This post was originally published in June 2013 and updated in April 2020.
If you’ve got a finicky toddler on your hands, then you know food for picky toddlers can be a temperamental topic. Yet, I believe you should give the following foods a try.
In this article, you’ll learn about the foods all toddlers should try eating, and why.
Getting children to eat and like a variety of foods begins in the high chair.
As a pediatric nutritionist and writer, I have written (and talked) about the tricks and strategies parents use to get kids to eat food, but that can be a short-lived success.
Real success comes from helping kids to like a variety of food, and want to eat them.
One way to increase your chances for success is by introducing key foods that will bridge the gap to variety down the road.
My Favorite Food for Picky Toddlers
Trying new foods with children is something you should be doing regularly.
Exposure is a proven path to eating a variety of nutritious foods and growing to like them.
And while toddlers can be a finicky bunch, that shouldn’t deter you from giving it your best shot.
These are some of my favorite food items to introduce to babies and toddlers. Why?
They are loaded with nutrients, can be eaten independently, and help build a nutritious diet for your little one.
Check out my favorite food for toddlers to try:
A magical fruit indeed! I started my little ones on canned beans as a wonderful first food.
They’re perfect for the budding self-feeder (pincer grasp). Plus, there are many different types of beans available.
If you are buying canned beans, rinse the salt and gooey stuff off before offering them to your young toddler.
Or, you can cook them in the slow cooker from scratch—I use this pinto bean recipe from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook all the time.
I vary the type of bean, and for babies and toddlers, I’d cut down the red pepper flakes.
Another easy and nutritious recipe for toddlers are these Baby Bean Bites.
This is one of my top foods for toddlers to try because they’re rich in mono-unsaturated fats (the healthy kind).
Avocado is also creamy and mild in flavor.
You can brighten the flavor with a squeeze of lemon or lime, and prime the palate for guacamole (yum!).
Avocado is also a healthy sandwich spread stand-in for mayonnaise.
“More trees please!” Isn’t that the food request you want to hear?
Introduce this veggie early on, and your odds will increase for future eating—even if your toddler takes a break along the way.
Don’t forget to use dips, and blanch broccoli to ease chewing.
Here’s a list of dips for veggies you may want to take a spin with.
This is often an after-thought veggie, but it is widely available and one of the most versatile.
Because of its mild flavor, it pairs nicely with melted cheese, honey mustard, or as a substitute for mashed potato.
I personally like to make this rutabaga mash using cauliflower.
Blanch or steam cauliflower for an easy finger food.
5. Tomato Sauce for Pasta
My son didn’t eat tomato sauce on his pasta until he was ten years old. He always had the option to add it to his pasta, but he was never interested.
If I could do it over, I would have continued to offer him pasta tossed in sauce when he was a toddler instead of letting him eat it plain.
Don’t forget to use pasta sauce as a dip, or on pita or flat bread with melted cheese on top for finger food lunches (just cut into strips).
6. Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Bread
I have met many families whose children refuse whole wheat breads and products, mostly because their taste buds aren’t used to the flavor.
If you have a little one, just get started on this in the beginning—it will be much easier on everyone in the long run.
Confusion about whole wheat and whole grain products shouldn’t stop you from venturing out!
Try some of these recipes for starters!
7. Plain yogurt
Again, plain yogurt is an acquired taste. If you start your baby with this, he will be accustomed to the tart flavor.
If you start with flavored yogurt, he’ll grow to love the sweetness and you’ll have a tougher time switching over to healthier versions.
There will be plenty of time for sweets and sweet flavored foods later on.
Yogurt is a fermented food and helps your child develop and maintain a healthy gut. That’s partly why it’s a favorite food for picky toddlers to try!
Ball it, cube it, or let your picky toddler scoop it with a spoon.
Ripe melon is loaded with nutrients and a great source of hydration in warmer weather.
It’s usually a winner with kids, and a great addition to any meal.
Otherwise known as pink fish in my home, we introduced salmon early in the toddler years.
Again, this is a heart-healthy food and one that kids do better with over time if they are exposed to it early and frequently.
There are several ways to introduce fish to young children.
To keep salmon interesting, use some seasoning to flavor it up—soy sauce, ginger and garlic; Chef Prudhomme’s Redfish Magic; or lemon and dill—there are lots of different ways to make salmon interesting and flavorful.
10. Other Fish or Shellfish
Parents tell me all the time that they can’t get their kids to eat any fish, and often that is related to introducing it late.
Also, sometimes the parents themselves don’t like fish!
If you want your picky toddler to like shrimp, tilapia, codfish and other water-loving creatures, get these on the menu when your kids are young.
Many toddlers don’t drink water. They prefer milk, juice, or some other sort of flavored, sugary drink.
Introducing water later on in childhood can be tough, as kids don’t have a taste for it, and want flavor.
Your best defense is to get plain water on board early, and offer it in between meals.
Choose Nutritious Food for Picky Toddlers
Toddlers are still growing and much of what’s going on is happening in the brain and bones. Stuff you can’t see happening.
There’s a whole world of food for picky toddlers to experience. Choose fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats so your toddler not only gets exposed to a bunch of different foods, but also gets abundant nutrients for the important “inside job.”
What foods do you think are best to introduce early?