How to Plan Meals for a Toddler

by Shara JJ Cooper Google
People learn healthy eating habits when they are young.

People learn healthy eating habits when they are young.

Toddlers are fussy beings — one day they love bananas, the next, they can't stand them. This behavior makes it challenging to create healthy meal plans, but you don't to have to be overwhelmed by your toddler's food whims. Start out by giving her a variety of foods to explore and eating together as a family to encourage healthy eating habits that will last.

Step 1

Have rules for how you want to feed your toddler. For example, you may want to limit how much milk or juice your child drinks. These are both fillers and while they have nutrition, they don't leave a lot of room for solid foods. Try to feed your child a diverse diet full of whole foods instead of already prepared or processed foods. Consider what whole foods are — basically, if your food has one (or sometimes, two) ingredients, it is most likely a processed food. For example, tomatoes, chicken, rice, oranges, shrimp and potatoes are all single-ingredient foods. Keep in mind that multiple ingredients don't necessarily make the food an unhealthy option; think: whole-grain bread, pasta, tofu.

Step 2

Check your local flyers for weekly sales. You can save a lot of money by planning ahead and buying food that is on sale. Keep an eye on the produce, meat and grain sections. You'll want to buy plenty of fresh produce, meat and some staples like legumes and rice. Make a list of the foods that are on sale that your toddler will eat. If spinach is on sale but she refuses to eat it, there's no point in picking it up.

Step 3

Create a meal that includes as many sale items as possible. For example, if onions, potatoes and steak are on sale, you can easily whip up a meat-and-potatoes meal for your tot. Mashed potatoes is a kid favorite, and you can even hide other veggies in the dish that she'll probably never suspect — cooked cauliflower makes mashed potatoes light and fluffy. You can even make colored mashed potatoes by adding other vegetables like cooked broccoli or sweet potatoes. Grill or pan-fry the steaks with some flavorful seasoning, and you'll have a meal that everyone likes.


  • Create meals that are varied so that your child gets nutrients from many sources. For example, give her protein from red meat, poultry, seafood and vegetarian sources several times a week. These sources have different nutrients to offer children.
  • Don't over-feed your child. A plate piled with food can be unappetizing. Give her small scoops of each food, and let her know she can always have more when she's done.
  • Write down meals that are popular with the whole family. You can keep them on index cards inside your cupboards for easy go-to ideas.
  • Let your toddler help prepare meals. She will love helping out and will probably enjoy the meal more as a result. Tasks can be as simple as chopping vegetables with a bread knife.


  • Don't cater to your toddler's whims or demands. If you cater to her fussiness, she'll never learn to adapt to a varied diet, and she will always expect you to make special dishes. You don't need to force her to eat escargot; her likes are important — just don't cater to her entirely.

About the Author

Shara JJ Cooper graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism in 2000, and has worked professionally ever since. She has a passion for community journalism, but likes to mix it up by writing for a variety of publications. Cooper is the owner/editor of the Boundary Sentinel, a web-based newspaper.

Photo Credits

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