Healthy Toddler Meals

I’ve received lots of questions about how we feed our son, so I thought today would be a good time to share what he’s been eating lately. If you’ll recall, I’ve previously shared how we introduced our baby to solids, some of our favorite homemade purees, and how he ate as a 12-month old.

toddler eating in a high chair

Our son is now 16 months old, which has come with quite a few developmental changes. He’s walking more and sleeping less, down to just one nap a day, which also means he’s nursing less often. I plan to breastfeed as long as he wants to, hopefully until he’s at least two years old, but now that he’s on the move, he doesn’t want to stop to nurse! So, he only gets breast milk three times a day right now– when he wakes up for the day, before his nap, and before bed.

I feel almost silly sharing my son’s meals, because they are beyond simple. He mostly eats a variety of whole foods, because that’s what is easiest for me to prepare with my work schedule. The most common foods we offer him include:

  • Fresh fruit, including bananas, pears, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, melon, avocado, and dates
  • Slow-cooked apples or pears (I just throw the sliced fruit in the VitaClay and let it cook for 2 hours)
  • Raw goat cheddar
  • Cooked vegetables, including steamed broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, cabbage, sweet potato, butternut squash, and so on
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Organic meat, mostly chicken or turkey
  • Wild-caught salmon and sardines
  • Nuts and seeds, including chia seeds, almond butter, and hemp hearts
  • Healthy fats, including Udo’s oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter for cooking

Our son doesn’t eat grains yet, because we wanted to make sure he’s producing enough of the enzyme amylase to properly digest them. (According to Weston A. Price, this typically happens after children are one year old, when molar teeth are fully developed.) We also haven’t introduced him to cow’s dairy, since we don’t consume that in our home, though he does love raw goat cheddar!

sweet potato chunks in a glass and a peeled banana

When meal time rolls around, I’ll typically offer three or four options from the foods I listed above. Nothing fancy!

Here’s what his meals have been looking like lately:

Breakfast:

  • 1 to 2 pieces of fresh fruit (like a whole banana, pear, or orange)
  • Whole egg scrambled with veggies (like spinach, onions, or peppers) in grass-fed butter

*Note: Anytime our son still acts hungry after a meal, we offer him more food. Since he’s eating exclusively unprocessed, whole foods, we trust his hunger signals and feed him as much as he wants.

Snack:

  • Green smoothie with fresh fruit + healthy fats + leafy greens

The green smoothies that I make for my son vary from day to day, but each one usually includes fruit, a source of healthy fat, and greens, to ensure he gets a variety of nutrients. To give you an idea, some of our favorite combinations are:

  • Frozen strawberries, dates, young Thai coconut meat, spinach, and water
  • Dates, chia seeds, cinnamon, spinach, homemade almond milk
  • Apple, fresh ginger, dates, kale, Udo’s oil, water
  • Frozen raspberries, avocado, dates, fresh basil, and water

UPDATE: You can see my full post on green smoothies for babies and toddlers here.

smoothie ingredients including avocado, spinach, dates, and frozen berries

(I can’t live without the Squeasy Snacker bottle– we bought two of these 6-ounce bottles, so I can make 12 ounces of smoothie at a time. That way I always have a fresh and easy snack available in our fridge!)

Lunch:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Cooked vegetable, like sweet potato, broccoli, cauliflower, or carrots (sometimes these are from a soup that I made the night before)
  • Protein, like roasted chicken, salmon, or raw goat cheddar

I rarely make anything fresh for lunch– it’s usually something we already have in our fridge, like leftovers from the night before, or a staple we always have on hand, like fresh fruit and goat cheese. Or, if I happen to be developing a recipe, my son will taste-test for me. He’s been enjoying recipes from my cookbook for several months now!

toddler eating out of a small bowl

Snack:

  • Another smoothie, just like the one he had earlier in the day (sometimes he’ll have up to 4 smoothies in one day– it just depends on his appetite and growth spurts!)

Other than smoothies and breast milk, the only liquid we offer is water, or the occasional sip of green juice.

Dinner:

  • Cooked lentils or sweet potato or banana
  • Cooked vegetables from my dinner, such as broccoli and carrots in a curry sauce
  • Protein, such as chicken, eggs, raw goat cheddar, or a veggie muffin (that recipe is in Everyday Detox)

We tend to keep dinner on the starchier-side, since carbohydrates are thought to help promote sleep. Our son is finally sleeping through the night (except on bad teething days) so we’re trying to keep that momentum going by encouraging sleep however we can.

Tips & Tricks

It’s not always easy to get your kids to try new foods, and it’s definitely not always easy to make everything from scratch. Even though our son has only ever known whole foods, so he’s not tempted by the processed stuff, he’s still wary of trying new textures (like roasted broccoli). We have to come up with new “tricks” all the time to get him to expand his horizons!

toddler with a spoon in his mouth

My latest trick is to offer him a new food on a spoon or fork. He LOVES using utensils! (Even though he hasn’t quite mastered them perfectly yet.) He’ll pretty much eat anything I put on a fork or spoon, and that’s the only way he’ll enjoy foods like guacamole or shredded brussels sprouts.

And just because we only feed our son whole foods, doesn’t mean there aren’t some convenience options we take advantage of. Here are some of the convenience foods I rely on fairly regularly:

  • Pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe’s (our son eats them straight out of the package cold!)
  • Prepared guacamole from the chilled section at the grocery store (with a spoon)
  • Frozen organic vegetables (thawed in the fridge, then quickly warmed on the stove)
  • Organic rotisserie chicken from Whole Foods
  • Plum Organics stage 1 or 2 pouches (fruit & veggie only)– a quick option when I don’t have time to make a smoothie

Every now and then, I’ll actually prepare a recipe specifically for our son, like my Toddler Pancakes or Banana Snack Muffins. (The muffins freeze well, so they make a convenient snack option, too!)

That just about covers it. I look forward to seeing how our son’s tastes and preferences change as he continues to grow, and I’m going to continue to steer his choices towards healthy foods for as long as I can!

Reader Feedback: What are your go-to toddler meals? I’d love to hear more ideas!

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Comments

Laura @ Raise Your Garden

Oh my, you do a wonderful job feeding your son a stellar diet! Truly inspirational. But that does remind me, that just as it’s important for your son at his young age to eat a wholesome diet, it’s important for all of us. I was cringing at the grocery store for the $13 price tag for organic chicken! Cringing. But on the other hand, I am freaking out about the antibiotics & hormones they put in meat now. My husband is a hunter and I’m coming around to eating the deer and pheasant because it’s 1) 100% organic and 2) Free roaming. Just like the rest of you out there, I just want to be the best for my family! Thanks for sharing this.

    Melody

    I got over the price of organic chicken when I started making super easy chicken stock by throwing the chicken carcass in the slow cooker with water and a tablespoon or 2 of apple cider vinegar – I was making about 3-4 cartons worth of chicken stock which was much healthier than store-bought as well and thus there was my price case. Healthy chicken and healthy stock for LESS than what it would cost to buy conventional chicken and stock. Win-Win!

      Kristoffe

      How is that less? Because you make stock out of the carcass? Stock is dirt cheap and organic chicken is still expensive. I’m lost

Ananda

My son is 21 months old and eats a similar diet. He just tried some soaked oats for the first time but didn’t really love them. If it was up to him it would be apples, bacon, paleo waffles and eggs for breakfast. I usually give him what I eat (which is meat, eggs, fish, fruits and veggies) He also loves bone broth, pickles and raw sauerkraut! My son is still nursing too. I was wondering what vitamins you give him, if any? I give my son 1/2 tsp of fclo. I mix it with an oz of orange juice and some water. It’s the only juice besides green smoothies he drinks. I would love some of your smoothie recipes. I’m new to green smoothies. Also any tips or shortcuts? I have some autoimmune issues I’m working through so I struggle with having energy to make everything homemade.

kezia @Super Naturally Healthy

I dont have kids but the info mentioned on weston a price is really interesting – I need to look into it for when the day comes:) I love making juice though for my toddler nephews – they love carrot and orange with tiny bit of ginger- yum.

Kara

Thank you, Megan for posting this!! I do many of these and I just learned some more! My husband ordered your cookbook and I can’t wait to make some new food items for us and for our one-year-old. My newest food for Noelle are quinoa patties/pancakes- cooked quinoa mixed with some eggs, with or without diced veggies, then fried up like pancakes with a little coconut oil. She loves to eat without help, so these quinoa pancakes broken up are perfect for her!

Kayla

What an adorable little guy!! That’s great that you’re starting him off with such healthy food. That’s something he’ll always appreciate!

Lauren

Thanks for posting this Megan. I have two daughters, and while they both eat really healthy, I’m not sure I went about introducing foods to them correctly. We are expecting our third in June, so I’ll have to refer back to this! I especially like the tidbit about starchier foods at night to promote sleep…I’ll definitely be incorporating that trick! 🙂

robin m

I have been taking care of a little girl since she was 4 months old and is now 19 months old. Her family follows a vegan diet as well as myself. She eats everything her parents eat and her Mom is the best cook. She works everyday and comes home and cooks a complete meal and i have the honor of feeding my little one everyday. She eats everything. Just recently she is getting a bit pickier about some veggies in some of the dishes. Her favorite is curry dishes which usually has coconut milk in it. Yummy. Quite often there is a home made sauce to accompany any and everything so that helps. Most of the sauces are based from cashews or tofu and spice. I am surprised how she well she does with spicy foods. Her breakfast is mostly oatmeal of sorts and variations. She loves her moms smoothies which always has kale and fruits. She drinks water throughout the day along with breast milk. She was never fond of a bottle in the beginning but always and still nurses well.

Bianca

What kind of Cereals do you recommend for breakfast? My children enjoy cereal so should I buy organic milk for them or what?

Liz

This is fantastic! My son is just getting to this stage and I was running out of ideas. THANK YOU for this post. So fantastic. Please consider doing more like this for those of us who want to keep our kiddos healthy, but just feel overwhelmed by the options. 🙂

Sydnee

Hi Megan! I’ve noticed your little guy wears that beaded necklace on a regular basis, and I’m just curious as to its purpose. Is it some type of diffuser necklace of something of the sort? Very interesting.

    Megan Gilmore

    It’s an amber teething necklace! I’m not sure if it “works” or not, but our son did get his teeth so far with very little fuss.

      Sydnee

      Oh, neat! I’ve seen them at Whole Foods before. Sounds like something to look into in the future. 🙂

sarah

Please do discuss toddler smoothies! Im always looking for how to feed my little one!

Melissa

I was wondering when you introduced meat to your son? My daughter is 14 months and hasn’t had meat yet. My husband wants us to give her meat now. So, I was just wondering what is a good age to do this? Thanks for the fantastic post! I love the smoothie snack idea! I bought a squeasy cup and give one to my daughter everyday, she loves them!

    Megan Gilmore

    I introduced meat to him around the 13-14 month mark, though I know some parents do it much sooner. I was mostly scared of the choking risk, so I still break it up into pretty small pieces. Glad you’re enjoying the Squeasy pouch, too!

Stephanie

I have been trying to find the recipe for the veggie muffin in your cookbook and can’t seem to find it. What’s the name of it in the cook book?

    Megan Gilmore

    They’re called “Italian Meatloaf Muffins” in the book, on page 134.

beth

hi megan

i’d love to know more about the raw goat cheddar. what are the pros-cons of raw cheese & milk for toddlers?

my daughter just turned 1 yr old. she’s currently eating vegetarian and has tested positive for some food allergies, so looking at other protein options for her.

thank you!!

    Megan Gilmore

    Raw goat cheese sold in grocery stores, by law, must be aged for at least 60 days to ensure that any bacteria is killed off– so in my opinion, raw cheese that has been aged that long is just as safe as pasteurized cheese. Raw dairy is thought to contain more nutrition and enzymes, and is also thought to be better tolerated by those with lactose issues. We don’t drink raw milk in our house (only the goat cheese) but you can read more about raw dairy here: http://chriskresser.com/raw-milk-reality-benefits-of-raw-milk/

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