Toddler recipes: 3 ingredient, quick and easy recipes for kid food. Includes 3 ingredient banana pancakes, easy salmon sticks, a quinoa blend for stirring into almost anything, and a easy vegetable snack! See my Baby Food section for more toddler recipes!
Camille is coming up on 22 months old, and I’ve really enjoyed feeding her. I knew before she was born that eating healthy food was going to be a priority for me as a Mom. I’m one of those people that doesn’t feel good unless I eat well, and I can only imagine someone that shares my genes might be the same way.
I’m going to get controversial on you, right off the bat. I hate ‘kid food.’ I do not buy food marketed towards children. Every time I’m at Target and I see another piece of junk food with a ‘Finding Dory’ character printed on the front, I curse under my breath (and then steer my cart to the wine aisle).
It can be hard to feed your kid real food. When in doubt, think back to your grandma’s time…what did they give their kids for snacks? (Steamed green beans + hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese + homemade applesauce, cheese cubes + fruit, peanut butter on homemade bread with a glass of milk—in case you needed help on that one). Grandmas are an incredible resource as you raise babies, and not just for snack ideas.
I describe ‘kid food’ as everything they sell to Moms from the moment babies turn 3-4 months old. My personal object of deep hatred is baby puffs. What in the heck are those? Empty calories? I can think of dozens of better real food options to give your kid than a puff of air with vague grain components sprinkled with vitamin dust (the vitamins that were removed during the grain discombobulation, no doubt). During ‘puff time’ I gave Camille quartered blueberries and steamed carrot pieces instead. If you love baby puffs because they’re shelf-stable, can I recommend freeze-dried fruit instead? It’s literally one ingredient (fruit!). When Camille was little, I always kept freeze-dried strawberries, a banana, an avocado, and Ezekiel bread cubes in my diaper bag).
Side note: don’t get me started on baby yogurt. Camille has only ever had plain, whole milk yogurt. As she’s gotten older, I’ve added fruit on occasion, but if you never buy them sugar-drench yogurt, they never develop a taste for it. And then you don’t have to pay $5 for 6 thimbles of sugar/ yogurt with Dory printed on label while I pay the same amount for a 32-ounce tub of plain yogurt.
Don’t you even talk about “fish crackers” around me. I’m serious; don't do it.
I’m an intense Mama, clearly. I know my approach to feeding Camille is extreme. You don’t have to be as extreme as me. In fact, you probably shouldn’t. You should probably relax and let your kid have a freakin’ donut every now and then. (For the record, Camille has had exactly ¼ of a donut in her life, but I gave her milk and strawberries beforehand to minimize the amount she would eat).
While I love these toddler recipes, I don’t recommend obsessing over everything that your kid eats like I do. My husband rolls his eyes at me, and I know he thinks I’m being annoying. A few months ago, he took Camille to visit his family for a weekend while I stayed home, and I’m still worried that he let her eat horrible things. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell. I’m just praying fast food wasn’t involved. It’s not good to be as overly concerned as I am. But we can meet in the middle with easy, 3-ingredient REAL FOOD toddler recipes!
I’ve got an easy 3-ingredient recipe for every time of the day, plus variations, too. If you have ideas to add, please leave me comments below! I’m always looking for new ideas! I want to hear your easy toddler recipes, too!
Toddler recipes for Breakfast:
Easy banana pancakes = 1 banana + 1 egg + ¼ cup flour
While I make breakfast, Camille sips on whole milk or homemade almond milk (which I make as a treat for myself, but somehow the baby ends up drinking the majority of it). These 3-ingredient pancakes are her favorite. Even when she’s had a big dinner with dessert the night before, she will still scarf down one of these pancakes.
My large banana measured ⅓ cup smashed, my eggs are size large, and my flour is whole wheat. I’ve also used oat flour (grind up rolled oats in the blender), and I’ve also added cinnamon and vanilla. Tiny diced walnuts would be good here, too, and it would up the banana bread flavor quotient. Next time, I’m going to add tiny frozen blueberries!
This recipe makes 4 kid-sized pancakes. Camille eats one and I freeze the rest, but feel free to scale up the recipe as needed and pack your freezer! Cook them like regular pancakes on a buttered griddle. Serve with more butter and maple syrup.
Toddler recipes for Lunch:
Salmon fish sticks = strips of salmon + 1 egg + panko breadcrumbs
Four days a week, Camille goes to daycare for 3 hours each day. While she’s there, she eats lunch with the other kids and socializes. (This is when I get most of my work done, especially photography, as tripods and children do not mix).
I’ve been making these salmon fish sticks a lot lately, and she loves them! After dipping each salmon strip in egg and then panko, place on a greased baking sheet, bake at 400 for 9-12 minutes (cut into one to ensure they're done).
When I’m feeling fancy, I do half breadcrumbs, half Parmesan cheese. And the day I took these photos, I had some extra fresh thyme, so I stirred that in, too. Camille is in a serious dunking phase (she says ‘dip dip dip’ while she dunks her food into sauces), and so I pack a little container of cheater’s aioli (¼ cup mayo + 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard + ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika). Ooh, that was a bonus 3-ingredient recipe for ya!
Toddler recipes for Snacktime:
Snack bowl = 5 cherry tomatoes + ¼ of an avocado + sea salt
I have weird feelings about snacks for kids. When we go to the playground, I notice other kids eating almost constantly. I wonder if they eat their food at mealtime? Camille’s snacking has always been limited, and therefore she’s always eaten her meals, so I’m not going to mess with it. The one exception is when she wakes up from her afternoon nap. We eat dinner pretty late in our house (after 7pm), so when she wakes between 4:30 and 5:00, she needs a little something to eat. I try to limit her to fruits and vegetables that don’t fill her up too much so that she's hungry for dinner.
Camille has been convinced that tomatoes are grapes. I blame this on last summer’s incredible tomato crop. I took her to the farmer’s market one morning, and her eyes fell upon a display of colorful cherry tomatoes in blue cartons. She demanded them (and who am I to get in the way of a child demanding vegetables?) I bought 3 cartons, and they were gone in a few days. She’s been very into tomatoes ever since.
When my avocados aren’t ripe, I use black beans (I cook several pounds of black beans at a time and freeze them; if I pull them out in the morning to pack her snack, they defrost perfectly by the afternoon). Sometimes I substitute cucumbers instead of tomatoes. I buy the tiny Persian cucumbers, and Camille eats them like apples.
Toddler recipes for Dinnertime:
Healthy mix = 2 cups quinoa + ¾ cup red lentils + 4 cups chicken broth
I was in camp ‘kids eat what adults eat’ before I even had kids. If you know how busy I am, you know that cooking a separate dinner for a kid was never an option for me. I try to keep Camille in mind when planning our meals and include something she loves at every meal. I’m also a firm believer in continuing to serve something even if a kid says they don’t like it.
Camille is a bit too young for the ‘take two bites/ try everything on your plate’ rule, but when she’s a bit older, I will be employing that strategy. She’s also too young for bribery (trust me, I’ve tried). But it’s okay, because there’s really only one thing she refuses to eat: red meat. I’m definitely concerned about lack of iron in her diet, so I give her plenty of black beans, raisins, and spinach in her smoothies). Our favorite source of iron is lentils.
Speaking of lentils, my amazing blog friend Kelly (who has a child that eats very well!) wrote another cookbook, Superfood Weeknight Meals: Healthy, Delicious Dinners Ready in 30 Minutes or Less, and I was so eager to get my hands on it! I absolutely loved her first book, and this is another extension of Kelly’s brilliant mind when it comes to nutrition. The premise of the book is incorporating 10 superfoods into your diet in exciting new ways: avocados, lentils, sweet potatoes, quinoa, almonds, eggs, spinach, citrus, olive oil, and cauliflower. All of her recipes are ready in 30 minutes or less, too! I mean, really, Kelly couldn’t make it easier for us to eat healthier (and deliciously!).
I’ve made at least a dozen things from the book, and loved it all (especially the broccoli cheddar soup, buffalo-ranch lentil burgers, and the green goddess quesadillas), but my favorite thing about this book is her genius strategy for cooking a pot quinoa-lentil blend and incorporating it into meals throughout the week. She stirs it into burgers, wraps, soups, smoothies, even fruit cobbler! If you have a bowl of quinoa-lentil blend in your fridge ready to go, you’ll find all kinds of ways to use it throughout the week! If we make it to the end of the week with just a mere ½ cup portion leftover, I always make one of Kelly’s grain bowls with coconut-almond sauce (exactly as delicious as it sounds!).
To make it, combine the quinoa, lentils and chicken broth (you can also sub water, especially if you think you'll be using it in sweet recipes). Stir everything together, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Partially cover the pan and steam for 20 minutes. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 week.
So, grab Kelly’s book, and these 3 ingredients to make a pot of goodness you’ll use all week!
And leave me comments and tips below on how to get kids to eat healthier, more adventurous meals. I love learning from other Moms.
(We'll be back to regularly scheduled dessert for two recipes soon! Love you!)
I've made the banana and egg pancakes for several years now but instead of flour I use oatmeal or steel cut oats and wow does that ever bump it up a notch.
Monica R says
Hi Christina, I loved reading your blog about Camille and the pancake recipe sounds delicious and so easy I'm making them for Bella (11yo) tomorrow morning! I miss seeing your beautiful smile but am so happy for you, you sound very happy! Love and Light, Monica
You nailed my 3 top nutrition pet peeves with kids in your opening paragraphs :) Puffs, kids yogurt, and goldfish crackers. Some may call it extreme... i call it awesome! Keep up the amazing work and spreading the word!
An 'awesome' dietitian mom
I bought all three books and I just Love them. I've had a really hard time trying to learn how to cook for two. I'm so used to cooking for four. When will you come out with a book for lunches, and dinners?
Christina Lane says
You are so sweet! Thank you for buying them :) The second book, Comfort and Joy is meant to have a lot of lunches. But good news: cookbook #4 is all dinners for two <3 Enjoy baking and cooking! Let me know if you need anything else :)
I just can't read things like this and not say anything. I've been working as a therapist for children with eating disorders for 6 years and I have seen MANY MANY children (as young as 8) required to undergo inpatient treatment because they are so afraid of "unhealthy" "processed" "junk" foods. I say this with a vast knowledge of nutrition and mental health. I'm not saying this will happen, not at all, but please know when it's time to loosen the reins. I'm not so afraid of kids growing up and going crazy with sugar as I am of kids becoming so scared of food that they genuinely fear for their health if they have a goldfish cracker. And I'm not knocking healthy eating, I have a toddler too and I make the majority of her food. But you better believe I let her eat goldfish crackers and don't bat an eye. I don't want to sound preachy. I know you're doing a great job and a lot of what you said is commendable, I have a really hard time with this subject though.
I agree with others - everything in moderation. I want to share my story. Not because I want any sympathy (me) or because I want to bring up weird feelings (you) but I just wanted to share from a different perspective.
My grandmother ran a cooking school. She was on a first name basis with Alice Waters and Julia Child before she passed away. Cooking is in my blood. I love food. I love good food, and I know how to make it.
Like Camille, my daughter has never had food from a kid's menu. She's never had sweetened yogurt (at least under my roof). I either mash up some berries or, on a rare occasion, take a teeeeeny bit of jam and mix it in. She doesn't eat sweets.
I, however, have a chronic, progressive illness. I'm physically not able to make all of the food that I'd like, and my recipes get more simple as time goes on instead of more complicated. It's kind of a crappy feeling for being 32. I have a daughter a few months younger than Camille, and my cooking has been pretty spotty, as well as my health. I have bought goldfish crackers. I buy Annie's macaroni and cheese. At my worst, I went a few months buying shredded cheese (I die a little inside every time I admit this) because I did not have the energy to shred the cheese and clean the grater afterward.
I have slowly been letting go of the mom-guilt I feel of literally not having the energy to make all of these wonderful things that I want to. I'm just now, nearly 18 months after she was born, just now feeling like I can experiment more instead of relying on my old stand bys.
Basically, what I'm saying is this. I know that good quality, whole foods are important to you. They are to me, too. However, life is short. I know I have a different perspective than most, but I have really had to think about what I really want out of my life. I love this age so much (don't you?) and I ordered a learning tower so that my daughter can work with me in the kitchen. Part of enjoying life is relaxing a little bit. If we go to the movies (a few years away, I'm sure), maybe we will get a small movie popcorn or an icee just for the experience. Or, if we go to a baseball game, we can share a hot dog. Sure, neither are of great quality, food wise, but part of life is the experiences we share together.
Anyway, I love your book, your blog, and your instagram. I appreciate everything you do!
Your naturally sweetened rice krispie treats are cooling as I type this. I made some slight changes to your recipe to fit these in for everyday stuff (I'm trying to get off of my Ella's Kitchen Nibbly Fingers habit, even if they are good quality and have few ingredients).
Christina Lane says
Thank you so much for sharing your story. It is truly beautiful. And a great reminder that all of us moms need to hear, especially me! Thank you again for typing it out and sharing it for all of us :)
I hope your health improves, and that you're feeling better soon. You're prioritizing spending quality time with your daughter, and that is AMAZING and 100% the most important thing. And I just bought my first box of Annie's mac and cheese (and a bag of frozen broccoli, heh!) to add to it for last-minute dinners. And I made a big batch of chicken 'nuggets' without the breading (literally, just diced chicken that I seared in a skillet) to keep on-hand all week. I've had a lot of issues with time management lately, and my poor marriage can attest, I've got to make some changes in the way I run my waking hours. I might need to spend a few hours on the weekends prepping meals so that I can relax and have more time with my family. It's the most important thing, right? Love to you, Mama!
I'm a little late to the party, but I just wanted to say a big AMEN to this post and thank you for sharing! I have a 20 month old daughter and she pretty much eats everything we eat! (Except the desserts we sneak after she's asleep hehe). Sometimes I make something that comes out a little spicy or try a weird new veggie but she usually surprises me and gobbles it up! I grew up eating tons of junk food (store bought donuts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast, boxed Mac n cheese and hot dogs for dinner) because I honestly think my parents didn't know any better, but my husband and I have made a conscious effort to eat healthy, whole foods and avoid processed junk and it feels so much better! Also, I totally make those banana pancakes all the time but I use 1/4 cup of quick oats instead of flour and my little one loves them!
Christina Lane says
This is so great to hear, Marianne! :) Thanks for writing!
I love your recipes! Thanks for sharing. But I have to agree with some of the others when they say, everything in moderation. And I'm sorry, but there is no way my toddler is going to patiently sip on his drink while I make dinner. Too impatient! And hungry! I often end up giving him a few cheerios to munch on, and don't see anything wrong with it. He still eats his dinner. I try to make as much of his food as I can, keeping the salt and sugar as low as possible. But I don't fret about the occasional processed treat. This mom stuff is hard work!
You're totally speaking my language! As i was reading this I was like "omg she gets me...omg she is me" lol. My daughter just turned 1 yesterday so the toddler food posts are very much needed in my life right now. So thank you for this post!
Christina Lane says
Of course, Annie! I'm so glad to be here :)
Any tips on freezing the banana pancakes? I made a double batch and separated them with waxed paper, but the pancakes still turned into a frozen pancake rock. :O
Christina Lane says
Sure! I definitely separate them with wax or parchment paper, and they definitely freeze into a rock. Then, pop them in a toaster to defrost and enjoy :)
Do you separate them and freeze individually? My problem was my stack of pancakes and wax paper all froze together into one big lump; I've had to chip pieces off because I couldn't separate them. Ideas?
Okay, I figured this out! Last time I made this recipe, I forgot the flour (2-ingredient toddler recipe, anyone?). With just the banana and egg, it still has an amazingly bread-like texture, but it really doesn't freeze well. I added the flour this time and it freezes perfectly. :)