Dinner ideas for picky toddlers can be a challenge, whether you work outside the house or are a stay-at-home parent. More often than not, we overtired toddler mums and dads just feel desperate to get something vaguely healthy on the plate and move on. No matter if you are someone who enjoys cooking or truly cannot stand being in the kitchen, feeding very young people can be draining. 

On top of the day-to-day pressure of getting nutrients into your pint-sized food critic is the ever-running self-critique over setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. We get it. But you do not have to spend your entire day in the kitchen curating toddler-friendly meals, or an entire evening battling your choosy child at the dinner table. With a few simple tips, you can start to introduce colourful, intriguing plates of foods that will entice your little one to try new things… and hey, maybe even like them! 

Toddlers love to feel independent and, of course, they are into anything that is visually appealing. Medium sized foods that might feel slimy if picked up (like flaked fish and shredded chicken) can be served with pretty toothpicks to convince your little one to give them a try. Any finger foods are best matched with an optional dipping sauce which kids this age LOVE. If they will not eat vegetables, serve fruit! Embrace their obsession with foods not touching and invest in plates with compartments. Buy the right sized utensils to ensure dining success. And when all else fails, serve cereal and try again tomorrow. 

Here are some of the best toddler dinner ideas to try… 

Tortellini With Pesto Toddler Dinner

The bite-sized pasta is a great gripping size for tiny hands, so you can absolutely serve it plain with some sliced fruit or veggies on the side. If your little diner enjoys using a fork, try adding pesto sauce for a bit of flavour diversity, and let them sprinkle on their own Parmesan cheese. Tortellini look like belly buttons, which is sure to bring on a giggle!  

Easy Risotto Toddler Dinner

The logic is this: If they like mac-n-cheese, who is to say they won’t dig risotto? The flavour and consistency are similar, but this Italian rice dish is elevated enough that Mum and Dad will enjoy it, too. Also, it is a one-pot dinner, and who doesn’t love that?! There are tons of risotto recipes out there, some more time-consuming than others. If this is your first attempt, stick with a simple recipe like the ones on this beginners’ list. Your toddler might especially like the chicken variety. Buon appetito! 

Pea fritter toddler dinner

Pea Fritter Toddler Dinner 

This savory handheld toddler dinner is a great way to sneak in vegetables and get them trying something new. It bears mentioning that the finished product looks strikingly like lily pads, so you could employ their favourite froggy bath toy on the plate to create a fun scene that will get them excited to taste these!   

Chicken Nugget Mashed Potato Bowl

Pure comfort food right here, and your little one will nummer it right up. Little do they know, mashed potatoes are a whole food, and a healthier choice than your standard fries. 

Baby Bolognese Toddler Dinner

This is actually a baby-led weaning recipe for easy-to-eat pasta bolognese that can be served from 9 months old, but something tells us your picky toddler will absolutely inhale it, too!  

Flaked Salmon Toddler Dinner 

For those lazy nights, it’s a super simple lifesaver of a toddler dinner replete with healthy protein, yummy veggies, and an absolute favourite kid dish. Roast salmon and broccoli with salt and olive oil in the same pan until both are tender. Flake the salmon, halve the broccoli, and serve with macaroni and cheese (frozen is FINE). Boom!   

Chickpea patties with sweet potato fries

Chickpea Patty Toddler Dinner 

This flavourful, nutrient-packed meal for littles is a plant-based party on a plate. Yummy chickpea patties (above) and homemade yogurt sauce offer up wholesome protein while sweet potato oven fries are a clean carb prime for dipping. 

Breakfast for Dinner 

Everybody loves this offbeat dinner choice, and toddlers are no exception. Serve pancakes, scrambled eggs, and turkey breakfast sausage to rave reviews. If you are having trouble getting your little one to try eggs, scramble with some cheddar cheese. On meatless Mondays or any time you want to switch it up, Beyond Meat breakfast sausages are a kid-friendly option that contain 35% less saturated fat than pork sausage. 

PB & Dinner 

Try a more inventive take on classic PB&J by serving peanut butter roll-ups with jelly for dipping alongside apple slices and yogurt. PB&J on pita bread is also a fun alternative!

Mini chicken potpies

Mini Chicken Pot Pie Toddler Dinner

This miniature chicken pot pie recipe (shown above) might just bring you back to your own grandma’s kitchen. Classic comfort food served in the perfect size for tiny, eager eaters. Yum, yum!  

Deconstructed Taco Plate Toddler Dinner 

It is one of those super lazy dinners that just looks complicated and special. In your toddler’s compartmentalised plate, set out taco meat or 'filling' of your choice (cubed potatoes tossed in taco seasoning and air-fried are also delicious!) in one section, shredded lettuce and halved cherry tomatoes in another, cheese in yet another, and mini taco shells in another. Your toddler will have so much fun creating their own little meal with these choices at their fingertips. 

Mac N Cheese Bites 

Serve these bite-sized toddler favourites with green peas and applesauce for a balanced and super tasty dinner that they will gobble right up. 

Mashed Sweet Potato Toast 

Picture avocado toast but instead, with mashed sweet potatoes on top. Serve with mixed berries on the side. Sweet, savory, and oh so simple! 

Broccoli & Cheese Quesadilla Toddler Dinner

One of the easiest ways to sneak veggies into a toddler’s diet is in a quesadilla. It is closed, and there is cheese involved, so with any luck they will not peel it back and go hunting. Finely chop broccoli tips and place inside the quesadilla with cheese. Melt stove top or in the oven, and serve beside black beans & sliced cucumbers, with guacamole or sour cream for dipping. 

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