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Toddlers 1-3 Years | Your Toddler's Wellbeing

Child-friendly Meal and Snack Ideas

It’s important to give your child the best nutrition you can afford with the time you have. It’s a love-sacrifice to always make time to prepare a balanced, nutritional lunch or supper. We have serious respect for all mothers that have to do extra planning to supply their family with good meals and therefore would like to try and make your life a bit easier with these meal ideas.

Try to include from all the food groups every day:

  • Dairy products
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Breads and starches
  • Protein: meat, fish, chicken, eggs, legumes
  • Fats and oils, including nuts

Healthy meal ideas

If your toddler is a picky eater, be creative in your presentation and crafty with the foods you work into the meal. Here are some ideas for healthy meals:

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  • Cottage pie – blend carrots into the mash potato
  • Spaghetti and meat/chicken balls – blend veggies and hide it in the meatballs
  • Fish fingers and mash, veggies in the mash
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Omelette or toasted soldiers (toast) with a soft boiled egg and wedges of cheese
  • Fish and couscous
  • Pasta salad – get creative with your add-ons: small pieces of ham/tuna, cheese, corn, peas etc
  • Homemade mini hamburgers
  • Homemade mini pizzas: Use a whole wheat (thin) base and top with chicken, finely chopped mushrooms, pineapple, feta and a bit of cheese. Or let your child add his own toppings.
  • Use sweet potatoes to make chips (roasted) – spray with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional)
  • Ham, pineapple and mozzarella kebabs (use straws as the sticks)

Healthy snack ideas

  • Unbuttered popcorn
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit kebabs or pieces of fruit (use straws)
  • Veggie sticks like cucumber, carrots and baby sweet corn with a yoghurt dip
  • Low-fat yoghurt (not fat-free)
  • Small quantities of dried fruit and nuts
  • Make your own fruit ice lollies (real fruit juice diluted)
  • Sarmies cut in shapes (use cookie cutters)
  • Crackers with thin layers of mashed avo (instead of margarine) and cheese
  • Apple and banana pieces with a yoghurt dip
  • Homemade tuna dip: cottage cheese, tuna and a little bit of lemon juice
  • Biltong sticks
  • Ants on a log: peanut butter on a piece of celery, topped with a few raisins
  • Smoothies (yoghurt, fruit, honey, milk and anything else you can think of)

Lunch box ideas

The lunch box often contains most of the day’s menu as it gets filled with a mid-morning snack, lunch and a breakfast – if that was skipped. Some foods need to be kept chilled, so it’s a good idea to use an insulated lunch box or bag. The key here is variety and creativity, otherwise these lunches will soon be swapped for someone else’s. Here are some lunch box ideas:

  • Don’t always use normal flat bread; play around with tortillas, pitas, crackers etc
  • Finger foods: Cubes of ham, slices of chicken, cheese sticks, baby tomatoes, grapes, a few crackers or a sarmie, meatballs etc
  • Pinwheel sarmies: Cut off the crust, flatten the slices of bread with a roller. Smear with a thin layer of cream cheese /cottage cheese and a slice of cold meat. Roll up, cover in cling wrap and store in the fridge for half an hour. Cut into wheels.
  • Mini homemade muffins (banana, honey and seed, bran, carrot and nuts, cheese and herb)
  • Mini pizza slices
  • Yoghurt or yogi-sip
  • A treat like a biscuit or a packet of jelly babies now and then will make their day

Sandwich fillings:

  • Cheese and tomato (prevent tomato from going soggy by placing it between two slices of cheese or cheese and ham)
  • Tuna, egg or chicken mayo
  • Sliced cold / roast meats
  • Cream cheese / Melrose and ham
  • Marmite / Bovril
  • Sandwich spread
  • Peanut butter and honey
  • Savoury mince
  • Fish paste
  • Jam and cheese

Sweet treats

It’s important for your child to enjoy an uncomplicated, balanced childhood and that includes getting spoilt with a sweet treat every now and then. The wise thing would be to choose the better of two treats, i.e. a small pack of jelly babies would be a better option than a chocolate. Then again, if you are having the occasional chocolate, give him/her a small piece of chocolate – everything is acceptable as long as it’s done in moderation. Herewith some interesting treat ideas:

  • Banana custard
  • Digestive biscuits
  • Fruit kebab (use a straw) or fruit salad
  • Apple muffins
  • Jelly and custard (add jelly worm sweets or any gooey animals sweets to the jelly)
  • Banana/Apple and seed flapjacks: Add grated apple or mashed banana to the mixture. Use honey or molasses instead of sugar and add a handful of seeds.
  • Marie burgers: Place a Marie biscuit with a marshmallow on top of it in the microwave until the marshmallow starts swelling. Place another Marie biscuit on top. If you want to creative a super-duper treat, dip a piece of the “burger” in carob (chocolate substitute) and top with sprinkles.
  • Make your own crunchies – replace the syrup with honey, white sugar with brown sugar and margarine with butter. Add seeds.

No-no’s

It’s all about balance. It’s just not fair to deprive a child of everything that we consider to be “bad” – such as biscuits, sweets, crisps or a fizzy as it will just create issues in later years. That being said, it’s important to maintain an overall healthy eating plan. Children follow the example of their parents. “Don’t do as I do, but do as I say” just doesn’t work. It’s better for the whole family to adopt a healthy lifestyle without being rigid.

Try to avoid:

  • Fizzy drinks
  • Always giving juice or bunny milk (Nesquik) instead of water and plain low-fat milk
  • Coffee, Coke and diet cooldrinks
  • Opting for easy foods like crisps, sweets and biscuits as these empty kilojoules are not filling and have little nutritional value. Use it as a treat only.
  • Skipping breakfast
  • Giving tuck shop money every day
  • White bread. As a rule give brown, whole-wheat or seed bread

Healthy meals and healthy snacks take time to plan and prepare. They also require you to think out of the lunch box. Keep a “health box” at home for those peckish moments and interesting lunch add-ons. Another bright idea is to keep a little container with healthy snacks in your car if you have a toddler – things don’t always go according to plan and they don’t like their snack time being messed with! As mothers, we don’t always get it right, but the fact that we constantly try is good enough!

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