Toddler Won’t Eat Meat? 15 Tips To Help

So, you have a toddler who won’t eat meat and you don’t want to be bothered cooking 2 different meals at dinner time? This is my life, with a partner who is a vegetarian and a toddler who won’t eat meat. BUT, I’ve found ways around it – ways to introduce meat into my toddler’s diet and other ways to increase the protein and iron in his diet as well. 

As a qualified Public Health professional and a toddler mum, I’ve got the tips and tricks that WORK when your toddler won’t eat me. So, without further ado…

Table of Contents

15 Tips To Help Your Toddler Eat Meat

  1. When introducing new foods to your toddler (like meat) – I definitely recommend to include them on a plate of KNOWN food so that they aren’t totally overwhelmed with new food. They will go straight to “yucky!” if it is a plate of unknown, trust me. But with a plate of known food + the new meat to try – they are much more likely to at least have a bite. 
  2. If you are trying to introduce meat into your toddler’s diet because you are wanting to up their protein intake, but they just won’t eat much of the stuff – a great thing to do is work out the meat with the most grams of protein per bite (literally, as that may be all they eat!) – and serve that meat! You’ll be surprised to know that chicken breast actually has the most protein per gram, followed closely by pork tenderloin. 
  3. Chicken nuggets are the oldest trick in the book when your toddler won’t eat meat. They won’t even know they’re eating the stuff – just a delicious, crunchy treat. Drool. 
  4. Softer meats – lunch meats etc are a great way to get started. Cheese sandwiches with a thin slice of deli lunch meat is a really easy way to get that toddler munching on some meat in no time. That’s what daycare taught us, anyway!
  5. A pork chop or lamb chop (as well as a chicken drumstick) can be a great intro meat as well, as your toddler doesn’t need to fuss around with cutlery and can just pick it up with their hands and have a munch. It’s a great sensory experience for an unsure little human. 
  6. Like introducing any new food to a toddler, it is recommended you start with a small amount and build from there. Like I mentioned above, include the small amount of meat on a plate with ‘yes’ foods and build larger and larger serves from there – until your mini me is at the table eating a meal just like you. 
  7. Finger foods like the chops above are a really brilliant way to encourage a toddler who won’t eat me. Cutting tender steaks or other pieces of meat into ‘fingers’ is a good work around and makes it easier for your toddler to gobble it all up.
  8. I mentioned chicken breast before it has a high protein content and so is already a great first meat to get your toddler into. It can also be cut into fingers like above, and is usually quite simple for you to cook and include in family meals without much difficulty.
  9. Make sure whatever you are introducing to your toddler is also included in the family meal – not just for ease of preparation for you – but so that the toddler doesn’t feel like the odd one out and will be more likely to just eat the damn thing!
  10. The texture of meat is quite often what turns a toddler off in the first place – the chew, the mouth feel. A great way to avoid this issue is to distract your toddler with ‘fun’ meat – i/e the chicken nuggets or steak fingers mentioned above
  11. If your toddlers favorite foods are pasta with cheese, or bread with cheese, try cooking meat with cheese – i.n chicken parmigiana or mini beef slider – it may just get them to take a bite and find out how delicious meat can be. 
  12. An excellent fall back plan is BBQ sauce or tomato sauce. Freddie will eat the stuff by the spoonful if I let him, so try drowning the meat in sauce the first time and gradually decreasing the amount of sauce as they become more and more used to it
  13. Another great way of avoiding the texture or chewiness problem is by cooking with ground meat / mince meat – go from pasta with tomato sauce to pasta with tomato bolognese sauce – the ground meat is much less “meaty” then just a chop in the hand. 
  14. Along the same line as chicken nuggets are hot dogs and fish sticks – once the stuff of nightmare processed food factories, we are finding more and more supermarkets are stocking these products with hidden veg – it’s a lifesaver for a toddler that won’t touch meat! 
  15. Another way to make meat more palatable for your toddler is to tenderize it in a slow cooker or pressure cooker – then just add it to a meal with pasta or rice for once big, soft, easy to chew toddler-friendly meal. 

What To Feed A Child Who Doesn’t Eat Meat

If, no matter what you do, your toddler just will not eat meat – don’t stress, we can get the nutrients in to them in other ways:

Protein-rich Foods For Toddlers Who Won’t Eat Meat

  • Peanut butter / nut butters: this can be as simple as PB on toast, or you can make healthy treats with PB in the recipe
  • Dairy products: don’t feel bad about reverting back to those yogurt pouches if it will get some protein (and probiotics!) into your toddler
  • Soy products: chop some firm tofu into fingers, slather with tomato sauce and your toddler will gobble it up. Keep it simple mama
  • Black beans: google chocolate black bean brownies. Go on. Your toddler will have no idea they are eating protein – we even sneak avocado into some recipes 
  • Whole grains: get your toddler eating grain bread and wholemeal pasta from the beginning so that they don’t expect anything different and aren’t screaming at your for white bread all the time 
  • Green vegetables: we all know that most toddlers won’t just gobble up a green vegetable, so get creative with all of the hidden veg recipes available out there on the wide world of the internet
  • Sweet potatoes: make chips! The end! 

Iron-rich Foods For Toddlers Who Won’t Eat Meat

  • Leafy green vegetables: we all know that most toddlers won’t just gobble up a green vegetable, so get creative with all of the hidden veg recipes available out there on the wide world of the internet
  • Green leafy herbs: a great way to go about this one is to try and get your toddler involved with some herb gardening – even if you are in an apartment it’s super easy to just grow most green leafy herbs in jars or tiny pots. Then watch the magic as they want to taste what they have grown
  • Turmeric: any easy thing to sneak in to most recipes savory or sweet – just make sure you don’t go too overboard as turmeric can have quite a pungent taste
  • Leeks – another easy one to sneak in to most savory meals. Replace onions with leeks! 
  • Soy products: chop some firm tofu into fingers, slather with tomato sauce and your toddler will gobble it up. Keep it simple mama
  • Lentils / chickpeas / beans: sneak these bad boys into savory meals or mash them/blend them if you want to go one step further and really hide them 
  • Hummus: I’m sorry but what toddler doesn’t love smooshing hummus into their face!! 
  • Green peas: some toddlers will just accept these little green peas in their meal – for others, the old mash, blend, hide trick will work wonders
  • Sesame seeds: sprinkle in everything you make. Sweet, savory, everything! 
  • Tomatoes: listen carefully – buy ketchup that toddler loves. Use. Keep bottle. Fill bottle with homemade ketchup full of REAL tomatoes. 

Other Options For Toddlers Who Won’t Eat Meat

  • Iron supplements are readily available – even ones specifically formulated for babies and toddlers. Just chat to your pharmacist
  • Fortified cereals / pastas – also very easy to find in most major supermarkets these days
  • Child friendly protein powders – are becoming more and more common but still you are most likely to find them in specialty health food stores at the moment. 

Why Trust My Toddler Life

My Toddler Life is run by mama’s, for mama’s. All information provided on our site is thoroughly researched and takes into consideration our lived experiences and the opinions of industry professionals.

How are we different from other sites doing the same thing? We have fun while doing it (often with a glass of wine in hand) and don’t take ourselves too seriously! We may use affiliate links in this post – rest assured, these do not cost you, our dear readers, any additional money to use – phew!


Back To Top