I used to get so excited for meals . . . and then I had a toddler. I soon realized that those early months of my baby gleefully eating every spoonful of pureed kale (and me thinking I'd heroically and effortlessly solved childhood nutrition) was the true "phase" and that what followed was the norm. I've spent years battling with picky taste buds and trying every trick up every food expert's sleeve, from disguising veggies to adopting the mantra, "you don't have to eat it" and then having midnight wakeup calls from a "starving" child. By this point, I now dread having to feed my kids — I peer into the fridge with a combination of anxiety and resigned failure.
I just wish I discovered Melissa Porras and her Instagram feed of "healthy toddler menus" sooner.
"My meals take about 10 minutes to assemble, at most."
Melissa, a nurse and mom to her son, Diego, had the same struggles I did, so she started posting photos of her kid's plate as "a way to archive simple and healthy meals so that when I was feeling uninspired I could use them as a quick reference."
In fewer than two years, she's posted more than 200 breakfasts, lunches, midafternoon snacks, and dinners for more than 13,000 devoted (likely desperate) followers.
"Each day feels like a challenge, especially because one day my munchkin will absolutely love something and the next time I offer the same dish, he looks at me as if I've broken his heart," she told POPSUGAR.
"A lot of it is timing and presentation," she said. "I've learned quickly that my son prefers simple foods that are in large pieces like an entire chicken drum stick, a large chunk of cucumber — never sliced — or foods that aren't touching."
Although her account features plenty of cooked-up goodness (when she prepares "grownup dishes," she often pulls little bits out before she spices them up to give to her son), what is possibly most inspiring is that most of the healthy meals Diego eats require zero sautéing, baking, grilling, or cooking of any kind.
"My meals take about 10 minutes to assemble, at most," she admitted. And if you decide to copy some of her colorful plates, remember that even Melissa doesn't have a flawless success rate. "Diego eats, on average, 50 percent of what I feed him. Other days, he eats everything I give him, and my heart swells! But don't get me wrong, he has thrown entire dishes on the floor."
For some of our favorite, most approachable menus from Melissa's roster, keep reading.