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    Written by Hillary Bennetts

    Easy and Healthy Toddler Meal Prep Tips for Busy Parents

    Easy and Healthy Toddler Meal Prep Tips for Busy Parents
    Estimated time to read 9 minutes

    Meal prep is always a hot topic in the health world, but it's often associated with the Gen Z gym goers, not the opinionated toddlers. But the reality is that meal prep helps all of us eat better and feel less stressed.

    It's common to get in a rut of preparing the same foods week after week. Especially when you have a toddler at the table. So we're sharing some simple tips and tricks that can help make toddler meal prep easier and more convenient, plus several fresh and healthy toddler food ideas to mix up your meal plans.

    Can Toddler Dinners be Prepared in Advance?

    As a busy parent, finding the time to make healthy meals for a toddler can be a challenge. However, with some thoughtful preparation and organization, it's possible to easily create delicious and nutritious dinners that will keep little ones happy and healthy.

    Meal prepping is an effective way for busy parents to save time while ensuring their children are getting all of the nutrients they need. Parents can save time and provide nutritious meals to their toddlers with easy meal prep tips. 

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    5 Best Tips for Toddler Meal Prep

    Here are 5 tips for making the toddler meal prep game as efficient as possible.

    1. Make a double dinner and freeze half for later

    One of the easiest ways to meal prep is to double the dinner you are making for one of your weekend meals to freeze and eat another time. This works best for toddler dinner ideas like casseroles and soups. You can also prep ahead one extra freezer recipe each week for easy meal prep.

    2. Put leftover homemade baked goods freezer

    If you make a dozen muffins on Sunday but you know they won't all get eaten before they start to be a little less appealing, throw a few in the freezer. If you do this with several different items for a few weeks, you'll have a pretty good variety in a month or so. This stash is also handy for when you have been traveling or have a particularly busy weekend and don't have time to make anything fresh.

    3. Prepare simple breakfast options in advance

    For some families, mornings are the most hectic time of the day. So fill your freezer with easy healthy breakfast options like chia pudding, protein pancakes, egg cups, and sausage.

    4. Keep flexible protein in the freezer for quick and easy meals

    Proteins often take more cooking time, so making them ahead in larger batches helps to cut down on prep time. Meats like pulled pork, large roasts, and shredded chicken can be made into so many things, like quesadillas, soups, stir-fries, tacos, bowls, and more. Meatballs also freeze and reheat well and are great to pair with a quick lentil pasta or veggie side. We'll share some recipes for healthy toddler meatballs later on.

    5. Create a schedule for the week

    Get the entire family on board with meal prep by creating a schedule for the week. Involving your kids in meal selection if they are a bit older is a fun way to engage them in healthy choices, especially if they tend to be picky eaters.

    If you have younger kids who can't be involved yet, consider their preferred foods and include at least one "hero food" in every meal. For example, if they aren't always enthusiastic about salmon, make sure you serve a favorite veggie like sweet potatoes alongside the salmon.

    Reminders for Feeding Toddlers

    1. Allow children to serve themselves by serving meals family-style

    Serving meals that the whole family can enjoy helps create a positive space for your little one to explore eating. When your toddler is old enough, allow them to be involved in the meal by letting them serve themselves. For example, let them scoop their own scrambled eggs or pick which broccoli looks most appealing to them.

    Of course, there is a little risk here that they take way too much and waste it, but you can always encourage them to start small or use smaller serving utensils if it becomes problematic.

    2. Start with smaller portions

    If you are serving your kid, introduce new foods in smaller portions. This not only helps to limit food waste, but it also makes new foods or foods they find questionable feel less daunting on their plate.

    3. Remember it's normal for kids to not eat everything you offer them

    Don't believe everything you see on social media. It might look like some kids eat everything on their plates for every meal, but the reality is that most kids don't. Kids go through stages of exerting independence through food choices, and other stages of increased sensory sensitivity or picky eating. Try to not force any food on your kid, and don't react strongly when they don't try a food.

    30 Meal Prep Ideas for Busy Parents

    So you're sold on meal prep but now you need ideas? We've got you covered. Check out these 30 toddler meal ideas that are easy to make ahead for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks!

    Breakfast

    1. Yogurt parfait

    Build a parfait at night for the next morning or two. It's a great activity to do with kids. Just layer a mason jar with Greek yogurt, berries, seeds, granola, or anything else you like.

    2. Mini egg muffins with cheese and veggies

    Egg muffins are a great way to get portable protein in the morning. It's easy to make a batch ahead and mix up the flavors as you please. Plus, you get the added bonus of choline, B vitamins, and healthy fats!

    3. Banana muffins

    We love this recipe by our friend Kelly Leveque:

    • ⅓ cup liquid coconut oil (not melted coconut oil)
    • ½ cup monk fruit sweetener
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 ½ cup mashed extra ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas)
    • 1 ripe banana for muffin tops
    • ¼ cup vanilla unsweetened almond milk
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • ½ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 ¾ cups gluten-free all-purpose flour or 50/50 fine almond flour and coconut flour
    • ½ cup chocolate chips (we love Hu)
      Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix all wet ingredients: oil, maple syrup (or monk fruit sugar), bananas, vanilla, and almond milk. Note: Do not melt coconut oil or use warm coconut oil. This will cook the eggs! You can find 100% liquid coconut oil at your local grocery store.
      Step 2: In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
      Step 3: Slowly fold dry ingredients into wet batter (some lumps are OK). Mix in chocolate chips and pour batter into a coconut oil greased muffin tin. Top each muffin with a ½-inch to 1-inch thick slice of banana.
      Step 4: Bake muffins for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the muffins clean. Enjoy!

    4. Pancakes

    Pancakes don't have to be boring. Skip the simple carbs and load up your pancakes with protein and veggies. Pancakes freeze well, too. Just pop one in the toaster for a few seconds to heat it up. They will be perfectly warm and will have a great texture too.

    5. Waffles

    There are so many ways to add more nutrition to waffles. You can even sneak in some organ meats with this recipe. Like pancakes, waffles freeze well, so make a big batch for the whole week ahead!

    6. Chia pudding

    Chia pudding is quick and easy to make breakfast for the whole family. Chia seeds are a good source of fat and fiber to help keep little ones satisfied. There are so many ways to make it, just choose the flavors that suit the tastes of your toddler.

    7. Smoothie packs

    Make your morning smoothies more efficient with prepared frozen smoothie bags. Here's an example, but feel free to get creative! Just be sure to include plenty of protein and fat.

    8. Breakfast Casserole

    A hearty and nutritious breakfast casserole is perfect for those chillier mornings. We love this one that is packed with protein, healthy fats, and fiber from veggies.

    9. Paleo pop tarts

    For a fun treat, try these healthy and freezable paleo pop tarts. We like to make them even easier by filling them with no-sugar-added Chia Smash jam.

    Lunch or Dinner

    1. Healthy meatballs

    Meatballs are great for a toddler's lunch or dinner since you can make them ahead and reheat as needed. Pair your favorite recipe with a quick veggie side like roasted cauliflower or a protein-packed gluten-free lentil pasta. For added nutrition, try this recipe with hidden liver.

    2. Quesadillas

    Quesadillas are a quick and versatile lunch or dinner option. Just use whatever protein you have on hand (like leftover grilled chicken or steak) and add some veggies for extra nutrition. Layer it all with cheese on a Siete tortilla for a good balance of protein, fat, and fiber. Add some Pluck seasoning for extra nutrition from organ meats!

    No protein on hand? Try this recipe with a chicken pouch!

    3. Spaghetti with meat and veggie sauce

    A meat and veggie-packed marinara sauce can be prepared in advanced and refrigerated or frozen. Just brown some of your favorite ground meat in a skillet and then add in some veggies that have been pulsed in a food processor. Once they're all cooked and soft, add some tomato sauce and seasonings. Or shortcut it with a jarred pasta sauce.

    4. Broccoli cheddar soup

    Broccoli cheddar soup is a great way to get broccoli into skeptical toddlers. We like to use bone broth in this recipe for added protein and nutrients.

    5. Chicken noodle soup

    With tender meat and veggies plus savory herbs, chicken noodle soup is a favorite for all ages. Swap out the chicken broth for bone broth.

    6. Thai turkey meatballs

    Meatballs don't have to be made from beef. We love these Thai turkey meatballs that have great savory flavors from coconut aminos, ginger, and garlic.

    7. Chicken sweet potato nuggets

    They might sound like kid food, but these nuggets are a hit with the whole family.

    8. Quick pizzas

    Pizza can have a negative reputation, when it is made well, it is a great balanced meal. Load a grain-free Cappello's pizza crust with your favorite sauce, cheese, veggies, and meat for a quick lunch or dinner.

    9. Burritos

    Burritos are a great make-ahead toddler meal. They freeze and reheat well, and you can fill them with whatever meat and veggies you (or they) want. We like to use Siete tortillas. They even have larger burrito-size tortillas for adult servings.

    10. Baked chicken tenders

    These baked chicken tenders replace the time-consuming egg wash with a high-quality mayo. They're almost as easy as store-bought chicken nuggets and contain no inflammatory oils. Freeze the leftovers for later!

    11. Lentil soup with veggies

    You can prep soup ahead in the slow cooker or instant pot, and you can freeze portions for later meals. We love a good lentil soup. Pro tip: use bone broth for added protein and nutrients.

    12. Beef and broccoli pasta

    Add some protein and veggies to your pasta with one of our pouches and some chopped broccoli. Our Turkey Bolognese pouch is another great option to mix with some boiled pasta for a quick and nutritious meal.

    13. Salmon patties

    Get some help from our salmon pouches with this quick and easy salmon patty recipe. It's great for all ages and pairs well with just about any veggie side.

    14. Tacos

    You can cook the ground meat for tacos in advance and even freeze it ahead to save time on taco night. Try adding in some finely chopped veggies like cauliflower rice, or add in a pouch for extra flavor and nutrition. Then all you need for your meal is some toppings like tomatoes or salsa, avocado or guacamole (we like to keep the individual serving cups stocked in the refrigerator, and some shells or tortillas (we like Siete).

    15. Enchilada casserole

    Enchiladas make a great meal prep meal. They can be kept in the refrigerator or freezer until you are ready to eat, and they heat up well for leftovers. We like this paleo recipe.

    Snacks

    1. Pouched meat purees

    No prep needed - be sure to keep some of our pouches on hand for quick and convenient nutrient-dense snacks.

    2. Broccoli tots

    Make veggies a little more fun with these broccoli tots.

    3. Hard-boiled egg

    Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs at the beginning of the week to snack on all week long. We love the Instant Pot method for cooking the easiest-to-peel eggs!

    4. Crispy roasted chickpeas

    Chickpeas are a great portable snack, and they're made even more toddler-friendly when they're roasted and crispy. Mix up the seasonings to your toddler's tastes.

    5. Chocolate protein muffins

    Kids love muffins made with chocolate and we love that these chocolate muffins contain veggies and healthy fat with no gluten and no refined sugar. You can even add some collagen for more protein.

    6. Pizza egg bites

    These portable pizza bites are packed with protein and are the perfect size and texture for little ones. They make a great snack for at home or on the go.

    Takeaway

    Meal prep has so many benefits, from healthier meals to less stress and saved time. Make a plan for your week ahead with some of these nutritious and delicious toddler-friendly ideas!

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