By age 2, most active, growing toddlers can drink from a cup and feed themselves with a fork and spoon, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). However, what your toddler is eating might not provide him with the nutrients required to remain a pest. When it comes to serving lunch, it’s all about keeping it simple, fast and most importantly, healthy.
1. Meat Group
Meat might not be one of your toddler’s favorite foods, but according to KidsHealth, it’s important for your growing tot to consume anywhere from 2 to 4 ounces of lean meat each day. For lunch, try handing your toddler half a sandwich featuring thinly sliced lean chicken or turkey. Chicken nuggets are a kid mainstay, but pay attention to keep them healthy by popping the finger foods in the microwave or oven instead of the deep fryer. Hot dogs are another kid favorite, but it’s important to serve them thinly sliced. According to the AAP, whole hot dogs are a potential choking hazard.
2. Dairy Group
Milk is an amazing beverage that can compensate for any nutritional or caloric gaps in your picky toddler’s diet. According to Keep Kids Healthy, the average toddler requires around 1,300 calories per day. A 16-ounce glass of cow’s milk can provide your toddler with around 300 calories. A side of plain or fruit-flavored yogurt can provide the energy and calcium your toddler needs to irritate his older siblings. If you have a cheese lover, provide your toddler with a side of string or cubed cheese. If he’s having trouble handling the cheese, cut it into smaller chunks.
3. Fruits and Vegetables
For many toddlers, fruits and vegetables are the enemy, especially a bowl of mushy carrots or stinky peas. KidsHealth recommends toddlers consume at least 1 cup of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables daily. A side of sliced apples, strawberries or bananas with lunch is a great head start. If you’re struggling with the veggies, try covering a bowl of cooked carrots, broccoli or cauliflower with a thin layer of gooey, delicious cheese. When it comes to raw veggies or fruits, the AAP cautions parents against feeding their toddler anything that isn’t easily chewed and swallowed, such as whole grapes, whole carrots or raw celery.
4. Cereal and Grains
KidsHealth recommends toddlers consume anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces of grains throughout the day. A whole grain sandwich featuring lean meat is one option. If your toddler loves pasta, whip up a quick and easy bowl of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti with whole wheat pasta. If you’re really strapped for time, there’s nothing wrong with having a second breakfast that features a bowl of cooked oatmeal or a whole grain cereal and low-fat cow’s milk.
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