top of page

Making Meal Time a Positive Family Experience: tips, tricks, and favorite products

Mealtime with toddlers can be a whirlwind of chaos and picky eating, but with a little planning and creativity, you can turn dinnertime into a stress-free experience for the whole family. As a mom who's in it right now, I'm here to share my favorite tips for meal planning with toddlers. I’ve also linked my favorite meal time items at the bottom of my post!

Get Them Involved: Toddlers love feeling like big helpers, so why not involve them in meal planning? Let them choose a few items from a selection of healthy options for the week ahead. This not only gives them a sense of ownership over their meals but also increases the likelihood that they'll actually eat what's on their plate. I love to let Isla get her own cart at the grocery store. Yes, it’s chaotic but I tell her to get a certain number of things (usually 2 or 3) from the fresh produce section. Then I will tell her to pick her favorite type of cheese, yogurt (etc.), or a special treat for the week. I try to make it very specific but still let her “be in charge” of what goes into her cart. Once we get home she is always SO excited to put away her groceries and they are always the first thing she reaches for when she’s hungry. 

Keep it Simple: Your toddlers do not need a gourmet meal each and every time they get hungry. We are all about simple and healthy meals in our household (that goes for Daniel and I as well). Our kids almost always eat the same dinner as us, the only time they don’t is if we plan to get takeout after they go to sleep. We did baby led weaning for both Isla and Elliot and it’s really helped give them a diverse palate. I’ll write a detailed post on that a different day. For lunches I always keep them simple. Something with protein/fat, a fruit, and a veggie. I try to mix it up each week but sometimes we get stuck in the same rotation but that’s okay too. I have an entire highlight on my Instagram of their daily meals.

 Batch Cook and Prep: Take advantage of those rare moments of peace and quiet to batch cook and freeze meals ahead of time. This way you'll always have a stash of ready-to-eat meals on hand. I usually try make extra protein pancakes and egg bites to help with those busy mornings when we need to get out the door for school and dance class. I also like to prewash and cut our fruits and veggies to make it even easier to get a meal or snack on the table. Isla is also old enough to get her own snacks out of the refrigerator so having healthy options ready to go makes snack time a lot easier. 

 Make It Fun: Turn mealtime into a fun and interactive experience by getting creative with presentation. Use cookie cutters to shape sandwiches and fruit, arrange veggies into smiley faces on the plate, or create themed meals based on your toddler's favorite characters or interests. We love making snack board with all the different shapes and colors. It always entices my kids to eat more as well! 

Sous Chef: “Mommy can I please help?” is something I hear every time I set foot in the kitchen. My immediate thought is “I am in a rush and this is only going to make things take longer and create another mess for me to clean up.” I’m sure you’ve had that same train of thought as well. I’ve tried to shift my mind set and say yes almost every time she asks to help in the kitchen. Why? She is only 3.5 and helping in the kitchen is such an amazing learning experience and bonding time with each other. One day she won’t want to help me and when that day comes I will be looking back wishing I said yes more often. Saying yes sometimes means huge messes, but most of the time it’s just something little. I usually ask her to help pick out her plate and Elliot’s plate. Or I’ll ask her to get something out of the refrigerator. She has her own toddler safe knife and cutting board set that she loves to use so I often ask her to cut up the fruit or veggies which is something she does surprisingly well, although she usually eats everything before it comes off the cutting board. Saying “yes” instantly changes the entire tone of meal time and makes her feel so included and eager to eat what she helped me make. 

Be Flexible: Last but not least, be flexible and willing to adapt your meal plan as needed. Some days, your toddler may devour everything in sight, while other days, they may refuse to eat anything but crackers and cheese. Elliot has been on a huge hunger strike lately which is not like him at all. He will barely eat any of his meals and throws his entire plate on the floor almost right away. It’s hard not to get discouraged and frustrated. I try to work with him and find fun ways to keep interested in meal time, which usually means me acting like a complete crazy person while eating my eggs so he wants to eat his too. So remember to roll with the punches and remember that tomorrow is a new day.

Meal planning with toddlers may have its challenges, but with a little patience and creativity, you can turn dinnertime into a stress-free and enjoyable experience for the whole family.

Do you have any favorite meal planning tips or hacks for feeding toddlers? Share them in the comments below! 


bottom of page