Baby & Toddler Food Ideas (w/ Allergy Subs) + Favorite Tools

eight nutritious baby and toddler meal ideas

I never would’ve imagined it, but some of the most highly engaged and requested content on my Instagram have been baby and toddler meal ideas! But I get it – starting solid foods was fun but slightly daunting, and now that we’ve entered the opinionated toddler stage, it’s no small task prepping nutritious meals for someone will either love or reject it on a whim! If your baby is just starting solids, please check out my older blog post on Feeding Baby – Starting Solids.

Frequent Exposures
We’ve had fun introducing Nori to all sorts of foods and flavors since a young age, and my biggest advice is to not be discouraged if they reject something (studies show it can take 10 – 15 tries for little ones to like certain foods). Although it can be frustrating, I demonstrate to her I’m eating that food and will offer it again another time, sometimes served differently or mixed with something I know that she’ll eat. Nori used to refuse avocado, salmon, sardines, and various other nutritious foods that she eventually grew to love (although with toddlers, that’s always subject to change!).

Adjusting Foods for Babies / Toddlers
I think it’s great to feed little ones some of the same flavorful foods you cook for yourself, adjusted for less salt and added sugars (I omitted these when possible when she was under age 1). Since Nori is allergic to dairy, egg, and nuts all of which I eat frequently, I end up prepping some of her food separately but still use many ingredients and flavors from our adult meals.

Per requests, I’m rounding up a few mini meals in our recent rotation, and I have a bunch more to share!

helpful tools for feeding babies and toddlers

Most Used Tools & Meal Prep

Some of my most-used tools for prep & mealtime:

  • Baby food scissors which I use multiple times a day, whether it’s to finely mince up food in a bowl during her baby days, or to quickly cut toddler food into bite sized pieces.
  • Handheld food masher – wish I got this sooner when she was a baby! Super versatile. I can’t find the exact one I have, but I’ve also used the Nuk brand one and it’s pretty much the same.
  • Small storage containers. Back when Nori’s nanny was coming in daily, I’d use these stackable containers to organize her meals for a few days in the fridge (including frozen items so that they can gradually thaw).
  • Reusable silicone pouches for freezing food.
  • Silicone suction plate with dividers. Check out hack # 4 on getting food odors & stains out of silicone!
meal prep for baby led weaning toddlers

Fresh produce is great, but I always keep these in the freezer for meals in a pinch:

  • Veggies – we love frozen peas, corn, edamame, butternut squash, and cut up okra. My toddler mama friend recommended this California Blend with broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower which Nori has been enjoying since her baby days.
  • Cubes of coconut milk, tomato sauce, broth for various dishes (per tip # 4 here).
  • Salmon – When buying a filet of salmon, I cut small portions for Nori, wrap in parchment paper then freeze. I’ll put a piece in the fridge to thaw a day before serving and either steam, poach, or pan sear it for a quick meal.
  • Shrimp – I get raw peeled & deveined shrimp for minimal effort needed. Or, even easier – already cooked frozen shrimp that I just warm up in some hot water from my kettle.

Mini Meal Ideas Lately

Including a few go-to items that are freezer friendly for quick meals.

1. Easiest Banana Pancakes
These were all the rage by fitness bloggers ages ago, and are great for little ones too! Served here with some yogurt (I get coconut or soy-based yogurt for her dairy allergy) + chia seeds and fruit.

3-Ingredient Banana Pancakes Recipe

  • Mix together in a bowl:
    • 1 very ripe banana, mashed with a fork
    • 1 egg (we have been making these for her egg allergy challenges)
    • 2 Tbs flour
    • Optional: berries, chocolate chips
  • Heat a little oil over low-medium heat and drop small spoonfuls of batter into the pan.
  • Cook for about 5 minutes on each side until done.

easy banana pancake recipe

2. Rolled-up Sandwich Pinwheels

Served with tomatoes & peas flavored with juices from baking the chicken

The filling possibilities for these fun pinwheels are endless! Just make sure the filling is sticky enough to hold the roll together.

  • Flatten a piece of bread using a rolling pin – I like to use Dave’s thinly sliced whole grains & seeds bread.
  • Spread a layer of filling onto the flattened bread
  • Roll it up as tightly as possible. I use my hands to squeeze the rolled up bread log a few times.
  • Slice into pinwheels – this will be easiest using a cerated bread knife.

Here I made a chicken salad using leftover chicken chopped up small using food scissors, mixed with avocado (in lieu of mayo, which you could use instead). Other ideas include mashed bananas and peanut butter (or sunflower butter), or good old PB & J.

creative sandwich ideas for toddlers and kids

3. Salmon Veggie Patties

Roasted potatoes with olive oil, dried rosemary (crushed it with my fingers), pepper, garlic powder
Diced mangoes

I started making these patties as a way to incorporate nutritious veggies and salmon (good source of Omega-3s for early brain development, low in mercury) into one finger food, and started enjoying them myself as well! Just think of it like a crab cake. I’ve loved hearing from many of you who have made it for grownup meals over salad or with some dip!

baby and toddler meals for picky eaters

Salmon veggie patties recipe:

  • Add into a bowl:
    • 1 can salmon, or salmon that’s been cooked & flaked. I use canned Wild Planet no salt added salmon.
    • 1 egg* (see substitution notes)
    • 1 to 2 teaspoons mustard. I like Dijon for myself, regular or honey mustard for Nori.
    • 1/4 cup panko or breadcrumbs, more at the end if your mixture is too runny
    • 1 Tablespoon olive oil or mayonnaise
    • Veggie ideas: 1 grated carrot, handfuls chopped spinach, or some cooked sweet potato
    • Seasoning ideas: lemon juice, black pepper, paprika, and hot sauce for adults
  • Mix everything together and roll into approx. 1 inch balls
  • Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat with some oil coating the bottom.
  • Place balls into the pan, flattening each one into a patty using a spatula and flipping over when browned (note: canned salmon is already cooked).

* Egg substitute: I’ve been making these with egg as part of Nori’s allergy challenge, but you can try replacing egg with a “flax egg” which is very common in vegan dishes. Simply mix 1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed meal with 3 Tablespoons hot water, and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to thicken up a bit before adding it to the mix.

Nori eats her patties with ketchup, and I have mine with the quick tartar style sauce shared in this post. These also freeze well after being cooked! I simply thaw frozen ones in the fridge or microwave, then cook for a few minutes in the air fryer or in a pan to crisp up the outside again.

4. InstantPot Congee or Porridge

Congee is a favorite comfort food of mine, and it was one of the earliest foods I would make baby Nori! It took a few tries but she eventually came to love it along with my friends’ toddlers when they visited. I love that it’s a one-pot way to get in grains, protein, and veggies using whatever ingredients you have on hand.

A super quick version I do for kids is just:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice, rinsed and drained
  • 5 cups liquid (water + low sodium broth). Use less liquid for a thicker porridge.
  • A few pieces uncooked chicken drumsticks or thighs
  • A few handfuls of baby carrots, frozen butternut squash or whatever veggies I have
  • Optional aromatics: 2 to 3 piece peeled ginger, lemongrass stalks
  • Throw it all into the instant pot and hit the porridge setting for 25 minutes
  • For toddlers who need more flavor, serve with a little fish sauce or soy sauce.

Before serving, I use food scissors within her bowl to cut the meat and veggies up smaller. For a more flavorful recipe that adults will enjoy too, check our arroz caldo recipe which I think is the ultimate porridge!

5. Tender Chicken Spinach Meatballs (with 4 serving ideas!)

Served here with macaroni and veggies in marinara sauce
Mashed potatoes with peas + avocado

These no rolling needed meatballs are quick & easy to make and tender enough for less experienced chewers. They’re freezer-friendly and quite versatile … in this post alone are 4 different ways I’ve served the meatballs in 1 week!

Chicken spinach meatballs recipe:

  • Mix together in a bowl:
    • 1/2 lb ground chicken or turkey (dark meat will be more moist than white)
    • Chopped baby spinach and/or grated carrot
    • 1 egg (or substitute with a flax egg – see salmon patty recipe note above)
    • Seasoning ideas: Italian style (oregano, garlic, basil) or Asian (a little ginger, fish sauce or soy for toddlers)
  • Bring a small pot of water to a low boil
  • Using a tablespoon, scoop rounded little balls of the mixture and drop directly into the simmering water. Cook until done, which is about 6 to 10 minutes for me (cut a meatball open to check doneness). Cooking on a low simmer in liquid helps keep these meatballs very tender compared to other cooking methods.

healthy toddler meal ideas

We like Trader Joe’s no salt added marinara sauce and always keep it stocked in the pantry. For mashed potatoes, I cut potatoes into large chunks and either boil or steam in the Beaba machine until tender. Use a fork or handheld masher to mash with milk and butter, or I use chicken broth or oat milk to make it dairy free.

6. Asian “peanut” sauce noodles (made nut-free for allergies)

Served with the same chicken meatballs & steamed veggies, both topped with some coconut milk.

simple Asian sesame noodles for kids

Personally, I love peanut sauce noodles (see my old recipe post here) especially on a warm day. This is a quick & easy allergen-friendly version I made for Nori using noodles that were cooked very soft.

Mix a few tablespoons of hot broth or water with a little peanut butter (I used sunflower butter due to nut allergies) until it’s thinned out into a saucy consistency. For toddlers who want more flavor, add a dab of hoisin sauce and sesame oil to the sauce. Toss with noodles and optional veggies.

7. Ten-minute veggie bean soup

Featuring the same meatballs in the soup + multigrain crackers + avocado

veggie pasta soup recipe for toddlers

This is basically a “whatever’s in the fridge” soup, but it’s nutritious, Nori likes it, and I’ll usually have a bowl too! Some examples of what I’ve added to this soup in the many batches I’ve made:

  • Cut up leftover veggies (i.e. carrots, zucchini, onion, broccoli, baby spinach leaves)
  • Frozen veggies (i.e. peas, corn)
  • Meatballs, ground meat, 0r rotisserie / baked chicken cut up small
  • Drained and rinsed cooked beans (we like Wholefoods no salt added boxed beans)
  • Leftover pasta, lentils or rice
  • Marinara sauce or tomato paste/sauce – I use a cube or two from my freezer stash

I add what I have at the moment from this list, plus some broth in a small pot and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. If it needs more flavor, I’ll add some oregano, garlic powder, and black pepper OR I’ll do cumin or curry powder for a different flavor profile. I also freeze individual portions of this soup for her later.

8. Mashed beans

Served with the same meatballs yet again in marinara sauce + garlic peas

We introduced beans when Nori was around 10 months old as a good source of protein and fiber. You can think of this as either “refried” style beans with no cooking required, as a bean dip, or as a spread to eat on toast.

I love Wholefoods no salt added boxed cannelini or black beans that are already cooked. Just drain and rinse the beans, then add olive oil, garlic powder, and lemon juice (and a little salt for adults and toddlers) and use a fork or handheld food masher tool. For younger eaters, you can also add some warm broth to thin out the consistency.

toddler-safe meals

Let me know if your little ones enjoy any of these dishes, and if you’d like to see more ideas from our mini meal archives! 

Leave a Comment

18 Comments

  1. Anna wrote:

    Hi Jean
    I recall that recently you posted about not using the 360 cup anymore after reading about feeding littles
    I remember seeing you post what alternative cup you are using but I cannot find it on your website. Can you link it on your instagram or somewhere for me?
    Ps. I love your recipes! Thank you for sharing as always.

    Posted 9.3.20 Reply
  2. AJ wrote:

    Thank you for sharing these ideas! My toddlers have the same allergies so I love seeing the meals that other parents prepare.

    Posted 6.5.20 Reply
  3. Mary wrote:

    Hi Jean, I have been a longtime reader and occasional commenter. Thank you for this super helpful post. Like a fellow poster, my (now 7 year old) son has the same allergies and these are terrific ideas of what to cook. Just want to say you’re doing such an amazing job as a mummy! When My son was still a toddler, I struggled with the child rearing so don’t know how you managed to do that, and to think up creative meal options, and maintaining your blog!

    Posted 6.1.20 Reply
  4. Defi wrote:

    Thanks – I was literally looking at your insta stories for baby/toddler food ideas.

    Posted 5.29.20 Reply
  5. lulu wrote:

    Dear Jean,
    I been secretly following your blog for years. I am a petite girl myself but not so petite after giving birth. This is the 1st time I am leaving a comment because I LOVE this post about baby food ideas. My baby Juju is about 10 month old and she loves food with a passion. I have been exploring different food and try to make it fun for her to grab and eat on her own. These recipes are so helpful and looks delicious! I can’t wait to make some for her! I mentioned earlier that after prego, I am not as small as I used to be, would love to see a post about what exercise you have been doing while being a busy working mom. thank you so much and love your family!

    Take care and congrats on the 2nd peanut in the belly, so exciting for you!

    Love,
    Lulu

    Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  6. Paige wrote:

    This is so great Jean! My little one (now 7 years) has dairy, peanut and tree nut allergies, and used to be allergic to soy and egg. I wish I could have seen these ideas back when she was a toddler. Allergies are so hard but there are more options out there than there used to be. Keep up the great work!

    Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  7. alisha wrote:

    So helpful! I am always looking for ideas for my 9 month old.

    Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  8. Vivian wrote:

    Thanks for this post Jean! Do you mind sharing what brand of coconut milk you use? Is it the thicken version in a can or the thinner version in a carton?

    Posted 5.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I don’t have a particular brand that I prefer but I usually use full-fat canned coconut milk which has great flavor.

      Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  9. Sylvia T. wrote:

    Such an informative, thoughtful post as always! My little one is only 2.5 months old, but it’s nice to get some ideas and info early on. What are your thoughts on the Bumkins silicone dish vs the Beaba set?

    Posted 5.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      I’ve found them to be of similar quality and it’s always great to have multiple options on hand for when one is dirty or sitting on the window sill to remove odors. The Beaba is nice because it comes with a perfectly sized bowl that we use all the time and the Bumkins is great because it has the separators which Nori thinks is so fun. I think both are great options and you can’t go wrong with either one!

      Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  10. Jennifer wrote:

    Thank you so much- I was literally looking at your insta stories for baby/toddler food ideas this morning before you posted this. So helpful, and my baby has the same allergies so the flax egg idea is great. Can’t wait to try these with her!

    Posted 5.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Jennifer, I hope she enjoys them! It can feel so tough as an allergy mama to come up with new meal options so she doesn’t get bored. We’re hopeful that they can grow out of the allergies and have a wider variety of meal options down the road. x

      Posted 5.28.20 Reply
  11. Ann wrote:

    Thank you SO much for sharing! My son has these same exact allergies and we’ve been trying to keep meal times as simple as possible without him getting bored of it. He’s only 9 months and after he turns 1 we will have to work with the allergist to slowly incorporate eggs as well. Thank you for sharing your recipes!

    Posted 5.27.20 Reply
    • Fan wrote:

      How did you serve the coconut milk with the chicken meatballs and veggies? Did you have to warm the milk first and did you add any other seasoning?

      Posted 5.28.20 Reply
      • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

        I warm up the meatballs in some hot water and then they’re warm enough to melt the frozen coconut milk.

        Posted 5.28.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Being an allergy mama can be so tough but thankfully there are some great resources out there! I’m so glad that these recipes have been helpful for you x

      Posted 5.28.20 Reply

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