When trying to balance things like budget, nutrition, and having your child go through a day existing on more than plain bread, crackers, and Cheerios, the options can feel limited.
To help relieve some of the stress associated with feeding my little ones, there are a few go-tos that I always like to keep on hand.
I picked these because they are:
- Quick to prepare
- Healthful for my growing babes
I also love these because they have a longer shelf life than things like most fresh fruits and veggies, which I’m always buying but never eating all of. (I can’t tell you how many partially-consumed containers of strawberries I’ve disposed of since becoming a mom. Okay, fine, since becoming an adult.)
If you’re constantly trying to figure out what to feed that picky toddler of yours, these 6 healthful staples are a great place to start:
1. Garbanzo Beans
Also known as chickpeas, this wonderfully versitile little bean should immediately become a permanent fixture in your pantry.
Their naturally bland taste leaves lots of opportunity for variations with spices and seasonings, depending on what your little one likes (or doesn’t like).
With amazing health benefits for toddlers’ growing bodies like protein, fiber, and iron, we try to work these little guys into meals throughout the week.
They blend easily with vegetables if you’re looking to boost up your homemade baby food game.
They also make a great early finger-food if you’re doing baby-lead weaning. We cut them up and removed the outer “shell” when starting out, and then gradually transition into eating the whole bean in toddlerhood.
Available in dry and canned form, you can pick whichever option fits within your schedule and your budget. We keep both on hand in the pantry. The dry version is cheaper and you can control the way the beans are prepared, but the canned version is insanely quick to prepare when you’re in a time crunch. Open the can, rinse the beans, serve at room temperature. Done.
2. Sweet Potatoes
We love giving our kids fresh veggies whenever we can. However, a huge struggle with fresh veggies is that they have a very short shelf life and typically go bad in about a week or less.
If you’re like our family and can’t go grocery shopping multiple times a week to always have fresh produce, adding some items with a slightly longer shelf life can be a real game changer.
Enter: Sweet Potatoes, a hearty root vegetable with a longer shelf life (usually around 2-3 weeks if you buy them whole like they are pictured above—those pre-chopped bags are convenient, but cut your shelf life down to less than a week; plus, they are also usually more expensive, too).
These spuds are also a true superfood. Known mostly for being a great source of the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene, they are great for supporting those little immune systems.
Puree ’em into baby food. Steam them or roast them. Bake them into a healthier version of fries. Season them with garlic powder to make them more savory, or with cinnamon to take them in a sweeter direction. Healthy and yummy either way!
3. Whole Grain or Gluten Free Pasta
I love to keep boxes of whole grain pasta on hand for the kids. Why? Pasta on the shelf doesn’t go bad! Things that don’t go bad are always wonderful because you have less of a chance of wasting spoiled food.
Whole grain pasta (not to be confused with whole wheat pasta) contains minerals, such as magnesium and copper—both good for healthy blood—that you won’t find in white flour/refined pastas.
Cooked pasta is a blank slate, which makes it a great choice for picky eaters. Try incorporating different spices and seasonings gradually as your babe starts to branch out.
If your kids’ diets don’t include gluten, there are a number of gluten-free pastas that won’t go bad and will work as an affordable pantry staple for your little ones.
4. Black Beans
My kids have both been OBSESSED with black beans.
Like garbanzo beans, you can get these canned or dry in a bag. And, like garbanzo beans, we always have these on hand in our pantry in both forms. They are a little bit smaller than prepared garbanzo beans, which makes them even more first-finger-food-friendly.
As your toddler gets a bit older and more adventurous, you can season these up a bit more (paprika, garlic powder, and cumin all make tasty options). Or, if you have a baby who’s starting solids, puree some black beans with a little bit of seasoning to give her tastebuds something new.
On the health side, black beans are a great source of protein, and are also high in folic acid, which helps cell production.
5. Frozen Peas
Frozen peas will forever be a staple in our household. Forever and ever and ever.
I cook with them all the time—throwing them into pastas or mixing them with chicken, rice, and a little parmesan cheese. Delicious!
They are also a favorite of both of my little ones. With their slightly sweeter taste than most green veggies, I love to puree them with broccoli, spinach, brussel sprouts—really any veggie that has a stronger taste can be made a little yummier when mixed with frozen peas.
Frozen veggies are really a wonderful way to get access to health foods while constantly worrying that they’ll go bad. Frozen peas are especially remarkable because they thaw quickly. When I pack them in my oldest daughter’s lunch, I can pour them into her lunch box frozen and they will be thawed and ready to eat by lunch time! (I also use this trick for myself when I add frozen peas to salads to take to work.)
Their small size makes them a wonderful finger food, and with amazing health benefits like being high in fiber, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C, you’ll love watching your little ones love these.
A protein-packed ancient grain that is small and soft, quinoa is a must for your pantry.
Versatile in taste, once cooked, quinoa can be seasoned a variety of ways (or eaten plain, as my picky toddler does often).
If you’re looking for a great food for your child to practice eating out of a spoon on her own with, quinoa is a stellar choice! It’s slightly sticky when prepared (similar to rice), so it sticks to the spoon a bit to help them out in those first weeks of practicing.
What are some must-have staples in your household?
Feeding a picky toddler can be a struggle.