Building a balanced meal for your toddler may seem daunting.
"Where do I start? How much should they eat? How often should they eat?"- there are probably many questions swirling around in your head.
As someone who’s built their business on healthy, plant-based meals for little ones, as well as having a little one myself, I’ve been there and here to share my tips with you.
You’ll find it’s not too challenging when you break it down.
Starting at the top, it’s important to think about what your toddler needs each day and then build their meal schedule around this. A good reliable source is the British Nutrition Society (2023). They nicely break down what your vegetarian infant needs each day:
- 5+ portions of fruit and vegetables
- 5+ portions of starchy carbohydrates
- 3+ portions of dairy
- 3+ portions of protein (2+ portions for non-vegetarian)
It’s also important to remember that a portion for an infant is very different to that of an adult. It’s usually only a couple of tablespoons.
“I found the above guide super helpful, so I could mentally tick off that I’ve given my little one everything he needed each day. I even put it on my fridge door in the beginning!”
Here are some Indian-inspired ideas for the different categories:
- Plant-based Dairy: plant-based yoghurt, plant-based milk or a couple of cubes of plant-based paneer
- Fruits & Vegetables: Carrot sticks or some slices of apple
- Starchy carbohydrates: Chapati or rice
- Protein: pulses, lentils or beans
Be aware that beans, peas and lentils and other high-fibre foods might fill your infants’ tummy too quickly, limiting their calorie intake. Make sure these are balanced with lower-fibre foods.
A little one’s tummy is a lot smaller than ours so they’ll need little and often meals throughout the day.
Next, you need to think about structuring their meals across the day. I’d recommend breakfast, snack 1, lunch, snack 2 and then dinner. A little one’s tummy is a lot smaller than ours so they’ll need little and often meals throughout the day.
And finally, you will need to think about constructing a meal. Just like adults, toddlers need the three macros - protein, carbohydrates and fats. These are your building blocks for any nutritious meal. At this stage, I’d also think about balanced meals that the whole family can eat and then segment the toddler’s meal instead of cooking multiple meals- no one needs that at dinnertime. You can also keep some healthy, plant-based My Veggie Bubba meals in your freezer for those busy days!
And that’s a wrap on my top tips for structuring your little one’s eating schedule.