12 Fast & Easy Dinner Ideas for Hungry Toddlers & Tired Parents

published Oct 12, 2020
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

At 5, my youngest has officially left the toddler years, but the struggles of feeding a toddler are not too far away from my memory. Toddlers bounce from happy and inquisitive to tired and cranky easily without the capacity to tell us that they are hungry and headed for a meltdown. All of this is to say that after a day, or a week, or even hours of extraordinary emotional highs and lows and generally wrestling a wild, stubborn 2-year-old, you are tired. And you all still need to eat.

Here are 12 of our go-to dinners for the nights when growing up has really worked up your toddler’s appetite and you are too tired to cook an elaborate meal.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Breakfast for dinner happens about once a week here. Soft scrambled eggs and toast cut into tiny pieces along with some fresh fruit is a well-balanced meal for all of us. These frittata cups take that dinner idea just one step further and make plenty of leftovers for the following sleepy morning.

(Image credit: Lauren Volo)

There was a season when my oldest, now 8, was about a year old and we ate sweet potato and black bean tacos once a week. I’d turn her corn tortilla into a quesadilla and serve her black beans and potatoes on the side. You can really do that exact same thing here and then enjoy the complete grown-up version yourselves.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Store-bought pizza dough and a jar of pesto means this recipe takes about 10 minutes to assemble. I find my kiddos will eat nearly any green vegetable wrapped in pizza dough. If your toddler is zucchini averse, leave the zucchini out and just roast some slices while these bake.

(Image credit: Quentin Bacon)

Yes, you can serve toast as a legit weeknight dinner. Here avocado toast is a good example, but we also do toast with a smear of nut butter and fresh fruit, hummus toast with grated veggies, buttered toast with hard-boiled eggs, and even pizza toast in our house with great success.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

I know we often think of smoothies as breakfast food, but they don’t have to be for morning fuel only! Make your smoothie extra filling and nutritious by packing it with steamed or frozen vegetables, greens, or oats.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

On a Thursday night when your son destroyed his sister’s dollhouse, drew on the wall, and filled your shoes with rocks, make stovetop macaroni. Ask me how I know. Silence and smiles at the dinner table will help you remember that you do indeed like your children.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Lentils are quick-cooking, nutritious, and tasty. Turning them into a thick, easy-to-eat soup helps the legume-haters love them. You can also leave them whole for little eaters working on their fine motor skills. Either way, this five-ingredient soup comes together fast and it has flavors parents and kids will enjoy.

(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

This is basically a can of chickpeas for dinner, which is something I’ve actually served my hummus-loving kid. Of course, turning those chickpeas into nuggets is one extra step, but don’t worry—these nuggets are baked not fried and you can store them in the freezer for a back-up meal.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

What I really love about lettuce wraps is that you can use almost any ground meat, a store-bought sauce, and bagged pre-shredded vegetables to pull them together. Serve your toddler a tasting plate of all the components and pile everything else into your own lettuce cups.

(Image credit: Megan Gordon)

Another breakfast-for-dinner option. You probably have yogurt in the fridge right now, so bulk it up with some granola (or even just toasted oats), some honey, and fresh fruit. Make a few extra parfaits for tomorrow morning too and consider breakfast done.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

As much as this looks like party food, pig-in-a-blanket is also an easy dinner that kids love! Making it grown up friendly is merely a matter of choosing sausage you love.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

You really need this one pot wonder in your life!

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: Fast & Easy Dinner Ideas for Hungry Toddlers & Tired Parents