Meal-Planning Made Easy: One Week of Toddler Meals
I am a lifelong planning addict, but for some reason the entire notion of meal planning has never appealed. It just seems so… much.
But then there are those moments — those stressful times when my kids are in my face, whining and literally climbing up my legs, asking me “what’s for breakfast/lunch/dinner, mama?” — when my brain goes completely blank and I begin to wonder how much simpler life might be if I didn’t have to come up with something on the fly.
After so many said moments^, I finally decided to give meal planning a go, and you know what? It was so great! I learned that meal planning for toddlers actually doesn’t need to be that difficult or onerous; that working from a set schedule inevitably results in my serving my kids better, healthier, more diverse dishes; and that having a plan deflects all decision-making from “Mom.” Seriously, it’s like magic — if my kids don’t like what I’m serving, I just tell them it’s what’s “on the list for today” and instead of whining at me, they totally accept it (or they whine at the list, which still feels like a welcome deflection). #parentingwin
Ideally, every plated meal for a toddler (or anyone, of any age, for that matter), would feature a well-rounded mix of macronutrients and micronutrients in certain proportions. (BTW, macronutrients are your carbs/proteins/fats and micronutrients are your vitamins and minerals.)
I’ve used the Harvard School of Health’s approach to a healthy meal because it’s easy and totally customizable. Here’s what it says:
- Fill roughly half the plate with colorful veggies and/or fruits (ideally, 2-3 different kinds);
- Fill roughly a quarter of the plate with healthy whole grains;
- Fill the remaining quarter of the plate with healthy protein; and
- If you want to, throw on some healthy fats and/or dairy.
The key here is to focus on diverse, whole, fresh foods — the less processed the better. In a perfect world, we’d all be able to use this framework to offer our children a variety of fresh foods and dishes featuring different tastes, textures, and flavors. As parents who live in the real world, we know that we need to balance that exemplar with… reality. Sometimes we need a quick, easy meal, and that’s okay.
I made a notecard for every healthy meal I could think of in the breakfast, lunch, and dinner categories, making sure to include a few easier/faster recipes I could rely on when I was short on time, and looked up some new ideas for fresh inspiration — over the months, I’ve built up a nice little collection. Each weekend, I simply select the week’s meals from my cards, and put them on display somewhere my kids can easily see them (this way they know what to expect). (Bonus points if you have your children draw pictures on them!)
The hardest part — for me — was getting started, because I felt like I was starting from nothing. So I hope this full week of toddler meal plans helps get you going… and please share your own ideas in the comments!
Breakfast: Cottage cheese topped with pear and kiwi and a whole grain muffin
Lunch: Wheat pasta with oil/butter and cheese served with frozen peas & corn
Dinner: Roasted sweet potato “fries” served with a meat or fish of choice and cut veggies (cucumbers, peppers, and/or cherry tomatoes)
Breakfast: Steel-cut oats with nuts (or nut butter), bananas, and berries
Lunch: Grilled cheese and tomato soup with cut apple
Dinner: Sauteed tofu and spinach served with pear and sliced cheese
Breakfast: overnight chia seed pudding — leave chia seeds soaked in coconut milk overnight in the fridge (optional to also toss in a dash of vanilla extract &/or maple syrup), and serve with berries & nuts in the AM
Lunch: PB&J (why not?) with pear and cucumber slices
Dinner: Stir fry! Sautee rice with a frozen veggie medley (optional to add in tofu, eggs, or meat)
Breakfast: Whole grain Amara Oat pancakes topped with leftover chia pudding and mixed berries
Lunch: Egg scramble made with sauteed spinach, onion, and tomato served with whole grain toast
Dinner: Bean & cheese quesadilla served with roasted plantain and avocado mash
Breakfast: Egg and cheese sandwich with a blueberry, kale and avocado smoothie
Lunch: Canned wild salmon smeared over whole grain toast (top with oil/dressing) and cut cherry tomatoes and nuts
Dinner: Mashed chickpeas served with broccoli, cottage cheese, and cut grapes
Breakfast: Fruit, a hard-boiled egg, and avocado toast
Lunch: Pita pockets filled with hummus and greens (+/- meat & cheese) with walnuts and cucumbers
Dinner: Easy crockpot chili — toss beans, tomato puree, frozen veggies and a *dash of chili powder in the crockpot (+/- meat); optional to serve with toast &/or orange slices
Breakfast: Whole grain toast topped with nut butter and apple slices, plus yogurt on the side
Lunch: Tacos! Fill wheat/corn tortillas with Amara Black Bean & Sweet Corn, avocado, and shredded cheese and serve with apple slices & cut peppers
Dinner: Easy english muffin pizza served with fruit and a veggie side (I usually opt for apples and mushrooms with this one)
All of these menus^ derive from the Harvard formula described above, and they generally reflect 1) my lack of cooking skills and 2) my own kids’/family’s culinary preferences. They aren’t perfect, and they aren’t overly complicated. Sometimes, I “cheat” by swapping out a meal for leftovers, switching days, ordering sushi, or heck, making homemade macaroni and cheese when I don’t have time to make what I had planned. I don’t sweat these decisions, and neither should you.
Yes, the best way to meal plan for toddlers is to keep it simple and to know that you can be flexible when you need to. In my experience, the plan is always a welcome help, but so too is the reminder that is just that, a plan.
At Amara, we make planning simple. With a finger food recipe on the side of every Amara box, we make healthy options easy. Looking for breakfast inspo? Look no further than our Breakfast Pack for Toddlers. packed with whole grains and freeze dried fruit with zero added sugar, these oatmeal packets are convenient without sacrificing nutrition. Finally, you can't forget snacks. Our award-winning Yogurt Smoothie melts are the only option on the market with no added sugar and packed with flavor. Check out our best-sellers HERE.
Good luck out there, friends. And let us know what meals you’re planning!