5 Easy Toddler Dinners to Take the Pressure Off
It goes without saying that feeding little kids can be challenging.
Sometimes, the most trying aspect is coming up with a variety of ideas that they will actually eat. This puts a lot of pressure on already-stressed parents.
As a toddler mama, I know this feeling all-to-well.
As a nutritionist, I know their dinners don't need to be perfect but they do need to check a few crucial boxes. Kids typically need some protein at dinner to keep them full through the night, but the carbs they eat are also very important for helping them sleep.
To make your week easier, here are 5 of my favourite easy, well-balanced toddler meals that can be thrown together in a pinch:
1. Tuna Melt
Tuna is a great source of healthy fats & protein and has a fairly mild flavour. It keeps well in your pantry so it's always ready to go! Mix the tuna with a bit of mayo or with olive oil and add in some finely chopped pickle. Spread on toast, top with cheese and pop into the oven until it's nicely melted.
2. Tofu "Rose" Pasta Sauce
This is one of my favourite (easy) plant-based family meals because tofu is a great source of protein! Take store-bought tomato sauce of your choice and heat it on stovetop on medium. Add in desired amount of soft tofu. Use an emersion blender or placed into food processor/blender to mix in tofu & smooth out the sauce. Continue to heat, then let sit until mealtime. You can't taste the tofu.
3. English Muffin Mini Pizzas
This one is made of leftovers. If you have leftover pasta sauce, it can serve as a nutritious pizza sauce. I like to use the tofu rose sauce when I make these mini pizzas on whole wheat English Muffins. Top with ALL THE CHEESE! Sometimes I add little bits of sliced turkey meat as "pepperoni." If you have a gluten-free child like I do, O'Dough's flatbread or sandwich buns work great for this recipe!
4. Classic Beans + Toast
I love this combination for the protein & fibre content, plus, it's so quick to whip up! Brown beans are something I almost always have stocked in my pantry. If you pair beans with a high quality, whole wheat/whole grain bread, you're creating a combination that offers COMPLETE protein (with all 9 essential amino acids) for your child as well as complex carbohydrates.
5. Breakfast Egg Burrito
Who doesn't love breakfast for dinner? This one is super easy and bound to impress! Use scrambled eggs, cheese, sliced meat - whatever they might like - and wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla. If your family is gluten-free, President's Choice has a great tortilla option that's pliable and delicious.
BONUS: The "Pick-At" Platter
On those days when your kids are tired or you know they won't be overly hungry, put together a healthy kids version of a charcuterie board. Chop up cheese, pickles, veggies, fruits & pair with crackers, toast, humus, boiled egg... whatever you've got available! Put it on the table and let them pick at it until they've had enough. My grandmother used to serve platters of "pick-ats" and I have many fond memories of these times because they were light & fun.
Remember, dinner is not about perfection, it's about function + family time.
I truly hope these ideas will help reduce stress around mealtime.
Ciara Morin, R.H.N.