Are you feeling like your toddler eats the same thing for breakfast day in and day out? You're not alone. For me, expanding the variety of my toddler's diet as well as exposing him to new flavors and textures is something that I have prioritized. My goal consists of two things: one, reducing our chances of raising a dreaded "picky eater", and two, decreasing the likelihood of a meltdown when eating out or on the go, when his specific requests are not available.
I sat down and thought of ways to take basic breakfast staples, like toast and oatmeal, and change them up a bit in order to vary the nutrients and flavors that my toddler is exposed to each morning. I hope this list is helpful to those of you trying to inject some variety in your toddler's breakfasts.
But for those mornings that you reach for a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios or a toaster waffle when you're so tired you can't see straight or are rushing around just trying to get out of the door while remembering to put on a pair of pants? Don't beat yourself up. I've been there (many times). We've all been there, and your toddler won't implode from having a meal that is less than nutritional perfection. We all do our best, and that is always enough.
With that said, let's take a look at some ideas to help you jazz up your little one's breakfast, shall we?
Safety Tips: Know the limits of what your toddler is able to handle as far as texture and size of food. Make sure that fresh fruit is chopped into smaller pieces so that they don't present a choking hazard, and be aware of hard bits such as grains in bread, chopped nuts, or crunchy peanut butters. Always make sure your toddler is seated and supervised when eating and especially when introducing new food. Honey should not be given to children under 1 year of age.
Shopping Tips: Check the nutrition label and ingredients list for the bread products and choose one that has lower sodium content with no added sugars or high fructose corn syrup. The simpler and shorter the ingredients list, the better. When using jarred jams and jellies or canned fruits, choose varieties that include real fruit and do not include high fructose corn syrup or added sugar. Choose natural nut butters that don't contain extra sugar or hydrogenated oils.
How To Change It Up: Toast is a simple way to introduce your toddler to new tastes and textures while offering them in a medium that they are familiar with. Step beyond the basic white breads and experiment with different whole or sprouted grains, cinnamon raisin, sourdough, or even rye and pumpernickel for more adventurous little foodies. Lightly-toasted English muffin halves or mini bagels are great for tiny toddler hands as well.
Breakfast Toast Ideas for Toddlers:
- Nut butters:
- Peanut butter: plain or topped with apple butter or apple sauce, drizzle of honey, or fresh sliced banana
- Almond or cashew butter: plain or with cherry, peach, apricot, or strawberry jam.
- Butter with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and drizzle of honey
- Cream cheese with fresh berries mashed with a fork, or whole-fruit jam of choice
- Mashed avocado, plain or topped with a fried egg or hard-boiled egg slices (you can top with a light squiggle of ketchup if your toddler likes it)
- Canned pineapple (drained and minced or mashed up with a fork) topped with a little shredded coconut
- Cottage cheese, plain or topped with sliced fresh or canned peaches or thinly-sliced strawberries
- Hummus or refried beans topped with a fried egg or hard-boiled egg slices
Freezer Friendly: Most bread products freeze beautifully and thaw quickly. If the bread is not pre-sliced, slice it first, keep the slices together in a loaf shape, and place into a large freezer bag before freezing. Remove a slice or two from the freezer and let it sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to thaw. You can also use the microwave if you're in a hurry, just set the power to ~20% and check the bread every 15-20 seconds. To save money, look for the sales and stock your freezer with different varieties. That way you can offer your toddler a number of choices and only defrost what you need each day. And if your little one turns his/her nose up at a certain type of bread, you can keep it frozen for the grown-ups to have around when needed. No wasted food and no wasted money!
A Pantry Staple: My kitchen is never without a stash of raw oats. Oatmeal is nutritious and filling, packed full of slow-burn carbohydrates and fiber that will give your kiddo lots of energy and stave off hunger pangs. They're easily and quickly prepared on the stove top or in the microwave. Prepare the oatmeal using a milk option of your choice (cow's milk or non-dairy choices such as almond, cashew, or soy) instead of water to add some additional protein and healthy fat.
Oatmeal Ideas for Toddlers:
You're probably already familiar with popular additions to oatmeal such as honey, cinnamon, fruit (whole, mashed, or dried), jam or jelly, or nut butters, but listed below are some fun specific combinations to try.
For all of the ideas listed below, I start with a serving of hot oatmeal made from raw old-fashioned rolled oats prepared with milk (I use whole, 2%, or almond milk) and with a very small amount of butter added at the end.
- 1 tsp of unsweetened cocoa powder and a swirl of peanut butter
- A swirl of peanut, almond, or cashew better, a drizzle of honey, and diced bananas
- Apple butter or applesauce with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
- Diced bananas, chopped walnuts, a drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin puree (start with a couple spoonfuls and add more to taste), and chopped pecans. Sweeten to taste with pure maple syrup or honey
- Chopped maraschino cherries and sliced almonds
- Cacao nibs and sliced strawberries, sweetened to taste with honey or maple syrup
- A swirl of vanilla yogurt and sliced peaches
Toddler Refuses To Eat Oatmeal? Sometimes this is caused by a preference or aversion toward certain textures. See if you can get your child to explain to you exactly what it is about the oatmeal that he/she doesn't like (too mushy? too tough? too watery? too thick?) and then alter your cooking methods the next time you make it before giving up on it completely. If your child is not yet verbal, it'll take a little trial and error with cooking methods and/or stir-ins to find a combination of texture and flavor that he/she will enjoy. Using small amounts of natural sweeteners such as honey, pure maple syrup, and agave nectar may help picky eaters be more open to the idea.
Make Ahead: Not everyone has time to bake a fresh batch of muffins in the morning, and that's where your freezer saves the day yet again. With a little prep work on a weekend afternoon, you can have a fresh muffin to add to your child's breakfast every morning. Muffins can be as healthy or unhealthy as you want and are a great way to introduce new flavors.
How to Freeze: Place muffins in a single layer in a gallon freezer bag and lay flat in the freezer. Separate multiple layers with wax paper. It's okay if the muffins barely touch each other, but you don't want them too smushed together or else they will be hard to separate once they freeze. Once they are frozen the bag doesn't have to remain flat, because the muffins will no longer try to stick to each other.
How to Thaw: Mini muffins will thaw on the counter in as little as 20-30 minutes, but if you have full-size muffins or are in a hurry, you can put them in the microwave at 20-30% power in 20 second increments, checking after each one.
Toddler Muffin Recipes:
Here's a collection of links of some delicious muffins to fill your freezer with goodness.
Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins
Blueberry Avocado Mini Muffins
Sweet Potato Banana Bites
Pumpkin Spice, Cranberry Yogurt, and Apple Cinnamon Blender Muffins
Green Monster Veggie Muffins
Toddler Super Food Muffins
Sweet Potato Muffins
Butternut Squash Muffins
Kale Banana Toddler Muffins
Carrot Zucchini Mini Muffins
Mini Muffin Pancake Bites
It's a milkshake: Or at least your little one will think so. Smoothies are absolutely amazing. They're thick and frosty, sweet yet healthy, and the flavor possibilities are endless. I don't even pull out our big triple-blade Ninja blender when making a smoothie for my son. Instead, I use this personal blender by Black & Decker that makes clean-up a breeze (not sponsored, I just really like that blender)
Freeze That Fruit: Freezing your smoothie ingredients is an awesome way to ensure that you always have fresh fruit available, and you don't even have to thaw it. Just wash, remove any stems, and pat dry before freezing. For bananas, I like to peel them and cut them in half before freezing. Using frozen fruit helps your smoothies have a thick frosty texture without needing to add ice.
Toddler Smoothie Recipes:
For all of these recipes, blend all ingredients together in a blender.
To adjust texture: add extra liquid as needed if they are too thick, or you can add a couple of ice cubes or extra frozen fruit if you want them thicker. For recipes that call for milk, you can use any dairy or non-dairy milk option that you like.
I like to include ½ frozen banana in most of my smoothies because it adds such a great creamy texture and they are so healthy! The great thing is that in most cases it doesn't add a super strong banana flavor, so even my banana-hating toddler has no idea I've put them in there!
Strawberries 'n Creme: 4-5 frozen strawberries, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup vanilla yogurt
Blueberry Oatmeal: ½ frozen banana, ½ cup frozen blueberries, ¼ cup oatmeal, ½ cup vanilla yogurt, ½ cup milk
Very Berry: 1 cup frozen berry mixture (I like raspberries and blueberries), 1 cup vanilla yogurt, ½ frozen banana, milk as needed to thin
Peanut Butter Banana: ½ frozen banana, 1 big tablespoon of peanut butter, ⅔ cup milk
Strawberry Banana: ½ frozen banana, ½ cup frozen strawberries, 1 cup milk
Creamy Peach: 1 cup frozen peach slices, ½ cup milk, ½ cup vanilla yogurt, 1 TBS honey
Pumpkin Pie: ½ frozen banana, ½ cup pumpkin puree, ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1 cup milk, a few drops of vanilla extract
Avocado Banana: ½ frozen banana, ½ ripe avocado, ½ cup milk, drizzle of honey or maple syrup
Carrot Orange: 1 orange - peeled and separated, ¼ cup diced carrots, ½ cup coconut water, 2-3 ice cubes
Peanut Butter & Jelly: ½ frozen banana, 1 big TBS peanut butter, 1 big TBS jelly or jam of choice, 1 cup milk
Chocolate Peanut Butter: ½ frozen banana, 1 big TBS peanut butter, ¾ tsp cocoa powder, 1 cup milk, honey to sweeten if desired
Healthy tip: To any of these smoothies you can add a small handful of spinach to sneak in an extra veggie!
Add An Egg
Instant Protein: If my toddler is eating a breakfast heavy on the carbohydrates, I'll usually add an egg of some kind on the side for an extra dose of protein. Serving eggs to your toddler is another way that you can experiment with new tastes and textures by varying how the egg is prepared.
How To Change It Up: While most toddlers enjoy eating fluffy scrambled eggs, try introducing other types of eggs to let them experiment with new textures with a similar taste. Hard-boiled eggs are fun to eat and easy for little hands to hold, while fried eggs prepared in fun egg molds don't add any prep time but still add some extra amusement that might keep your kiddo focused on his/her food.
- Offer a dipping "sauce" such as fresh salsa, low sugar ketchup or marinara.
- Experiment with cheese of varying types while cooking or sprinkled on top. My toddler surprised me by being a huge fan of pepper jack!
- Offer a breakfast-friendly vegetable side like peeled slices of crisp cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, or diced cooked sweet potato
- Onions and mild bell peppers are sometimes tricky flavors for little ones, but mincing them up very fine and hiding them in an egg dish is a great way to get them used to the flavor right from the beginning. Knock on wood, but so far we've been able to serve cooked onions and peppers to our toddler in almost any dish, and I first introduced them to him by "hiding" them in his eggs!
Do you have some toddler breakfast recipes or ideas that I haven't covered here? Add them down in the comments so other readers can benefit as well!
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