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Food and feeding habits for toddlers

Quick! What’s for dinner?

Now that your baby’s eating solids, dinnertime is a little easier and at the same time, a little more difficult. You have to plan finger foods for babies that are also adult friendly. So what can you feed your little one when time is tight and stomachs are growling? Here are some quick and easy recipes for kids that you can depend on.

Softly cooked vegetables


When time is not on your side, frozen raw veggies and a silicone vegetable steamer are your best friends. Frozen veggies retain their nutrients, are quick to steam and make for very easy baby recipes, whether yours is eating with their hands or ready to use a spoon. Veggies are also forgiving. One day, your baby will distract you as you’re cooking and you’ll overcook your veggies. When it happens, simply add a bit of whole milk and butter and create a delicious mash. A great meal idea for a toddler is mashed cauliflower as an alternate to mashed potatoes.   Be sure to serve small, pea-sized bits, and avoid hard uncooked vegetables like celery. Cooked carrots, peas, corn, squash and sweet potatoes are toddler favourites but there is no reason to avoid veggies like broccoli, sprouts or asparagus. You might as well try as many as you can: your baby might surprise you. And what goes better with veggies than dip? Offer your toddler hummus or yogurt alongside their carrots and cucumbers.

Meatballs or other ground meat

Meatballs are easily chewable; and if made right, are soft enough for the baby to gum if he or she doesn’t have many teeth yet. If they’re made with beef, they’re a delicious way to make sure a baby gets the protein and iron they need, but you can also mix in different meats like chicken or turkey thighs, pork and even beans—whatever you like. If you’re sly, you can sneak in some added nutrients by grating carrots or zucchini into the mix.   Another delicious alternative is a ground fish burger. Simply cook the fish, and then flake it using a fork. Mix it with an egg (yolk only if your baby is under one year) and breadcrumbs to shape it into patties. Chill, then cook thoroughly again, and serve.

Cheese cubes

 Cheese and crackers

Filled with protein and calcium, cheese is an easy, delicious and nutritious food to offer babies. Cheese is also a great way to ensure your toddler gets their two daily servings of dairy products without filling up on milk.   There are so many cheeses out there, so you should experiment with different types (you never know what a kid will like), but do avoid unpasteurized or soft cheeses until your baby is a bit older. Make sure that every piece is cut into a small portion no bigger than a pea so there’s a lower risk of choking.   And don’t forget that you can use melted cheese or a cheese sauce to help get your toddler to eat their veggies. It’s not cheating – it’s creative.



Pasta (or couscous) is a great way to sneak vegetables onto your baby’s plate. A good tip is to overcook the noodles a bit so they’re softer and easier to eat (al dente is for an older crowd). You should also consider choosing a smaller noodle like macaroni, or cutting a larger noodle into portions small enough for your baby to swallow without choking. For younger eaters, look for “pastina”, which is pasta for babies. It’s usually fortified with nutrients and has tiny noodles designed to be safe for babies just starting on solids.   For babies who have started to chew, try a quick vegetable pasta “sauce”. Cut up veggies into small bits and pan-fry them with olive oil and fresh garlic. Vegetables that fall apart when cooked are best, like tomatoes or zucchini (delicious with onions). Add a bit of the pasta water for starch, and then mix in the cooked, drained pasta. The veggies will stick to the pasta – and the kids might not even notice them.

Polenta cakes*


Polenta is a good alternative to mashed potatoes or pasta. It falls apart easily in your baby’s mouth, and is a great place to hide healthy foods they may not otherwise want to try, like salmon.   Here’s a quick recipe for salmon polenta cakes: – Make the polenta per the instructions on the package (buy the quick cooking polenta, ready in as quickly as 2 minutes), and then flake the cooked fish into it with some butter. – Add dill or any other fresh herbs for flavour. – Line a baking pan with foil for a quick clean up. Pour the polenta and fish mix into the baking pan, and bake for 30 minutes at 400° F until the peaks are slightly browned. – Let it cool, then cut into small cubes for your baby to pop into their mouth.

Pancakes, waffles or french toast


These breakfast staples needn’t be for breakfast only. All three can be easily handled and gummed or chewed by babies, and they’re undeniably delicious. Pancakes are also life savers at restaurants as they’re often the most baby-friendly item on a menu if you’re brave enough to venture out for brunch.   When preparing them at home, stick to egg yolks only if your baby is less than a year old. Serve them with bananas or any fruit soft enough for toddlers to eat – if your baby is just starting to eat solids, spread a fruit puree over a pancake or waffle. For older toddlers, you can even top with a dollop of yogurt (Greek yogurt is a great high protein choice). Just try to skip the sugary syrup.

Soft fruit

Until your baby starts chewing food fully, they’re not ready for hard apples. But you can start satisfying your baby’s sweet tooth with ripe pears, peaches, mango, bananas or other soft fruits that are cut to appropriate sizes.   Berries are also an excellent choice, but you should lean more towards the more mushy set (raspberries, blackberries) than pellet-like blueberries that can get caught in a young throat. Oranges are also okay for babies as young as six months, but be sure to remove all the seeds and peel the rind and membrane off, in addition to cutting it into tiny pieces.

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