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  • From Breakfast to Dinner, 12 Balanced Meals for Your Toddler

    Use these meals as foundation to expand and recreate your own kid menus and provide the ultimate food journey for your child.
    by Rene Rose Rodrigo .
From Breakfast to Dinner, 12 Balanced Meals for Your Toddler
ILLUSTRATOR Boizei Malicdem
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • The stage when babies start eating solids is one of the messiest (but certainly fun) times in a parent’s life. I call it a wild adventure because, as wonderful as it is to see our baby be curious about food, it can be overwhelming once you’re at the grocery store. You don’t know what on earth to buy, let alone how much to feed your baby! 

    Previously, I’ve written about recipes that can start your toddler on the path of becoming an adventurous eater. Then SmartParenting.com.ph editors asked me to take a look at this visual guide of ideal food portion sizes for children 1 to 4 years old. My assignment was to see what meals can be made based on these portion sizes, and below is the result. 

    I’ve created a basic list of three different meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack time. You can use these menus as a tool to help you expand and recreate some meals to provide the ultimate food journey for your child. Keep in mind vegetables should ideally be served at every meal. Fruit should be a must as well, but sometimes your baby has no more room for it. When that happens, snack time is prime time for a good serving of fruit! 

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    Based on my own experience, my toddler son has never warmed up to to eating meat, mostly consuming a vegetarian diet and some fish. So I’ve included below meals that are vegetarian-friendly, but they still provide enough protein through vegetables, beans, and alternative milk options for cereal. 

    Having meals that are easy-to-pack are another worry especially when they are starting school, having play dates, and even accompanying working parents, like myself, to work! That’s why I’ve noted which meals that are easier to pack, although all of the meals could ideally be packed for on-the-go situations, ahead of time with the right containers. 

    When packing for on-the-go meals you may have to compromise on serving your toddler a nice hot meal. So I’ve also noted which the meals are best when served fresh and hot, and those meals you can save for days spent at home. 

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    It is easy to buy a ready-to-eat baby food, of course. But it can get boring because the variety is limited -- they are also always pureed to an absolute mush. My son loves making a crunch with his new teeth, and he loves to feel the textures of the food he puts in his mouth. It is by far the most wonderful experience to nurture my child with hot homemade food that nourishes his body with a multitude of what I call “fresh” vitamins, not packed from six months before in a packet. 

    On an ending note, a lot of parents worry about unhealthy food they may be feeding their child. I say, stop worrying too much and listen to your intuition. If you’d like to make your child’s food more tastier, try adding spices instead of sugar. I like to use cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, parsley, and rosemary! The food world is yours -- and your baby’s -- to explore! 


    *All images below are for illustrative purposes only. The text provides the ideal portion sizes for kids aged 1 to 4 based on this guide. Your children may eat more or less, depending on his age, appetite, and activity.   


    EASY TO PACK: 1/2 - 1 slice of whole wheat bread, 1 slice of cheese, 1/2 - 1 boiled egg, 1/4 - 1/2 medium apple


    COLD: 3 - 6 heaped tablespoons of cereal, 1 cup of milk (soy/almond milk for vegetarian), 1/2 - 1 medium banana

    HOT: 2 - 5 tablespoons of rice, 2 - 3 tablespoons of ground beef, 1/2 -1 small orange

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    EASY TO PACK (vegetarian): 1- 4 tablespoons of mashed potatoes, 2 tablespoons of beans, 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of corn, 3 - 8 grapes, sliced/chopped

    COLD: 2 -5 tablespoons of pasta, 1/2 - 1 1/2 of canned tuna, 1/4 - 1 small tomato, 1/2 - 1 whole mango

    HOT: 2 - 5 tablespoons of rice, 2 - 3 tablespoons of ground chicken, 1 - 4 broccoli florets, 1/4 - 1 slice of pineapple

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    EASY TO PACK: 1 - 4 tablespoons of sweet potato, 2 - 3 tablespoons of ground meat, 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of green peas, 1 - 2 small pieces of fruit

    COLD: 2 - 5 tablespoons of rice, 1/4 - 1 small fish fillet, 1/2 - 2 tablespoons of spinach,  1 - 2 small pieces of fruit

    HOT (vegetarian): 1 small bowl of rice porridge, soup (tinola or sinigang) , 1/2 - 1 medium slice of bread, 1 - 3 tablespoons of chopped and steamed carrots, 1 - 2 small pieces of fruit

    You can choose any of the following three options:

    (Vegetarian) 3 - 4 tablespoons of applesauce + 4 - 6 pieces of potato chips
    1 - 2 cheese strings +  1 - 3 biscuits 
    2 - 6 carrot/ celery sticks + 3 - 4 tablespoons of yogurt


    A former beauty queen, Renee Rose Rodrigo is a US-certified holistic nutrition coach who is now living and working in the Philippines. Mom to 1-year-old Luca, she shares her lifestyle while discovering her roots at her blog Eurasian Rose.   

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