filling foods so that you are not doling out lots of unnecessary sugar disguised in deceiving packages!

:: Presentation ::


  • Presentation isn’t totally necessary for young toddlers, but when you have older toddler/school age children and are trying to maintain interest in eating healthy, sometimes you have to pull out all the stops! Though, don’t let that scare you – presentation can be fun and done without much stress.
  • Bento Boxes! These items can be a little pricey, but generally, they are made of quality materials that are easily cleaned and can withstand a lot of washing, dropping, etc. Yumbox and PlanetBox  are two great choices, but there are many, many options. Bento boxes are great because it’s almost easier to pack everything in one container than to wash several small containers and deal with finding lids, etc. You can achieve the same effect with a medium sized tupperware and create different “compartments” with silicone muffin molds.
  • Cut it out! Something I love to do is use cookie and pie cutters to cut fruits, vegetables, quesadillas, etc. out into fun shapes. There’s something about a heart shaped piece of watermelon that just tastes better. {I’m only kind of kidding.}

:: Tips for Eating Out ::


  • Eating out is something that can quickly derail the dietary goals of those young AND old. Now, if you only eat out once in a while, that’s not a big deal. But if you are a frequent flier of restaurants and more meals are eaten out than at your own kitchen table, you should probably familiarize yourself with the menus of your go-to’s.
  • Something that you can generally count on at ANY restaurant is the availability of a grilled chicken breast! This is a perfect food to cut into bite sized pieces and serve to your kids, and you won’t have to turn to the standard faire of the children’s menu – can a restaurant please offer something else than breaded/fried chicken nuggets and fries for kids?! Another plus to this option is most of the time you can add additional protein to any dish that you order for a minimal fee…one that is generally less than the cost of a separate kid’s meal.
  • Mexican food restaurants will generally give you sides of pinto/black beans, and garnishes like chopped tomatoes that are kid friendly favorites for free, and these are totally healthy options! Many other types of restaurants also have healthy sides that can be added to adult entrees for a minimal fee!
  • Try to know what you are working with beforehand, and then plan accordingly!

…and lastly, to help you with your shopping and/or meal planning and packing, I’ve created a printable for you to use with a list of healthy and kid friendly foods! This would be something great to stash in your purse {or a screen shot on your cell would work as well!} for use at the grocery store, or pinned up inside of a kitchen cabinet to guide meal development. Be sure to pin it by hovering over the picture, and then click the link below for a copy of your own. Enjoy!

55 Healthy Foods for ToddlersClick here for PDF Download

Have a question for me?  Or want to add another tip or suggestion on toddler nutrition?  Leave a comment below!

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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. Thank you for sharing! Question. Why was any form of milk (whole, organic, 2% etc) not included in the dairy? Just curious. Please enlighten me. I am a new mommy and my baby just turned 1 off of formula and want to know what is the best choice to substitute previous formula.

  2. Totally a guess on my part but since you haven’t gotten a real response — ha! Being right has never been a priority of mine!

    My guess is milk isn’t in here because of allergies. That would explain the almond milk while including cheese, kefir, and Greek yogurt. Kefir is a cultured drink, sort of like gloppy milk or thin yogurt if you are not familiar with it. Many dairy products that are cultured (cheese, kefir, yogurts) no longer contain lactose, a sugar to which some people are sensitive. Other sugars, like sucrose (what we usually think of as sugar) and fructose (the sugar that makes fruits taste so good) are no problem for them.

    Not sure why regular yogurt is not on here. Guessing again, what we typically think of as “kids’ yogurt” has fruit plus heaps of added sugar. Compare the calories in plain yogurt and Gogurt or other kid-centric yogurts.

    Oh, cultured milk products… these have bacteria act on them to change the milk into some other food like kefir, yogurt, or cheese. Spoiled milk is a whole different thing and should never be consumed. The guideline in our house is “If the milk is chunky, throw it out. No one wants to smell it just to make sure.” Anyway, if at all possible cultured milk products should have “active cultures” or “probiotics” somewhere on the label. These are both good things and will be on the label as they are positive selling points. It means the bacteria that are good for you and should be encouraged to grow in your baby’s tummy are still alive in the food.

    It is also unusual to make only gluten-free grain choices in children’s menus. This could be the case because problems with gluten or wheat have already shown up, or there is such much celiac disease in the family that Caroline just doesn’t get gluten much, if at all. Or it may just be Amy and Tate’s choice, they has no particular reason, and it’s just the way they want to raise their daughter and don’t need to give anybody an explanation.

    If you were asking for my recommendation, I’d suggest that many mothers move their babies until low-fat or 2% milk. Whole milk has at least 3.5% fat so 2% is cut by about half, 1% cut by ¾. Skim milk is 0.2% milk fat but because it seems watery a lot of people don’t like it. Remember that fat is one of the things we respond to as “tasting good.” Will a baby think skim milk tastes bad? Very unlikely.

    So just for comparison, whipped cream is 22% fat, low-fat milk is 2% fat, skim milk is 0.2% fat. Almond milk is also 2% fat but this is cholesterol-free, nonsaturated fat because it is from a plant and not animal source. Almond milk is often sweetened it still contains less sugar than 2% milk (3 grams compared to 5 grams) and it is sucrose instead of lactose.

    Probably more than you wanted to read through for a simple answer. Hope it helps some!

  3. I’m pretty sure most pediatricians recommend whole milk until 2 or later. Fat is essential for brain development at this age, so it’s not a good time to be cutting it. Also, there is no need for kids to go gluten free unless their families have a problem with gluten (a real diagnosed problem).


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