This post is for all parents of toddlers who feel frustrated, exhausted and defeated when it comes to mealtimes. And need some inspiration so they do not feel like they are serving the same thing over and over again (I certainly do from time to time).

Let me start by saying that my 2.5-year-old was introduced to solids using the mixed approach, both finger foods and spoon-feeding. By about 9-10 months she was self-feeding 100% of the time and eating a great variety of foods.

By 12-18 months the typical toddler fussiness kicked in and we had plenty of food throwing, yogurt-craving (this one is still on), and dinner-skipping.

Now, at 2.5 years, she is a toddler in full swing. Meaning LOTS of inconsistency in appetite, fidgeting at the dinner table PLUS knowing exactly where I keep chocolate and cookies :).

My goal is to have her sit down to 3 meals and 2 snacks. She may or may not eat, but I do not stress about it or make her take a certain number of bites. I simply let her go play and keep to my meal and snack schedule. At this age meals and snacks should be spaced with 2-3 hours in between.

At meals, I serve at least three food groups, at snacks, at least two. This way, she hopefully eats a somewhat rounded diet despite her sketchy appetite.

It is totally frustrating to see kids skipping meals, even for a feeding professional like myself. But I am trying not to take it personally and keep reminding myself that there will always be another opportunity for her to eat very soon.

Also, we always eat family-style at dinner and often at lunch. This means the food is served in the middle of the table and everyone just serves themselves whatever looks good to them.

All pictures you see below show pre-plated meals because I wanted an esthetically pleasing way to show what she ended up having on her plate, not because I wish to intimidate you with my toddler’s perfect diet (it is NOT ).

So make sure to read on to find out what she actually ate from what was served.

What my toddler eats in a day

7.45 am – Breakfast

What I served:

  • Pancakes with a smudge of a dark chocolate spread
  • Mango cubes
  • Cheese stick
  • Banana orange smoothie made with almond milk. She usually drinks cow’s milk but I like the flavor of almond milk in smoothies.

What she ate:

Everything! And had another helping or two of mango. Breakfast is her best meal right now so it is easy to get her seated and eating her food.

10 other breakfasts I served recently:

  • Oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar, chopped banana and milk
  • Scrambled eggs with sausage, kiwi and milk
  • Banana muffins with almond butter and milk
  • Omelet with smoked salmon, cucumbers, toast and milk
  • Buckwheat served with milk and a sprinkle of maple syrup, sliced apples and milk
  • Almond butter toast with milk and fruit
  • Avocado toast with milk and fruit
  • A boiled egg with a corn muffin and milk
  • Fruit salad with Greek yogurt and cheerios as a topping
  • Cornflakes with pumpkin seeds and almond milk

10 am – Mid-morning snack:

What I served:

  • Grapes – always cut vertically, not horizontally (choking hazard!)
  • 1/4 Wholewheat wrap with almond butter

What she ate:

Everything! Again, she is usually pretty hungry in the first half of the day.

10 other snacks I served recently:

  • Thinly sliced apple and cheddar cubes
  • Breadsticks with melted brie and a pear
  • Halved cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls
  • Whole wheat crackers with almond butter and strawberries
  • Banana with a few chocolate chips (I stick them right into the flesh of the banana, she loves it)
  • Cucumber and carrot sticks with hummus
  • Yogurt with blueberries and slivered almonds
  • Clementines and dry cheerios
  • Half a small bagel with cream cheese and a thinly sliced pear
  • Frozen peas and a small muffin

12pm – Lunch: 

What I served:

  • Her absolute favorite cheese/parsley pasta with peas and corn
  • Clementines
  • Cucumber
  • A small fruit yogurt

What she ate:

  • She started with the yogurt and finished it. It is also a couple of tablespoons so it did not spoil her appetite.
  • Then she proceeded to the pasta, peas and corn and ate most of it, taking a few bites of cucumber here and there.
  • Ignored the clementines.

What My Toddler Eats


10 other lunches I served recently:

(In our house, lunches are almost always dinner leftovers, or I make pasta, eggs or salad):

  • Leftover pizza, fruit and hummus with veggies
  • Leftover meatballs, quinoa and roasted carrots
  • Canned tuna, corn kernels, crackers and yogurt
  • Half a small bagel with cream cheese and salmon, granola with almond milk
  • Fried egg, toast and fruit salad
  • Leftover roasted salmon, pasta and avocado
  •  Leftover lentil soup, quesadilla, fruit
  • Orzo pasta, leftover roasted chicken, fruit
  • Potato omelet, fruit and yogurt
  • Rice and black beans, boiled egg and fruit

3 pm – Mid-afternoon snack: 

  • A mini almond lemon muffin
  • 1/3 of a banana

What she ate:

Most of the banana and about half the muffin.

6 pm – Dinner:

What I served:

  • Bean, snap peas and sausage casserole ( I added snap peas at the very end and they were still nice and crispy)
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Pears

What she ate:

She scooped a lot of everything on her plate but only ate 1 slice or pear, two pieces of sausage and the baby beans from inside the snap peas.

I kid you not. That was her dinner.

I saved her leftovers to reheat for lunch the next day.

It has become harder to get her to come and sit at the table with us at dinner. I think she is rarely very hungry for the evening meal so she is just not interested. I found that if I help her wind down for the meal very gradually, it is easier to make this transition.

So I first join her for whatever game she is playing and then we start putting the toys away, go wash our hands, and sit down to eat. She stays for about 5-7 minutes, takes a couple of bites then she is “all done”. But the important part for me is that she joined everyone (briefly) at the dinner table and considered the food I offered. That’s about as much as I can expect of her at this stage.

Here is what the dinner looked like for the rest of us. Family style, low key, no fancy serving bowls, food just goes on the table in pots and pans. I typically make only one protein choice but I had salmon and sausages in my fridge that needed to be used so I made both. We had lots of leftovers for the next few lunches! We also had leftover mac&cheese with broccoli but she did not want any of that.

10 more dinners I served recently:

  • Roasted salmon with mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli
  • Thick lentil soup with grilled cheese
  • DIY quesadilla with black beans, tomatoes and cheese, guacamole
  • Beef tacos ( she only ate the sour cream at that dinner)
  • Pizza, green beans, carrots and hummus
  • Chicken potato soup, bread and fruit
  • Beef chili with all the toppings (she ate mostly sour cream, again)
  • Deconstructed tuna pasta tomato salad, yogurt and fruit
  • BBQ pulled chicken with rice and vegetables
  • Egg and vegetable rice stir fry, homemade ice cream.

7.30 pm – Bedtime snack: a glass of milk 

So here it is, a day of my toddler’s eating. It was a somewhat typical day, with more eating in the first half of the day and not so much in the evening.  A bite here and a lick there :).

If you are in the business of feeding toddlers, it is super helpful to remember that their appetites are fiddly and their attention spans are short. So do not feel bad if they are not eating in a balanced way. Remember that it is your job to serve the food and define when and where it will be eaten. And it is your child’s job to decide how much or whether to eat. 

I feel like we had a good day because I managed to get her to sit down for meals and snacks and stick to the schedule. The eating part of it I left to her and she ate as much as she was hungry for on that day.

Tell me: How is toddler feeding going in your house?

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COMPLETE GUIDE: How often do kids (0 to 5) need to eat? Sample schedules included.