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Make Mealtime a Breeze - Baby & Toddler Ideas to Curb the Chaos |

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

Lessen the stress of preparing three meals daily for your little one while encouraging healthy eating habits. It's all in the prep!

Photo of baby food, specifically bananas, an orange, an apple, potatoes, and a pineapple. This photo accompanies a blog post about lessening the stress when it comes to preparing meals for your little one. for

Here are a few helpful tips from to tackle breakfast, lunch, and dinner with low hassle and high reward for both you and your toddler.

Tip #1 - Prepare meals in advance

This is my biggest parent hack. When my daughter first started experimenting with food I bought a steamer and began throwing together large meals to freeze for the week. I started cooking with a bulk mentality in mind. Make a lot, freeze a lot. I first had the thought to do this after subscribing to a baby meal service, I quickly realized that I could make the same food for a much lower cost. Not that those services aren't wonderful, but they are for sure expensive.

A large steamer (see below) will allow you to cook up a big batch of different foods, giving you many varying meals. I also recommend a freezer tray (see below) to divide up your meals. After the meals are frozen, I pop them out and store them in freezer bags for space-saving purposes. Right now I have about 24 individually prepared meals all ready to go!

Tip #2 - Spice things up with a variety of baby and toddler food ideas and options

With a first-time eater, I recommend steaming for safety purposes. With that said, you can still throw together a wide variety of foods, introducing all kinds of different flavors which will help start your child off with positive eating habits, following your pediatrician's allergen guidance that is. One of our go-to meals was Ratatouille (eggplant, zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, red pepper, and olive oil). Another crowd-pleaser was Bananas Foster (Butternut squash, sweet potato, and banana).

These days my LO is able to enjoy a larger array of foods since she's a little older so I don't feel that I need to steam as often. Having more options has been a welcome change. I still prepare meals and freeze them in bulk though, but I also prepare sliced raw veggies, apple sticks with peanut butter, cubed cheese, peanut butter & jelly, tuna sandwiches, etc. that I chop and store in the fridge. Anything I can have ready in advance I embrace and if it's healthy that's a double win.

I try to incorporate as many whole foods as possible. I like the idea that my child is eating food that we eat, not just "baby" food. With that said, we have puffs, teethers, and pouches in the cabinet for those days when you really can't do it all.

Keep this strategy in mind, when you serve up a meal present multiple options on one plate, divided up. I do this and it lets my daughter jump around a bit from food to food. When I've got a few options available she's less likely to ask for something different, which makes mealtime less stressful for me and more enjoyable for her.

"Given that food preferences begin early in life, are likely to persist and are difficult to change in adulthood, providing appropriate food choices during the complementary feeding period is of importance to facilitate food acceptance and ensure healthy growth and development." – Dr. Elise Mok

Tip #3 - Invest in baby smart dinnerware

You're going to want to grab dishes with divided-up areas and suction on the bottom. I use these Wee Sprout Suction Plates and I love them. They're pretty effective, the suction holds during most meals.

I recommend Pre-Spoon Gootensils for the baby that's just starting to feed themselves. The thoughtful design helps to make food delivery from dish to mouth a lot easier for a new eater.

Buy this cup right now. I can't say enough good things about the Haakaa Sip n'Snack Cup. Again, toddlers make messes, it's their thing. This cup has a lid that makes it easy for little hands to pop in and grab a treat, but the opening doesn't let snacks fall out. It also doubles as a sippy cup with easy-to-hold handles.

Another practical gadget is a Baby Food Fruit Feeder. There are a bunch of different options on Amazon to choose from. The Haakaa version seems pretty great. The one I have is easy to fill, easy to clean, and easy to throw in her diaper bag for an on-the-road treat. When my daughter was just starting to move past milk she loved the fruit feeder and it made me feel like a rockstar caretaker because I knew it was a safe way to get her to try out new flavors.

Be sure to prioritize easy-to-clean/simple designs when you look for plates, cups, bowls, utensils, bibs, and accessories.

If you're looking for more baby products that are tried and true - ideal for lessening the chaos of parenthood, check this out

Tip #4 - Ensure cleanup is easy... or easyish

Of course, first-time eaters are great at making huge messes. Expect the mess and be prepared. A practical high chair that has few nooks and crannies is best. Smooth surfaces are easier to keep clean. An easy-to-remove seat cover is also key. You want the option to throw it in the wash as needed. Or nix the seat cover altogether. Who needs it? Not you!

I like to use earth-friendly products and practices, but as a working mother, I sometimes need to prioritize my sanity over being green. Long story short, I keep a package of water wipes next to the kitchen sink. I wipe my girl's face and hands after each meal, they work great. What's nice about water wipes is you can use just one per clean-up, rinse and reuse! Tip within a tip: Rinse with warm water and your LO may find cleaning to be a much more comfortable and soothing experience. After your bébé is cleaned up wipe down the high chair with the same wipe and -if you're really striving for excellence- wash the dishes. I wash the dishes after nearly every meal while my daughter is still in the chair. This way I can walk away from the meal experience with no leftover chores.

Tip #5 - Use mealtime wisely, but make it fun too

While my girl is enjoying a meal in her highchair I use the time to wash dishes, wipe down counters, prepare meals, whatever chores are doable from the kitchen. Doing this helps me out, I stay organized in the small moments that provide me with a few extra minutes. Now, this is most effective when your kiddo is old enough to feed themselves.

I also play music that we both enjoy. I find music adds fun to the mealtime experience. With that said, we're a music-loving household. My husband is a musician so our lives are filled with sound!

I'm sure to never leave my LO alone as she's eating though, and I always chat with her and pay attention to what's happening on her plate. And there are times too when I just sit with her and I take a pass on all chores so we can have some time to hang out. It doesn't have to be go go go all the time.

In closing...

There will be days when your tiny human wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and you find yourself with a cranky little pickle on your hands. It happens and you can only do so much, but hopefully, you find that more often than not, breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be opportunities to stay organized, create healthy eating habits, and have some fun!

If you have any baby and toddler food ideas or mealtime tips please feel welcome to pop in the comments. This is a great space for idea sharing!

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