My Go-To Meal Prep Hack: Instant Pot Shredded Chicken

Instant Pot shredded chicken is the ultimate meal prep recipe. It takes less than 30 minutes to make and is versatile enough to use in different dishes throughout the entire week.

The Easiest Instant Pot Shredded Chicken is perfect when combined with some whole grains and roasted vegetables in a bowl for a healthy meal.

I’m letting you in on a little secret today! That’s right, I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes from my e-cookbook that will set you up for meal prep success throughout the entire week. This Instant Pot Shredded Chicken is sooooo easy and takes almost no ingredients to make. And because it’s so simple, you can dress it up in a multitude of ways – no repeat meals here!

The simplicity of this chicken also makes it a great first food for baby if you’re following baby-led weaning. You can easily control the sodium by simply not adding any salt and season it with whichever herbs and spices you have a hankering to introduce to your child on any given day.

How to Make It

Seriously guys, I can’t think of any recipe that is easier than this one. And for all my Dish Density fans, this is pretty much the LEAST amount of dishes you’ll find in any of my recipes. (ICYMI, I introduced the exciting Dish Density feature on this post last week.) That deserves a lot of celebration, am I right?

All you need to do to make this super simple recipe is throw all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot, turn it on and set a timer [*affiliate link]. That’s it! The real fun comes after the chicken is made, when you get to come up with how you’re going to use it all up.

Two hearty bowls of Easy Instant Pot Shredded Chicken loaded with vegetables and whole grains are the perfect healthy meal!

But don’t worry, I have some ideas for you!

  • Throw it on top of a seasonal salad.
  • Use it as part of a filling for enchiladas.
  • Make tacos.
  • Stir it into a soup.
  • Put together a simple protein, veggie and grain bowl and top with your favorite healthy dressing.
  • Pile it on top of a bun with some BBQ sauce for tasty sliders.

These ideas right here are enough for almost an entire week’s worth of dinners, but I’d love to hear if I missed any creative uses you can think of!

The other great thing about this Instant Pot Shredded Chicken is you can totally freeze it! So make it some evening or weekend where you have a 30-minute block of time, and pop it in the freezer for a go-to weeknight meal in the very near future.

If you can totally get down with the freezer meal idea (I mean, what busy parent can’t?), be sure to check out my e-cookbook for 29 more freezer-friendly recipes!

A bowl of the Easiest Instant Pot Shredded Chicken complete with veggies. A great option for baby-led weaning!

Easiest Instant Pot Shredded Chicken
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
30 mins
 

Instant Pot shredded chicken is the ultimate meal prep recipe. It takes less than 30 minutes to make
and is versatile enough to use in different dishes throughout the entire week.

Course: Main Course
Keyword: baby-led weaning, chicken, Instant Pot, meal prep
Servings: 10 people
Calories: 121 kcal
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound each boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs (2 pounds total)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Salt and pepper, as desired
Dishes needed:
  • Instant Pot
  • 2 forks
  • Tongs
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in an Instant Pot. Make sure the valve is set to sealing. Hit the “Pressure Cook” button and select High pressure for 10 minutes.

  2. The Instant Pot will take a while to warm up, then it will
    start counting down. Once the timer is done, make sure the valve has switched
    to vent to release all the pressure.

  3. Once all the pressure has been released and the chicken has
    cooled slightly, use two forks to shred it. After shredding, pour out any
    excess liquid.

  4. Once shredded chicken has cooled completely, place in a
    resealable glass container or plastic bag and freeze. You can also separate the
    chicken into individual portions before freezing if desired.

Recipe Notes

DISH DENSITY: Low

How to Implement a Baby or Toddler Meal Plan

I’m outlining my top five tips for implementing a meal plan for your baby or toddler to ensure they’re eating a nutritious, balanced diet – plus, I’m giving you an inside look at my toddler’s daily meal plan!

Title graphic for How to Implement a Meal Plan for Your Baby or Toddler, with a photo of a baby looking on to a picnic of food.

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is how I make my little one balanced, nutritious meals on the regular – and, more importantly, how I make sure she eats them! Well, you’re in for a treat today, because I’m giving you a peek at my top tricks to implement a baby or toddler meal plan, along with suggestions, tips and tricks to get your little ones on the healthy meal train.

Tips for Feeding Babies and Toddlers

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of baby-led weaning, and many of these tips I’m about to give you are thanks to this method of introducing solids to your littles. If you’re getting ready to introduce solids to your little one, be sure to check for all of these signs that you’re baby is ready first, then – if you feel baby-led weaning is the way you want to go – I encourage you to read the book Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods – and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett [*affiliate link].

Tip #1: Limit snacking

I’ll admit it: In times of desperation, snacking is SUCH a savior (airplane rides and road trips – I’m looking at you!) But in general, I really try to limit snacking with my little. I find that by not offering Raia food at every moment of the day, she is more likely to eat a good meal when it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Tip #2: Protein + veg + starch + dessert?

This is the basic format I use every time I make a meal for Raia. There’s always a protein and always a vegetable, usually a starch and sometimes fruit for dessert. There are occasions when I’ll add another vegetable or a legume instead of a starch, but this is the general template I use. We’re pretty liberal with giving Raia fruit for breakfast, and usually only give it to her for dessert at the other meals if she eats the majority of everything else.

When I’m thinking of how I’m going to compose a meal for my babe, I think of the colors of the rainbow and try to give her a good balance of each. This is also a great way to be sure you’re introducing your little to a wide variety of foods.

A picnic basket overflowing with fresh produce. Implementing a meal plan for your baby or toddler isn't complete without all types of fresh produce!

And YES, we do give Raia sweet treats every once in a while, but we tend to save them for special occasions. Although not always successful, we aim to give her sweets (if she’s having them) before 5pm or so, just so the sugar has some time to work through her system before bed.

Tip #2: Look at the week as a whole

As worried parents, it’s easy to get caught up in the fact that our babes are not eating very much of whatever they’ve been served. We spend all this time putting together a balanced meal, only to watch them pick at each thing or throw it all on the ground. This is where this tip comes in. Try to look at your little one’s diet as a whole throughout the course of a week, and judge their nutrient intake on that. A child is innately born with a survival instinct, and they will not go hungry!

A happy toddler snacking on roasted sweet potato in the back of a car...Having a toddler or baby meal plan in place makes healthy eating on the go even easier!

For example, Raia is a GREAT breakfast eater, an average lunch eater and a not-so-great dinner eater. So, we focus on getting her as many nutrients as we can for breakfast – when she seems to be hungriest – and we don’t worry so much if she barely touches her dinner.

Tip #3: Don’t offer alternatives

This is a biggie. I see it alllll the time. Your little one refuses to eat the chicken, broccoli, etc. you put in front of them, and in an act of desperation you run to the kitchen and whip up a grilled cheese because, hey, at least they’ll eat it. Well, my friends, I’m sorry to say but you’re just setting your child up for failure. Hold your ground and, as I mentioned in Tip #2, when your child is REALLY hungry, they’ll eat!

If you really can’t bring yourself to watch your child refuse to eat anything you serve them, I offer this additional tip: Always include ONE “slam dunk” food on your child’s plate. This is something you know your child will eat and, when they eat it, you’re welcome to give them more. That way you know they’ll eat something, but you’re not demonstrating that they can just refuse what they’re served and you’ll make them something else.

Tip #4 Get your little involved in the cooking process

I’m telling you now, your little one will be soooo much more likely to eat something if he or she gets involved in making it! For babes and toddlers that are upright and have good balance, a learning tower [*affiliate link] is a great way to get them involved in the kitchen. For smaller babes, just showing them what you’re doing as you’re preparing their food makes them curious and excited to give these foods a try.

Toddler and mommy having fun together. When it comes to meal prepping for your little one, get him or her involved!

Okay, so those are my five big tips that I see as crucial in getting your little one(s) to eat balanced, nutritious meals, so now it’s time to share my incredibly easy to follow Baby or Toddler Meal Plan. I know that every family’s daily schedules look drastically different, and that’s okay! Simply use this as a rough guideline for planning out your baby or toddler’s daily meals.

Baby or Toddler Meal Plan

7:30am – 8am BREAKFAST

We tend to sit Raia down for breakfast with her morning milk fairly soon after she wakes. We found this was easier when transitioning her off breastfeeding/the bottle because it still gave her something to eat immediately upon waking. Typical breakfasts for her include:

  • Egg cup + peanut butter toast + banana + milk
  • Baked oatmeal + blueberries + milk
  • Chia pudding with fruit + avocado toast + milk

NOTE: Since breakfast tends to be Raia’s biggest meal, we usually skip a morning snack. However, if your child doesn’t eat such a big breakfast, you may want to offer a small, organized snack around 10:30 (a healthy pumpkin muffin, string cheese, etc.)

A toddler enjoying a breakfast of bananas and milk in her high chair. Breakfast is a very important part of implementing a baby or toddler meal plan!
#bedhead
12:00pm LUNCH

Although we strive for a 12pm lunch, we’ll sometimes make it sooner if Raia seems like she’ll need an early nap (we’re currently on just one nap a day). Typical lunches for her include:

  • Turkey and avocado sandwich on multigrain bread + string cheese
  • Grilled chicken + butternut squash zig zags + brown rice
  • Soup + broccoli + chicken sausage
3:30pm SNACK

This is just rough timing, but we usually give Raia her afternoon snack as soon as she wakes up from her nap. Snack usually consists of:

  • A vegetable/oat/banana-based muffin (see my cookbook for recipes!)
  • A toddler-friendly granola bar
  • A fruit- and veggie-packed popsicle

A happy toddler enjoying a lunch picnic on the grass. Picnics are a great thing to plan into your baby or toddler's meal plan!

6:00pm Dinner

Honestly, dinner usually looks a lot like lunch, I just try to mix and match the combos so she’s not always eating the same thing. We also give her her nighttime milk at this time. Here are some other balanced meal examples:

  • Tri tip + zucchini + ravioli + milk
  • Homemade rotisserie chicken + green beans + sweet potato + milk
  • Black bean burger (recipe in my cookbook!) + avocado + sliced tomato + milk

A toddler enjoying raw veggies sticks for dinner. Toddler meal planning is possible even when eating out!

See?? Soooo easy. And you can prep so much of this stuff ahead of time. I usually cook up two different veggies at once and store them in the fridge to mix and match with whatever protein we’ve cooked and eaten throughout the week. There’s really nothing to it, and once your kid gets used to delicious, balanced meals like this, they’re going to get more adventurous and curious about what you’re putting on their plate.

Question for you: Would you all have any interest in me offering more personal consultations when it comes to getting your baby or toddler to eat a balanced meal? What are some more pain points that I could help you solve? I want to help you, so please let me know! xoxo

Easy Breakfast Recipes that are Baby-Led Weaning Approved!

These easy breakfast recipes are all baby-led weaning approved, yet fitting for the whole family. Keep them on hand for delicious, nutritious meals to start your gang’s day off on the right foot.

Title graphic four Easy Breakfast Recipes That are Baby-Led Weaning Approved!

One of the best things about baby-led weaning is that you’re encouraged to feed your child whatever you’re eating, as long as you eat a balanced, healthy diet. This eliminates the need to always be making two (or more) dishes at every meal, thus saving you time and energy. Amen to that! That being said, there is definitely some transition time when your child is mastering the oral and manual skills needed to consume “normal” people food. This is when these family-friendly breakfast recipes come in!

These recipes are all baby-led weaning approved*, yet will satisfy your entire family, no matter what age. As an added bonus, many of them are make-ahead, which means you can whip them up when you have some extra time and freeze or refrigerate them until ready to use.

I’ve tried to cover a little bit of everything, so you’re sure to find something in this collection that your littles are totally in love with. And for more freezer-friendly baby breakfast recipes, be sure to check out my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers.

Baby-Led Weaning Savoury Muffins
A plate of Savoury Breakfast Muffins adorned with cherry tomatoes.
My Gorgeous Recipes
Allergen-Friendly Sweet Potato Cookies
A tall stack of Allergen-Friendly Sweet Potato Cookies.
This Healthy Kitchen
Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins
A stack of pumpkin carrot muffins, plus one broken in half, in front of a small carafe of milk.
CaliGirl Cooking
Porridge Bites

by Mrs. Jones’s Kitchen

Strawberry Ricotta French Toast

by Mrs. Jones’s Kitchen

Potato Pancakes

 

A plate with three potato pancakes, topped with butter and served with a side of grapes.
Easy Baby Meals
Healthy Zucchini Muffins
Three Healthy Zucchini Muffins freshly pulled out of the pan.
Bowl of Delicious
Peanut Butter Banana Baked Oatmeal
A pan of fresh baked Peanut Butter Banana Baked Oatmeal with a piece cut out of it.
Haute and Healthy Living
Oat Milk Chia Pudding with Blueberry Orange Compote
Three jars of Oat Milk Chia Pudding topped with Blueberry Orange Compote on a wooden serving plank.
CaliGirl Cooking
Spinach Zucchini Frittata Fingers

 

A stack of Spinach Zucchini Frittata Fingers separated by parchment paper and a butler knife.
Haute and Healthy Living
Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes
A stack of Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes with a wooden zebra pull toy behind it.
CaliGirl Cooking
Strawberry Banana Chickpea Muffins
A freshly baked pan of Strawberry Banana Chickpea Muffins.
Bucket List Tummy

Do you have any baby-led weaning breakfast recipes that you turn to time and again?? I’d love for you to let me know in the comments below!

*This is a generalized statement. All babies develop certain skills at different ages, so use your best judgment or ask a doctor when deciding if your child is ready to consume any particular food. For more information on baby-led weaning, I recommend reading this book [*affiliate link] and visit my Baby-Led Weaning Resource Page [coming soon!]

Best First Foods for Baby-Led Weaning

These are some of the best first foods you can introduce to your baby if you are following the baby-led weaning method.

Title graphic showing four of the best first foods for baby-led weaning, including zucchini, squash, bananas and oatmeal.

So, your babe is consistently demonstrating signs that they are ready to start solid foods and your doctor has given you the go-ahead to start on the solid food journey with your babe. Now what? It can be a bit scary when you first introduce solids to your little one, but these five foods are all great ways to get started.

While none of the below foods are common allergens, I encourage you to read up on the baby-led weaning method of introducing new foods. BLW (baby-led weaning) advocates introducing your babe to common allergens early and often, but one at a time so you’re aware of any adverse reactions. We are lucky that our little one doesn’t seem to have any food allergies or sensitivities, but if your little one does, you may want to consult a medical professional.

Another quick note: Don’t worry if your child doesn’t yet have teeth! Raia didn’t get her first tooth until after she was a year old, and that didn’t seem to hold her back one bit when it came to eating. You’ll be amazed at what they can do with just their gums!

So, without further ado, here were some of our favorite first foods for baby:

#1 Roasted Zucchini Sticks

A dish of roasted dill zucchini sticks.

Quick Fix: Cut zucchini into 3-4 inch long sticks. Toss with olive oil and some sort of fresh or dried herb (oregano and dill are both favorites) Roast in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until soft enough for your little one to “gum”. If you want to be extra cautious, peel the skin off the zucchini before cutting it into sticks.

#2 Oven-Baked Butternut Squash Fries

A dish of roasted butternut squash zig zags,

Quick Fix: Prepare in the same way as the zucchini sticks, but try using curry powder or a mix of ground cinnamon and nutmeg.

#3 Sliced Avocado

Quick Fix: Cut your avocado in half, then in quarters. Peel off the skin and slice in half again. Serve plain.

#4 Banana

A clear glass dish full of sliced banana.

Quick Fix: When baby is first starting out, I might recommend cutting the banana lengthwise in half or quarters. Once they have swallowing down pat, you can just hand them an unpeeled banana, or cut it up into discs.

#5 Oatmeal

A clear glass dish of oatmeal topped with berry compote.

Quick Fix: Make oatmeal however you usually make it, but be sure you are using PLAIN rolled or steel-cut oats and are not adding in additional sugars or salt. Some of my favorite early oatmeal additions are pureed pumpkin or a homemade (no sugar added) fruit conserve.

*Note: Unless your little one needs extra iron in his or her diet, it is not necessary to start them out with baby oatmeal or rice cereal. Instead, you can go straight to real oatmeal or rice cereal that you would make for yourself.

Finally, one of my very favorite things about baby-led weaning is the fact that it encourages you to introduce your little one to as many herbs and spices as possible as early as possible. One resource that I have found INCREDIBLY helpful when preparing food for my little one is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg [*affiliate link]. It lists out common foods and then gives recommendations of flavor pairings that complement each one. I highly recommend you invest in it!

I hope this post has given you the tools you need to feel confident in preparing your baby’s first foods. As your little one’s oral and manual dexterity progresses, you’ll find more and more foods that they are able to eat. For some easy baby-led weaning recipe ideas, be sure to check out my e-cookbook, 30 Freezer-Friendly Recipes for Babies and Toddlers, this post on Easy Breakfast Recipes That Are Baby-Led Weaning Friendly and this list of 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes.

Happy cooking!

10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes

These easy, healthy recipes are baby- and kid-friendly and perfect for baby-led weaning. They can also all be made ahead and stored in the freezer for meal-prep convenience. 

These easy, make-ahead baby-led weaning recipes are freezer-friendly and perfect for meal prep. Healthy meals for your babe in minutes!

No matter how much I want to flex my recipe creativity muscle and make cool, irresistible adult food, it’s been hard to ignore the fact that there’s a HUGE need out there for more baby-friendly and baby-led weaning recipes. There seem to be a lot of other mamas out there looking for healthy recipe inspiration for their little ones and I want to help!

I’ve got quite a few of my own baby-led weaning recipes I’ve been working on perfecting for all of you mamas out there – which you’ll be seeing soon – but, in the meantime, I reached out to some of my other mama blogger friends for their favorite baby-friendly and baby-led weaning recipes.

Disclosure: We chose to follow baby-led weaning when introducing our now 14-month-old to solids and couldn’t be happier with the results. If you’re unfamiliar with the method and want to learn more, I highly recommend reading Gill Rapley’s book, Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods — and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Healthy and Confident Eater

That being said, here are 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes!

1.Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes
Healthy Carrot Cake Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking
2. Sweet Potato Lentil Tater Tots
Sweet Potato Lentil Tater Tots | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Haute and Healthy Living
3. Salmon and Veggie Balls
Salmon and Veggie Balls | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Kidgredients
4. Chickpea PancaKES
Chickpea Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Healthy Little Foodies
5. bROCCOLI tOTS
Broccoli Tots | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by White Coat Pink Apron
6. oAT mILK cHIA pUDDING WITH bLUEBERRY oRANGE cOMPOTE
Oat Milk Chia Pudding with Blueberry Orange Compote | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking
7. sAVORY bEET zUCCHINI bREAD
Savory Beet Zucchini Bread | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by MJ and Hungry Man
8. sUPER sIMPLE pUMPKIN cARROT mUFFINS
Super Simple Pumpkin Carrot Muffins | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by CaliGirl Cooking
9. qUINOA bITES

by The Belly Rules the Mind

10. bABY’S fIRST pANCAKES
Baby's First Pancakes | 10 Easy Make-Ahead Baby-Led Weaning Recipes on CaliGirlCooking.com
by Eat Real Live Well