Toddler lunch ideas and how not to raise a picky eater

Happy almost freaking Friday! Though I don’t know why I should be excited about Friday coming up, my family is leaving to return to their much cooler lives and my husband isn’t home anyway. I guess I’m just jumping on the TGIF bandwagon that all of us stay-at-home-mom bloggers like to rave about.

For today’s post, I decided to try something different and link up with Brittany from A Healthy Slice of Life and her Munchkin Meals link up. I realize that I have a lot of fellow moms reading and since we’re all scouring for more ideas on how to feed our toddlers as healthily as possible, this link up is perfect. I’m always looking for new ideas and I love sharing the few that I have.

I mentioned before with my first pregnancy that after reading Feeding Baby Green I became a huge stickler for trying to do everything by that book to ensure I had a healthy eater. And I told myself that there is no way in hell I would put up with a picky eater. So far, I haven’t had to insert my foot in my mouth because Caleb pretty much eats everything and anything that is put in front of him (or dropped on the floor). We’ll see how long this lasts though *crossing all my joints*

So when it comes to feeding Caleb, I try (keyword: TRY) to stick to these few main points:

1. All of his meals must be a CLEAN meal. No processed, instant foods.
2. His meals must be a balance of a protein, veggie, carb and fruit. In that order and just like how I try to plan my own meals.
3. He doesn’t get his own special “kids” meal, he eats the same thing we’re eating and that’s it.
4. He gets whole milk with every meal, and water between meals.
5. I try not to give him fruit juice (we really don’t buy any) since it’s mostly sugar and nutritionally devoid. But if I do, I water it down mixing half juice and half water.
6. We both drink a vegetable juice from our juicer when we wake up first thing in the morning.

So here are a few pictures of breakfasts and lunches I’ve remembered to take. I don’t have any pics from dinner since we usually try to keep our dinners technology/camera free when the husband is home. But I’m sure you get the idea of what he has for dinner when I post recent recipes like Pan fried Udon, Chick Fil A sandwiches, and etc. He eats the same dinner as us, just in smaller portions. And yes, even the spicy dinners!


We were kind of low on groceries the week I remembered to take these pics, but he normally gets a better variety of fruits for breakfast in the morning. As you can see, breakfast typically consists of eggs mixed with spinach or another type of veggie, turkey sausage, and oatmeal or a homemade english muffin.

Again, lunches are also the same for Caleb and I.


In the first pic we had turkey, garlic cream cheese, spinach, and red pepper pesto pinwheels, leftover honey glazed veggie slaw from a previous nights dinner, veggie sticks and pears.

In the second pic we had sliced chicken, avocado, and cheese quesadillas with salsa and a corn and bean salad. Later we snacked on some strawberries.

Some of our other favorite ideas for lunches include:
1. Peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches with fruits and cut up veggies
2. BBQ Portabella goat cheese quesadillas with roasted broccoli (I don’t know why but he goes ballistic for broccoli!) and hummus
3. Chicken or tuna salad sandwiches with kale chips (also goes nuts over these)
4. Brown rice and seaweed and fish (he makes my Korean family VERY proud haha)
5. Mini Veggie cheese quiches (I use leftover pulp from our juicer for these) with cut up fruit

And for those of you short on time or for those who don’t want to read my baby food bible, “Feeding Baby Green”, here are a few of my favorite tips from the book that have stuck with me throughout both pregnancies:

1. Raising a healthy eater starts in the womb. After the 20th week of pregnancy, babies begin to develop taste buds so whatever you’re eating your baby is developing a taste for via your amniotic fluid. You want to make sure you’re eating a variety of foods so your baby develops a wide palette for different flavors, and not just the sweet ones. Remember, babies are built from food ;)

I made sure I ate a TON of Thai, Korean, Japanese, Indian and other ethnic foods while pregnant because typically these kinds of foods are rich in spicy, garlicky flavors that take a lot of people awhile to get used to. I figured I’d start from the beginning to make sure my kids enjoy these foods from a VERY early age. It helps that I also grew up eating these kinds of foods and love them myself.

And no, I never dealt with gas problems while breastfeeding. Thank my lucky stars!

2. If you decide to use the Baby Led Weaning method of introducing solids to your baby at 6 months, start with vegetables and then slowly introduce the sweeter flavors last so they don’t develop a preference for sweet foods.

I started with green veggies first and made sure I went through all of the main green ones (broccoli, peas, avocados) first before moving on to sweet potato, squashes, and other milder veggies. Then I finally introduced fruit to him after a few months of only eating veggies. Since he was still breastfed at the time, I figured he got enough sweetness from my milk.

3. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Don’t give in to your toddler. Be patient with your baby and let him explore other foods before trying to introduce him to the item he/she doesn’t like at the time. We had this issue with bananas, for some reason Caleb hated bananas after trying them the first time so I calmly moved on to other fruits. Every now and then I would try to give him a banana again and of course, the first few times he refused. But after awhile, he eventually gave in and decided to try it again – and now we have no problem with bananas at all!

4. To teach is to demonstrate. From the book I learned that children love to feel like they’re part of the big people crowd. They want to do what we’re doing and eat what we’re eating. They want to cook with us and get acquainted with their food.

I let Caleb “cook” with me by sliding a chair up to the counter, and hand him a plastic spoon and bowl so that he can pretend he’s helping me cook. This way he’s learning where his food his coming from, and it’s not just a plate that’s set in front of him that he’s expected to eat.

The book also states that if you’re trying to introduce a new vegetable to your child, let him play with the whole vegetable (example: unpeeled avocado) while talking about how delicious it is and how much he’ll enjoy eating it. Then when you’re ready to feed him the pureed avocado, he’ll have a better idea what to expect and won’t be so turned off to the idea of trying something new.

Some of my other favorite topics from the book include:

  • How to eat while pregnant to maximize the chances of your baby being an adventurous eater later on
  • How to introduce foods in a way your baby will find intriguing
  • How we inadvertently teach our toddlers to become picky eaters

But since it would take me a million more blog posts to summarize those points and I’m too lazy to write it all out, I suggest you pick up a copy yourself and get your nerd on ;)

To make up for my laziness, here is Caleb demonstrating one of his latest and favorite looks, the “stank eye”.
IMG_6828 IMG_6804

That kid is so full of personality. He cracks me up like no other :) But just to prove that I’m not raising Rosemary’s baby, here’s a pic of Caleb looking normal after demolishing a meal.

And by normal, I mean absolutely freaking slap yo grandma adorable (I might be a tad bit biased, don’t judge me).

Have a great Thursday! I’m off to watch my husband graduate from a school he’s been at the past month, then it’s time to hang with the fam before they jet set across the world again!


  1. I don’t have a kid, but this is some good advice to keep in my pocket for the future! I’ll have to hand it off to my sister who has a toddler who will not eat her veggies, much to my dismay. And your son is absolutely adorable! Thanks for the advice!
    Britt @ A Life Worth Living recently posted…WIAW: A Tough BattleMy Profile

  2. I am totally bookmarking this post for future reference LOL My toddler is beyond picky, though not entirely my fault. She was born 17 weeks early and has sensory issues processing issues. Buuuut the examples you have here of some of your son’s meals are awesome! Thanks!
    Erin recently posted…Oh Sicky, SickyMy Profile

  3. such a great post Maria! Love the tips!!! xo
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  4. That sounds like an awesome resource- I haven’t read it. But like you, we try hard to avoid processed foods and have been lucky to have a very good eater. The heatlhy eating in the womb part intrigues me- I’ve often wondered if there was a connection there, as my daughter will eat almost everything we eat. She just turned 3 and the last few months have been more challenging (now that she knows all about cupcakes and pizza and party treats!) We’ve had less luck with veggies than a year ago, but we can’t complain. Keep doing what you’re doing!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted…February 5 by the 5th Winners and Link upMy Profile

  5. Love your tips! My little guy was such a great eater until grandpa started babysitting him when I went back to work, when he was around 2. Luckily he knows that he can’t get away with his pickiness with me. Love those plates!
    Sylvia @ Frolic Through Life recently posted…Chewiest Chocolate Chip CookiesMy Profile

  6. YES! I love this post! I agree with everything you said. I follow the same kind if mantras with Ella. Also just not making a big deal of food and not rewarding one food with another. I always only have healthy stuff around, recently I’ve let we have “sometimes” food now and then but it hasn’t hurt anything. She’s always eaten what we eat, no special meals, and in restaurants no kids menu! Unless there are healthy items. Most places will make a mini version of what we are having and charge us the same ad kids menu items. We’ve been lucky but I also believe its part nature, part nurture. Kids pick up on what you do, lead by example! They won’t want processed foods over the real home made stuff if the processed food isn’t in the equation! Great job, momma! Great example and helpful tips for other moms too!

    And yes it definitely starts in the womb!i want to read that book.

    • I loved your post today too :) I’ve been on my phone all day but the second I get on a computer I plan on commenting. I never even thought to research carrengeans (?) and I still worry about the kind of milk we give Caleb.

  7. I love this but its not always so easy. My first child was brought up on what we ate and it was all organic, I just loved steaming it all and blending and freezing it. She didnt know what chocolate was. Then we hit 2 years old and in one week she refused almost everything, it got to the point where she would only eat baked beans. So she ate that for a week.

    I worried, I fretted, I cajoled, I put it all in front of her with the reasoning that if shes hungry she will eat it. It became a battle. She wouldnt even drink her ordered drink at a restaurant aged 4 because there was ice in it.

    We have come along way since but shes a child of two halves – she likes crap frankly (thanks grandma) of chicken nuggets and baked fries, but she also likes wholemeal pitta with nothing on it (no butter, nothing). She looks horrified at any new thing but she will eat most vegetable and mashed potatoe. I think pigs would fly before she would eat humus or a grape.
    One week she will eat oatmeal, then next its the worst thing on the planet. She loves Kraft Dinner, from going for a playdate. I cant bring myself to even try it.

    Its testing at times, texture seems to bother her, I hate to see her crestfallen face when we are at an event and theres nothing served up that she can bear to try.

    My other child eats everything – fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, the lot. Go figure!

  8. I totally agree with this! Although I’d never read that book (and I’m thinking I should pick up a copy before the next pregnancy) I was very cautious with what I ate while pregnant. Although its funny broccoli I ate every day and he still doesn’t want to eat (I think it’s a textural thing though). We also started with green veggies and introduced fruit last. I have a great water and he doesn’t even really like sweets except the occasional piece of very dark chocolate.
    Kelly @ Cupcake Kelly’s recently posted…Playlist Thursday: Let’s Get SpeedyMy Profile

  9. Wonderful ideas! My baby is still cooking in my belly but I hope to use some of these ideas when she is old enough :)
    Brittany Dawson recently posted…Maternity photo shoot…My Profile

  10. I enjoyed reading this- and your son is adorable! I enjoyed your points about what you try to do in terms of nutrition. It’s a lot of work…I feel grateful that I am home with L so I can focus on her food so much!
    Kelly @ Runmarun recently posted…Munchkin Meals: Full Day EditionMy Profile

  11. I am a BIG believer that healthy eating starts in the womb! I ate a lot of Indian food, too, and H loves bold flavors. I need to know more about those pinwheels! What tortilla or wrap do you use?
    Thanks for sharing and linking up!
    Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) recently posted…Munchkin Meals Link Up: 16 Months OldMy Profile

    • I loved your tips on raising a healthy eater too! I’ll have to post the recipe for the pinwheels since they were so good haha. We use low carb wraps or corn tortillas I get in the Latino section of our grocery store. I don’t go too fancy with wraps since we don’t use them too often. Thanks for starting munchkin meals too, awesome idea!

  12. I find that lately Eli is more unpredictable at mealtimes – like one day he’ll devour his sweet potatoes, the next day he fires them all over the floor. But it seems to have more to do with whether he’s tired/bored/overstimulated.

    90% of the time, he eats what we eat, too. Only exception is if we get something like sushi since I’m not jazzed about giving him raw fish. But he loooves tempura and edamame so he can still eat with us :)

    The things he doesn’t seem to love are spaghetti and rice, and I think it’s more about the texture than the taste. He’ll eat pretty much everything else. He had pad thai for the first time recently and loved it, and he likes lasaqna and pizza and curry!
    Amy recently posted…after the beep.My Profile

  13. I did all of these things in the beginning. I made all of our baby food, I pureed the leftovers from our adult dinners. I always said I’d never make the kids a separate meal. My baby ate everything…until she found her opinion. Who allowed THAT to happen?! She’s 5 years old now and I’m happy to say that she, once again, eats what we eat. It was (and sometimes still is) a battle at dinner, but with consistent (read: draining) hard work, our kiddo will happily eat raw carrots, broccoli and peppers instead of a handful of chips.
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  14. He is such a doll :) I will be saving this post for future babes :) Thanks!

  15. I’m finding it so much harder these days! From 6 months to about 18 months Cupcake ate just about everything (except avocado, which is weird because I eat avocado a lot!), but any more she is so opinionated. We’ve always served her what we eat, but she just stopped eating. It’s so frustrating!! Here’s hoping her little sister will be a better eater.
    Heather @ What Does She Do All Day? recently posted…Munchkin Meals: What Does a 2.5 Year Old Eat?My Profile

  16. Yummy ideas- i often find we’re in a lunch rut, so definitely gonna give rollups (add hummus too) a go. And I agree wholeheartedly about juice. Parker doesn’t know what he’s missing- and he’s never really.constipated so there’s no need. Milk and water- he drinks milk with meals and water all day and with his p.m. snack.

  17. Thanks you, I beat myself up endlessly over this
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  18. Great post… glad to see your plates look as big as ours. THEY ARE EATING MACHINES!
    Pavement Runner recently posted…Playlist Thursday: Speed SongsMy Profile

  19. This makes so much sense. The third tip from Feeding Baby Green also works for grown adult Rangers, as it’s how I got my husband to eat pineapple, watermelon, raw spinach, and quinoa. :) Great post!

  20. Thanks for the tips! I think I have a naturally more picky eater than you, but we do essentially the same things. We do homemade whole-grain bread and that’s always a hit with everything, so it’s my healthy standby. Do you have any specific tips on introducing spicy food to your toddler? I can’t get mine to do more than a taste and I lived in Korea when I was preggers with him and ate spicy food day-in, day-out!!

    I think one thing that is big for us is that if he chooses not to eat, then that’s that. I don’t do a second meal for him. He’ll just have to wait it out until next meal! That’s okay. I also don’t make a big deal if he refuses something.

  21. I love this!!! I have a 7, 5, and 2 year old. All boys! I wish I had this when they were born or when I was pregnant. Do you think this would work if I started NOW?

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