One thing I’m always trying to help parents with when it comes to feeding kids is to really make the most out of meals. I’ve got a whole series of blogs on adding extra nutrients to meals, but in this blog, I wanted to share my top 7 super nutritious foods to include in your baby or toddler’s meals.
Most parents worry about their kids’ nutrition and whether they’re getting the right balance. It can be particularly tough when children go through phases of fussy eating or when they’re ill and their appetites go up and down.
By including these foods regularly in your little one’s meals, it helps to pack in as much nutrition into every bite. That means that even when very little is eaten, you know that they are getting as much nutrition as possible!
Top 7 Nutritious Foods for Toddlers and Young Children
1. Tinned fish
Tinned fish is one of my top foods to have on hand. It’s always one of my number one store-cupboard staples as it’s long-lasting, relatively cheap and so quick and easy to prepare. From a nutrition perspective, fish offers a number of benefits. Fish is a good source of:
And oily fish, such as salmon, sardines or mackerel are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a really important nutrient for growing kids. Varying up the type of tinned fish you buy to include some of these oily varieties as well helps to ensure your little ones are getting a good balance of nutrients.
Some easy ways to include tinned fish in your little one’s meals are:
- Mix in with yoghurt and serve as a nutritious dip or toast topping
- Mashed into pasta sauces
- Served with rice, couscous, pasta
- Mashed into potatoes with cheese and peas
Lentils and beans are another excellent food for feeding kids, particularly vegetarian or vegan children. They’re a good source of plant-based protein, as well as iron, which is really important from around 6 months when you start weaning.
Some of my favourite ways to use lentils are:
- Add to sauces such as Bolognese – swap half of the meat for lentils to add a little variety to the taste and texture, as well as adding in some fibre
- Blend into tomato sauces for extra protein, iron and fibre – simply cook the lentils in the tomato sauce and you either blend them once cooked, or leave them as they are for a little added texture.
Cheese offers plenty of nutrition for babies and children, including:
- Vitamins including B12, zinc, phosphorus and iodine
Some of my favourite ways to serve cheese are:
- Pasta sauces – check out my ricotta pasta bake recipe
- Alongside crackers and veg / fruit
- Mashed potatoes – try my easy cheesy pie – easily one of my most popular recipes!
- As a dip (e.g. cream cheese & avocado)
- Sprinkled into cous-cous / rice
- Stirred into scrambled eggs or omelettes – check out my speedy eggy veg recipe
- On pitta pizzas or pizza wraps
Parents often ask me about whether to be concerned about the salt content of cheese. Cheese is quite high in salt and so it is good to be aware of how much cheese kids are having throughout the day/week. It’s a good idea to balance out the meals with less salty options – e.g. sprinkling cheese onto potatoes, or into pasta sauces. You can read more about how much salt a baby should have in my blog.
Different varieties of cheese also have differing levels of salt, so it can be a good idea to think about mixing up the types of cheese you’re offering them. For more detail on cheese, including a breakdown of the salt content of different types, check out my blog all about offering cheese to babies and children.
Eggs are another one my store cupboard staples for feeding kids as they are so versatile and easy to prepare. Eggs are a great source of:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- B vitamins such as folate & riboflavin
- Some varieties also contain omega-3 fatty acids
Some super simple ways to include eggs in your meals are:
- Scrambled eggs
- Dippy eggs – often a favourite with little kids and runny eggs ARE fine to offer to babies and children AS LONG as they’re red lion stamped
- Eggy bread
- Frittatas – try my baby frittata recipe
- My super speedy eggy veg recipe is an ideal quick lunch or ideal for after school / childcare
Check out my blog on eggs for babies and children, for plenty more detail on including eggs in your little one’s meals and how to make egg alternatives with Chia seeds and water.
Avocados are a really energy and nutrient rich food that are also super quick and easy to prepare. They have a high calorie content, which can be helpful when you need a quick boost of energy for your little ones – for example when out and about or if you’re short on time when prepping breakfast in the morning. They’re also a good source of unsaturated fats, which are an important type of fat to include in your baby’s diet, right from when they start weaning. You can read more on fat for babies and children in this blog.
Some great ways to include avocado in your little one’s diet are:
- Mashed on toast or rice cakes – they’re particularly good for serving alongside foods such as rice cakes which are quite nutrient poor on their own. Adding a nutritious topping like mashed avocado can help to make a more balanced and filling snack – check out my tuna and avocado toast topping
- Spread on a wrap with mashed egg
- Alongside scrambled eggs
- Mixed in with pasta – check out my easy avocado pasta topping
- As pesto – avocados make a nice creamy pesto to stir in with pasta, couscous or even on toast – try my green avocado pesto recipe
In my book, How To Feed Your Toddler, I also have a recipe for avocado ice lollies, which my kids LOVE, and I’ve had great feedback from friends and family on this recipe too.
6. Milled seeds
These are one my most used foods as I include them almost daily in my kid’s meals. They can be a little expensive to buy, but a little goes a long way and they are such a nutrient-rich food for little ones.
I like to buy mixed seeds which often include flaxseed, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sometimes some ground berries too! Getting mixed seeds means a better variety of nutrients, just to add even more extras in!
As an example, ground flaxseeds provide:
- Omega-3 fatty acids (a good plant-based source if your little one doesn’t eat oily fish!)
They’re so easy to sprinkle on almost everything as they don’t have a strong taste. I sprinkle them into yoghurt, cereal, porridge and also into savoury sauces and curries too. It’s such a simple way to add a quick boost of nutrition to any meal – and children won’t even notice they’re there!
Tofu is a really nutritious food for kids, but it’s not one that parents often think of. From a nutrition perspective, tofu contains:
- Protein – it’s a “complete” protein and so makes a good plant-based protein option
- Calcium* – *providing you choose the “calcium-set” varieties – check the ingredients to see – it will usually be included as “calcium chloride”
Some ideas to serve tofu for babies and toddlers are:
- As a finger food – tofu fingers make a good finger food for babies when they start weaning as the texture is nice and soft and they can hold them fairly easily
- Served with toast as a substitute for scrambled eggs
- In curries and pasta sauces – I have a really popular recipe for a katsu curry in my book How To Feed Your Toddler which I serve with tofu for my kids!
- Mixed in breadcrumbs and baked with roasted veg and potatoes!
Hopefully this blog has helped to give you some extra ideas to pack in the extra nutrients to your little one’s meals. For more ideas check out the blogs below: