Coming up with fresh ideas for what to feed your toddler for dinner every single day can get exhausting.
Luckily we have a good list of meals that the girls really enjoy eating and as they’ve been eating my food since they started weaning, they eat pretty much everything they are served without any fuss.
I thought I would share a big list of the meals that are always a big hit with my girls, who are ages two and four.
These toddler dinners are real crowd-pleasers. What I love about the food we cook for the kids now is that we eat exactly the same as them, so I’m not always struggling cooking two different dinners.
Of course when we are having something very spicy I will cook the girls something different as they’re not keen on hot spices.
So this is my list of our favourite toddler dinners that please the whole family. I would love to hear your toddler meal ideas, so please share your dinner inspiration in the comments!
1. Fluffy pancakes and fruit
This meals goes down a treat every single time. Serve the pancakes with whatever fruit you have handy. You could also had a few blueberries to the pancake mix for some more flavour.
You can find my pancakes recipe here. It’s no added sugar or salt to make it that little bit healthier.
2. Shepherd’s Pie
This is an absolute favourite for the entire family. I like to make it with carrots and onions, but for children who are fussy you can use a food processor to whizz these up into a paste and then add them to the sauce. Your kids will never know!
Roasemary in with the lamb is an absolute must too. This recipe from BBC Good Food is simple and spot on.
3. Spaghetti bolognaise
You can whip this meal up in less than 20 minutes and it’s brilliant for very young toddlers as you can chop the pasta up into tiny pieces for them to cope with. It’s also a great baby-led weaning recipe too.
I always make my own sauce, because the jarred ones are so packed with sugar and salt.
I fry the mince, then add some passata with a pinch of dried Italian herbs and a low-salt beef stock cube for extra flavour. Then let it simmer while the pasta is cooking. Easy.
4. Roast dinner
Whoever thinks meat and two veg is boring is just so very wrong! Roast dinner is fantastic because it encourages the kids to eat a hearty meal and to enjoy vegetables simply for being vegetables.
I think hiding veg is a great idea if your child is being really fussy. But having them proudly on the plate is also important, because you want them to recognise what they are and eventually they will just enjoy them.
Our perfect roast dinner is probably beef with Yorkshire puddings (I always use the Delia Smith recipe), broccoli, peas and cauliflower. Yum!
5. Chicken goujons
When I have the time I love to make my own goujons, or nuggets. Sometimes I make a huge batch and freeze some before the cooking stage.
All you need to do to make these it cut chicken breasts up into small strips, then get three bowls, one with a beaten egg, another with three tablespoons of flour and another with some breadcrumbs.
First dip the chicken in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs. Make sure each piece of chicken gets well coated on all sides. Then roast in the oven with a little olive oil for around 25 minutes at 180C.
6. Eggy bread
The perfect dinner if you’re in a rush. You can serve it with carrot sticks or cucumber slices on the side.
Simply get an egg and beat it in a wide-based bowl, then place a slice of bread into the egg mixture and leave it for 10 seconds or so to soak up the egg. Next flip the bread over and leave for another 10 seconds or so.
Fry the bread for around a minute on each side in a pan with butter on a medium heat. It’s ready when it’s gone slightly golden. I always cut it into soldiers then serve.
7. Picky tea
Who doesn’t love a picky tea? If you’re not sure what I mean by this, it’s basically a meal made up of finger foods and individual items. It can be cold or hot.
Our picky teas tend to consist of things like: carrot sticks, cucumber slices, cheese, sandwiches, mini sausages, sausage rolls, leftover meat from a roast dinner, breadsticks, hummus, olives and sliced peppers.
8. Fish fingers
You can either make them yourself or go easy and take them from the freezer. Making them yourself is simple.
This lemon and herb fish finger recipe by My Fussy Eater is amazing.
9. Cheesy pasta
A simple one, but a meal that you can be sure your child will eat.
Simply make up a cheese sauce by adding flour to melted butter in a pan. Give it a good stir until combined and then pour in some milk. Then grate in a generous amount of cheese and you have a cheese sauce.
You can add cooked cauliflower to this too to add in one of their five a day.
You could also mix cooked pasta with the sauce, pop it into an oven dish, cover it with breadcrumbs and a little more grated cheese, then roast in the oven for a nice and crispy topping.
10. Homemade healthier pizza
No matter how you dress it up, a pizza is never going to be a totally “healthy” option, because without cheese it’s not really a pizza. But toddlers don’t need to be watching their weight, or counting calories, of course.
So I just love this pizza recipe because it includes all of the very best things about pizza, with the added bonus that the base is made with wholewheat spelt flour. This is higher in fibre and just better for the diet than white flour.
I’ve made this recipe dozens of times and it’s always a hit because everyone can pick their own toppings. One of my girls just loves to eat it plain with cheese and tomato sauce.
The other enjoys having sausage meat, peppers and anything else we have handy on top.
The recipe I use comes from Lorraine Pascale. If you have a food mixer, use that to make creating a the dough a little easier.
Her recipe includes a little harissa paste mixed with pasatta for the sauce to put on the base. For kids I suggest not bothering with the harissa, unless they love spicy food. Most toddlers won’t love the heat level, so keep it mild for them.
11. Meatballs and pasta
A classic and a crowd-pleaser.
Take your pick from turkey, beef, lamb or pork. We tend to favour turkey here as it means the kids aren’t eating too much red meat.
Simply fry the meatballs until cooked through, then deglaze the pan with either white wine vinegar or cider vinegar (you only need about a tablespoon). Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and a beef stock cube and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve with whatever shape of pasta you like! Sometimes I will do this recipe with sausages and just slice them up into bite-sized pieces instead of the meatballs.
12. Pea and ham risotto
For some reason I always felt really intimidated by risottos, as if they are really hard to do. The thing is they’re not, you just have to keep an eye on them for 15 minutes or so.
The girls love the pea and ham version, they’re not so keen on my mushroom risotto.
Sometimes I use ham, other times bacon or pancetta. Add the peas for the final two minutes so they don’t overcook. I don’t use wine when cooking this for the kids, even though it probably does burn off the alcohol. I’m just too paranoid!
You can use a low-salt stock cube (vegetable or chicken) to cook the risotto rice with.
As I explained above, the girls are obsessed with Yorkshire puddings, so this recipe is another winner.
Simply use the Yorkshire pudding recipe from Delia. Firstly you need to cook the sausages, then pop them into large Yorkshire moulds and pour over the Yorkshire pudding mix. Then roast in the oven for 25 minutes or so.
Serve with some vegetables and gravy.
14. Lamb casserole
This is especially good in the winter months. Get some lamb neck fillet or lamb shoulder. Fry it until brown all over, then add some sliced carrots, onion, chopped celery and fry again for another couple of minutes.
Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes and about 150ml of beef stock. Now you can just leave it to simmer for 90 minutes. Serve with either potatoes or crusty bread.
15. Fish pie
A hearty fish pie is a great way to get your kids to eat a healthy dose of fish.
I like a mixture of salmon and cod, but some kids respond much better to just salmon in the fish pie. You could try using sweet potato as the topping instead of white potatoes.
This fish pie by Annabel Karmel is lovely.
16. Homemade burgers
When it’s barbecue season it’s fun to get the kids involved in making your own beef burgers.
17. Chicken korma
As parents we automatically avoid spicy food because we assume our kids will hate it. However it your start with extremely mild spices you’ll find your child will actually get used to it.
Try a korma paste mixed with some coconut milk and serve it with rice and naan bread. There’s a fab recipe on the Veetee site.
You can buy the jarred sauces or try to do it yourself. Either way, lasagne is always gobbled up enthusiastically in our house.
Serve it with some garlic bread, and remember to make extra to be frozen for those days you can’t be bothered to cook.
19. Salmon with cherry tomatoes and rice
This is a simple but tasty dish. Simply roast some salmon in tin foil with a handful of cherry tomatoes on the vine for about 15 minutes in the oven at 170C.
Serve with a little rice.
Tasty fishcakes make a yummy and healthy tea for little ones. I like this salmon fishcake recipe from Annabel Karmel.
21. Simple stir fry
I always assumed kids would hate the unusual flavour of Chinese cooking compared to what they are used to, but they actually love it.
I go very simple with baby corns, green beans and broccoli fried with some chicken breast then add a little hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Rice noodles are a favourite with my kids.