Tiffins for Toddlers: Creative Ways to Feed Your Picky Eater


 By Leena D. Saini

Leena Saini, Food Contributor

Leena Saini, Food Contributor

My toddler wants crackers.   Just plain crackers. She wants them for breakfast. She craves them for lunch. She’d prefer to eat them for dinner. Sometimes she wants peanut butter or raisins with them, but mostly she could nibble on just crackers and call it a meal.

Why is my 3-year-old suddenly such a picky, one-ingredient eater?! She used to eat everything and now she just wants to nibble on things here and there, calling every meal a “snack.”

According to pediatricians, most toddlers go through erratic eating phases, eating the same thing again and again, or snacking all day long. Although this is a normal (albeit frustrating) toddler phase, it is still important to offer a diversity of foods to your little one.

Why? For one, establishing good eating habits starts at a young age. Offering different fruits, veggies and other healthy options at each meal allows your little one to get used to sampling new things. Over time, eating healthy and diverse will become second-nature. Secondly, you will be raising an adventurous eater! Studies show that children who are exposed to a wide array of flavors (different ingredients AND different herbs and spices) are more likely to remain open-minded to new cuisines when they are older.

Thinking Outside the Plate

Getting toddlers to actually eat, however, does require some fun and creativity at times. Since my daughter, Kirina, was so fond of her snack meals, I had to think of a fun way to present her food. I instantly thought of an old tiffin carrier I had in the back of my cabinet.

South Asian vegetarian

Tiffins for toddlers? Yes!

For those unfamiliar with this genius and versatile invention, tiffins are stainless-steel lunch carriers often used by office workers in India. Each tiffin contains small, separate bowls with lids that are stacked on top of one another. The bowls are held together by a clip and the lid even doubles as a small plate. You are able to keep each food separate and there is space for small portions of salads, dals, fruit, yogurt, or anything else you can think of.

How perfect for a toddler! Packing small amounts of food in a fun container makes every meal feel like a picnic and a surprise for your little one. If you don’t have a tiffin, try a bento box, muffin cups, or even ice-cube trays. Fill them up with little bites of fruits, veggies, dals, subjis, rotis, parathas, rice, yogurt, or anything else you can think of that’s healthy and diverse. The idea is simply to keep it small and simple. And always remember that it’s ok to season your child’s meals. A pinch of cinnamon sprinkled on fruits or fresh mint with cooked peas goes a long way to make food tasty and original.

Here are some of Kirina’s favorite tiffin meals. Use them for inspiration and substitute your child’s favorite fruits, veggies and proteins.

North Indian Tiffin  a240-241-tiffin-tin2_webimage

Sweet Sooji Kheer with Bananas

Aloo Paratha (rolled-up into bite-sized pieces)

Cucumber Ribbons with Lemon Juice


South Indian Tiffin

Bite-Sized Veggie Utthapums

Creamy Curd Rice

Shredded Carrots with Lemon and Jaggery


All-American Tiffin

Cinnamon Apple Shreds (or applesauce) with Raisins

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches (cut into shapes)

Creamy Yogurt with Clover Honey


Asian-Inspired Tiffin

Rice and Veggie Balls or Avocado Sushi

Cucumber Ribbons with Lemon Juice

Creamed Corn with Coconut smallIndian_baby_wi_19498589


French Tiffin

Sweet Sliced Grapes

Herbed Cheese Spread with Crackers

Ham and Swiss Cheese & Cucumber Roll-Ups


Fruit & Veg Tiffin

Vegetable Bread (mash together boiled potatoes, chopped veggies and seasoning of choice, spread on buttered toast)

Carrot Shreds with Raisins

Fresh Fruit (cut into shapes for fun)


Mexican Tiffin

Cheese and Tomato Quesadilla 204176_avocados

Guacamole or Salsa

Whole-grain Tortilla Chips


Harvest Tiffin

Warm Corn with Basil

Baked Spaghetti Squash with Butter and Parmesan

Hard-Boiled Egg Slices with Paprika


More about the author

Leena is a lawyer, mother, foodie, head chef (for a husband, three-year-old and 6-month-old) and emerging baby food cookbook author (tentatively titled “Masala Baby: Global Cuisine for Tiny Taste Buds”). Obsessed with introducing diverse/global ingredients, herbs and spices to babies from their first spoonfuls. Making baby food better, one meal at a time.

For more information on spicing up baby meals, visit me at my blog at www.masalababyfood.wordpress.com or Facebook at www.facebook.com/masalababyfood

From my little one’s high chair to your little one’s, bon appétit!


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