Milk, cheese and yogurt are often mainstays of a toddler’s diet. But some children are allergic or sensitive to dairy. Or perhaps your family avoids dairy as part of your food philosophy. Never fear, there are plenty of dairy-free meals for toddlers that you can try. Here are some easy ideas to get you started!
New to this lifestyle? You won’t believe these meals are dairy-free.
Dairy-Free Meals for Toddlers
1. Dairy-Free Pancakes
When you’re building a toddler breakfast without cheesy scrambled eggs or yogurt, consider simple dairy-free pancakes. (Birch Benders has a great mix for pancakes and waffles.) Pair your ‘cakes with some sliced strawberries and bananas. Looking for a special weekend treat? Offer up this easy glazed bacon.
2. Taco Bowls
Steamed rice, black or pinto beans and some grilled chicken or seasoned ground beef make for a healthy weeknight meal. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with tomatoes, lettuce and avocado, too. Make your bowls as complex or as simple as you want. Separate foods (for toddlers) or mix them together (for you). Plus, if you have family members who can eat cheese, taco bowls are an easy meal to customize.
3. Grilled Steak and Corn
Perfect for summer, grilled steak (keep it tender, and be sure to cut the meat into bite-sized pieces before serving) paired with corn on the cob is an easy option. (Just be sure to give the corn time to cool so it doesn’t burn your toddler’s tongue!) Add some seedless watermelon for a balanced meal.
4. Turkey on Crackers
For a simple lunch or a hefty snack, offer turkey lunch meat on whole-wheat crackers or pita. Then, throw in some crunchy celery and carrots on the side. For a dairy-free veggie dip option, try this cannellini bean hummus.
5. Bento Box
A bento box (like this one) is basically a divided tray—perfect for toddlers who don’t want their foods to touch. Sliced bananas and pineapple, steamed green beans, sliced cucumbers, ground meat, apple wedges, sliced tomatoes, whole-grain crackers, guacamole… Yep, the options are endless. And as long as you offer up an array of healthy foods, you can rest easy calling the collection of foods a meal. (Bonus: Make your own simple guacamole and invite your kiddo to help—mashing avocados is fun and easy for a toddler!)
6. Roasted Chicken and Potatoes
Whether you roast a whole chicken or bake some legs (or hey, even “cheat” and pick up a rotisserie chicken), this easy protein is great for toddlers. Depending on your little one’s stage, you might want to take the meat off the bone. But a lot of toddlers are completely comfortable digging into a piece of bone-in meat. Throw in some roasted yams, a side of lentils, green beans or simple steamed broccoli for a complete meal. This roasted chicken and red potatoes dish is a good place to start.
7. Fish Sticks with Veggies
Raise your hand if your kid loves fish. Yeah, didn’t think so. Fish can be tough to introduce, but fish sticks (try this homemade version) can make the introduction a little easier. Roasted colorful veggies—like zucchini, squash and bell pepper—are a nice complement. Add some applesauce for a familiar fave.
Don’t Forget Dairy-Free Substitutes!
There are endless combinations of healthy meats, beans and lentils, fruits and veggies and whole grains that you can use to create lots of dairy-free toddler meals. But don’t forget, there also are many substitutes for dairy products—nut, oat and soy milks, for example. Plus plant-based “cheeses”, almond-milk yogurts, vegan butters and more. These substitutes may not work perfectly in every recipe, but through research and experimentation you’ll have many dairy-free options to choose from at mealtime.
Plan on making dessert, too! Your little one will love these dairy-free treats.
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