HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Recipes for 18-month old?

i'm watching my 18 month old niece for another week or so...any suggestions on meals for her? i've been feeding her fruit, yogurt, and she really seems to like steamed brown rice...but she won't eat sliced ham, or shredded chicken..i'm getting concerned that she's not getting enough nutrition from just the formula, rice, fruit and yogurt...any suggestions?

incidentally, when her parents are taking care of her, she'll eat almost anything so i'm not sure what to do...also, i have a large amount of potatoes and stew beef that i'd like to use...


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Our 15 month old daughter eats whatever we eat including: steak, chicken, corned beef, lasagna, spaghetti & other pasta dishes, crab legs, shrimp, fish, soups, cheeses, bbq ribs, mashed potatoes, etc.

    We also give her some baby food as part of her diet(mostly fruits and vegetables), but whatever I am cooking she is all over that.

    2 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      that's normally how my niece is, but she seems to have become very picky with me...

      1. re: soypower

        thats too bad. Now that our daughter has tasted adult food with flavow she wont eat the gerber meals anymore, jus the fruits, and veggies as I stated above.

    2. An 18-month old should be able to eat most anything as long as it is not too hard or too spicy. If you have stew beef and potatoes, make a beef stew. add lots of veggies for more nutrition - carrots, green beans, parsips, turnips, etc.

      Also she probably is going through an independence thing and likes to "do it herself" rather than being fed. Try steaming carrot sticks, green beans, cauliflower, broc. etc. until just tender enough to be finger foods. If necessary, serve with ranch dressing to dip.

      Scrambled eggs with some red peppers and a little onion can also be seen as finger-food to an 18-month old.

      Also try deli turkey slices, cheese, whole grain bread as a "deconstructed" sandwitch. Or make sandwitches with soft foods and cut them in small fun shapes.

      Homemade mac and cheese made with whole wheat pasta might work. Also just pasta and tomato sauce.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Springhaze2

        Variations on mac 'n cheese seem to work well with my bunch...tuna casserole comes to mind.

        Unfortunately what an 18mo old likes one day they might not like the next... just keep trying :)

      2. Tofu can also be a good for small ones -marinated or even just plain for some.

        I really wouldn't worry about it though. She gets protein from the yoghurt and formula, vitamins and a little fiber from the rice, vitamins and fiber from the fruit. She is fine. Kids often go through this picky eating stage and most docs say don't stress. how nice of you to watch her!

        She might enjoy some peas, roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, pureed carrots or sweet potatoes, golden beets, pasta with cheese, scrambled eggs with cheese, roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes, quesadillas...

        3 Replies
        1. re: jsaimd

          My 17 month old particularly like peas, corn, roasted baby carrots, cauliflower, grape tomatoes (cut up).

          Scrambled eggs is also a good suggestion. My son isn't a big breakfast eater, but he loves scrambled eggs. The yogurt that he can drink with a straw is a big hit too.

          Quesadillas are another good idea. And both of my kids love meatballs. You can buy some frozen ones (I buy turkey meatballs) and just heat a few at a time. They love 'em.

          1. re: valerie

            Our son did best at that age with things he could pick up himself like peas, beans (like black or cannelini) as well as things he could dip into something else. I agree that at that age it sometimes changed daily and could be really frustrating. One year later and he's much less rigid and will eat almost anything except spicy food.

            1. re: mayjay

              I am laughing at my own response from above. I couldn't believe I wrote that except when I looked at the date, I realized why...

              My son, who was 17 months old at the time, is now over 5. It was around age 2 that he gave up on peas, carrots, cauliflower! He will still eat corn, and tomatoes. And scrambled eggs have not crossed his lips in years! He still LOVES meatballs, though.

              I urge anyone to keep trying anything and everything but sometimes, no matter what you do, they just won't eat what they won't eat!

        2. I buy Greek yogurt to feed my baby granddaughter. It's higher in protein than the regular kind, and I mix it with baby food (she especially likes pears).

          I also put a piece of bread topped with cheese in the toaster oven and broil it a bit till the cheese is melted. I remove the crusts and cut it into bite sized pieces.

          But as another posted said, what works one day doesn't always work the next. These kids keep us on our toes!

          1. My son likes avocado. And dipping broccoli "trees" in mayo.

            1. When my son was starting to eat meat, we had great luck with meatloaf. Ina Garten's turkey meatloaf, to be precise. He liked the soft, moist texture and the sweetness of the ketchup on top.


              I cut the recipe in half.

              And, he has always loved chunk-fried potatoes. Boil peeled and 1" chunked potatoes until tender, drain, and fry in bacon fat until golden and crispy on the outside. I grew up on these, too. yum.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jvozoff

                she does really like fried potatoes and you just saved me from posting a question about what to do with a bunch of bacon grease i had leftover. thanks!

                1. re: soypower

                  I apologize if this sounds critical... but it seems like formula, fruit, brown rice, and yogurt would be much more nutritious for a child than bacon grease and potatoes. Although admittedly the occasional unhealthy food isn't going to kill her.

                  1. re: Mellicita

                    In defense of the lowly fried potato (and myself):

                    1. Potatoes are highly nutritious (Vitamin C, potassium, etc.) and are great for little growing bodies. Leaving them in large-ish chunks helps to keep the nutrients from leaching out.

                    2. Toddlers need fats - and the small amount of bacon fat used to saute them is well within their daily requirements. I use maybe 1 tablespoon in a 10" skillet-full of potatoes. What is "unhealthy" for an adult may not be so for a toddler (e.g. whole milk).

                    1. re: jvozoff

                      What you probably then didnt know is that any fried food loses its nutrients at least 30% and if its wrongly fried then it loses almost everything.
                      Many foods that people have suggested in here are really unhealthy, others can pass if its just only sporadicaly. Anything fried is bad, hot dogs are the worst tho. Mayonese is not good, only if its just once in a while it wont harm. Any processed food is not good for the child neither (or any person for the matter... ). Avoid anything greasy and such, those things only contain bad bad bad fats. Bacon fat is NOT healthy fat. Whole milk contains good fat but many toddlers cant tolerate it very good, it makes them gassy and if they are already consuming formula theres no real reason to consume whole milk (it will only make them more chubby). Formula already contains enough fat, calcium and other nutrients. It would be better to give the child those nutrients through other foods than just dairy products.

              2. It really depends on the kid. My child won't eat melted cheese - just cheddar, from the big Cabot block, in cubes (we've tried a lot of other stuff, to no avail.) Kids this age occasionally are great eaters but often are not. Don't worry; they really do get adequate nutrition from what seems to us to be a boring and one-dimensional diet. I also make fried rice - brown rice, eggs, scallions, soy sauce; lo mein (find a recipe & try it); scrambled eggs. She also eats hot dogs, used to eat fishsticks, and very rarely eats chicken. My personal feeling about feeding a child this age is not to go out of your way to make them things you won't eat - if they refuse the food, it becomes your dinner. So stick with stuff you like too.

                Incidentally, why formula? Most kids make the switch to milk at 1 year.

                8 Replies
                1. re: doc_k55

                  I wondered about the formula too,,,anyway my little one will eat everything in site for a few days then barely eat at all for a couple...he has always done that.or maybe she is missing mommy and daddy and the food thing is just her control?

                  1. re: LaLa

                    is it time for her to stop drinking formula? i remember reading that most babies stop drinking formula at about 12 months, but her parents insist that she won't go to sleep w/o a bottle before bed...but maybe they didn't realize they should replace the formula w/ milk?

                    1. re: soypower

                      She can have formula, it is just that you can switch to milk around 12 months. It is cheaper to buy milk so most people switch... bottles at bedtime is another story says the dentists out there...but that is not a chowhound topic. Of course, your job is to keep here alive during the time you have her, and you are feeding her well. I think my kids live on french fries and ice cream when they go see grandma and grandpa!

                      1. re: soypower

                        My understanding of the topic is that formula offers no additional nutritional benefits after 12 months and is not necessary. It's not harmful, as per jsaimd, but certainly not necessary. Prior to 12 months, cow's milk does not offer adequate nutritional benefits - breast milk or formula is best. After 12 months, while some continue to breast feed (again, a topic for another place - not here), those babies on formula are generally switched to milk due to the lack of benefit from the formula and the high cost of formula. But as her aunt & caregiver it's probably not something for you to worry about now - and might just be something that works in their household.

                        Oh, and as for nutrition - my 20 mo daughter survived for the past 3 days on nothing more than milk, cheddar, and fruit. Go figure. I know I posted this before, but really, don't stress about the diet.

                        1. re: doc_k55

                          thanks so much for the advice...it's true, my only obligation i believe is to keep her alive and unharmed for the next week...and i think she just feels like being picky because she's with her auntie..

                          and i say that because we went to macdonalds yesterday and she ate all of her chicken nuggets. :o)

                          1. re: soypower

                            it happens to the best of us! Mine only eats french fries in restaurants. I hope to reform her diet as she gets bigger and speaks the same language as I do.

                          2. re: doc_k55

                            As the mother of a 22 month old, I know that it is easy to stress about this stuff - thanks doc k55 for the reminder not to do so!

                          3. re: soypower

                            Umm they actually make formula for Toddlers... Most people switch to milk bc of it being cheaper, but they can have formula until they are 4 years if they want.

                      2. Little cubes of extra firm tofu were always a hit w/our daughter (still are, and she's 4.5!) at that age. Scrambled eggs w/finely chopped (think whirled to bits in the mini Cuis.) broccoli and cheese too. Greek yogurt w/pureed blueberries (or whatever she likes/you have). Unsweetened applesauce. Chunks of turkey breast or chicken breast.

                        I wouldn't worry too much though - she's probably "off" b/c you're taking care of her and not her parents - sounds like her diet is pretty good and she'll get back on track once her mom and dad are back on the scene again.

                        Enjoy - that's a great age!

                        1. At the moment, my 22 months old LOVES whole wheat cous cous from Trader Joe's, steak (filet cut into small pieces), scrambled eggs with cheese, a variety of cereals, steamed broccoli, chicken soup with alphabet noodles and shredded chicken, string cheese sticks, different kinds of muffins (blueberry or pumpkin) and lots of fruit.

                          she's probably getting adequate nutrition from what she is eating. don't worry too much.

                          I have a 5 year old who only eats 6 different foods (plain hamburgers, purple yo kids yogurt tubes, pumpkin muffins, oats and honey granola bars, peeled gala apples and watermelon) and her twin sister eats almost anything. All 3 of my kids go through food phases. Kids are funny like that.

                          1. Hummus is popular with a lot of kids, especially w/ pita dipped in.

                            Mashed potatoes are great for sneaking in other "blend-ins"


                            Salmon Croquettes

                            Pot Pie

                            Maybe add black or pinto beans to the rice, or will she eat other legumes like lentils or navy beans... Or, edamame - great finger food for kids.

                            Eggplant Roll-Ups stuffed w/ ricotta for protein

                            If you make mac'n'cheese, add some tofu to the sauce for extra protein, or just hide some chicken in there...

                            1. My 15 month old goes thru periods during which she snacks all day and eats meals well, and chubs up a bit. then she suddenly gets taller and her appetite reduces and all she will eat is yoghurt and rice. I just let her dictate how much she wants to eat and I don't force her because she appears to be perfectly healthy even when her appetite is down. i think her caloric needs are dictated by her growth spurts. when she is in her chubbing up stages, i frequently feed her:

                              lentils cooked with vegetables and lightly seasoned, she eats many variations of this
                              baby stir fried rice, rice stir fried with chopped up veggies with an egg scrambled in
                              string mozzarella cheese
                              chopped up whatever we are eating if it isn't too spicy (we eat Pakistani food most days)

                              1. I think the main thing is not to worry too much. If she normally eats a lot and isn't doing so now, she's probably just missing the norm of having her parents around. She won't let herself go hungry. Sounds like you're doing a great job.

                                1. Pasta, pasta, pasta! Seriously, my 20 month old will always eat noodles if everything else fails. Now I don't short-order cook, so she's usually stuck with whatever we're eating, but if I start to get concerned that she hasn't been eating enough I throw in a pasta dinner and I know she'll get her fill. Also quesadillas are a big hit, as well as anything with a dipping sauce.

                                  Also, kids this age are very particular about routine and having things "just so", so you may not be doing something "just right". ;-) Don't sweat it, she'll let you know eventually, hopefully. She definitely won't starve! Is she verbal at all? Because lots of times I have to remind my daughter, "use your words" please tell me what you want?

                                  Re: stew beef - one of my daughter's favorite meals is when I throw stew beef in the crockpot with Lipton onion soup mix and a can of cream mushroom soup, and serve over egg noodles. Health food? No. Chow-worthy? No. But very appealing to a toddler, apparently.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: MrsCheese

                                    2nd the pasta. The piccolini from barilla are whole grain, easy to pick up for tiny hands. I dump frozen chopped broccoli in the same water, add a little pesto or butter and parm and it's lunch. So easy.

                                  2. You've gotten lots of great ideas here, so I'll just add one more: Beans.

                                    My daughter loved beans when she was younger (and still does, as a almost-3 year old). They are a great source of protein and toddlers like them because they can pick them up and feed themselves. Any kind are good: black, garbanzo, kidneys, cannelini, etc.

                                    1. Has anyone checked out www.weelicious.com? They have hundreds of recipes and how to videos that are really cool.

                                      1. Most important: relax. One week on yogurt, fruit and rice is not enough time for her to have any problems...if she likes that rice, give her that rice. You can cook it in stock, even canned, for added nutrition.
                                        Egg Pastina with little diced chicken and carrots is usually well received.
                                        She might like the stew if you cut the meat to size. (1/2" cubes.)
                                        Try giving her some potatoes, mashed. Bet she likes those.
                                        What she eats at home and what she'll eat for you are two different things - she's not at home and clearly knows it. She may also be picking up on a little bit of mealtime tension.
                                        Kids love small food. Cheese cubes, small veg......I was going to suggest cubed ham, but I see that's not an option. Actually that's okay: it's pretty high-sodium balanced against the nutritional factor.
                                        Wait, I see that chicken is an issue too - but it might be the shredded texture she objects to, so why not try those tiny cubes?
                                        Some kids really love beans. you might try a bean soup and serve with the rice; perfect complete protein. Nice with some cornbread though the sandy texture can be a turnoff.
                                        Unspicy chili Mac can be a good option.
                                        I do want to tell you though: I had a son who, when he was 3, wouldn't touch anything but jello and tofu dogs. I talked to the pediatrician, and he told me the most important thing was not to make mealtimes an issue, because *whoopee* that's one sure way to butt heads with your kids. He told me to make sure he drank milk and had a multivitamin, daily, and that he'd be just fine as long as he was gaining weight and staying within developmental parameters, which he assuredly was.
                                        So not to worry so much, auntie. Enjoy your visit with the small person. :)

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: mamachef

                                          wise words... wonder how the tyke (who's gotta be 5 or nearly 5 by now) is doing and eating!

                                          1. re: Emme

                                            Lol. Thanks for the kind words, Emme. But no..........he's 24. This goes back a long, long way.