One of the most hair-raising experiences a mother can have is thinking of healthy lunch ideas for 3 year olds. With your toddler constantly hovering over your shoulder and dropping hints, this can get pretty stressful. The thought of fighting your child for control will make you want to give in and feed him whatever is easiest for you. This can lead to health issues like obesity or diabetes later on in life, but also could cause problems where you have to change your teenager’s diet. Recipes like this are created with your toddler in mind, so he should love it!
Healthy Lunch Ideas For 3 Year Olds
Do you ever wonder what other people feed their kids? I know I do, because when you are the sole person responsible for feeding your kids breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks every single day, it’s pretty understandable that one may run out of ideas or need a little inspiration from time to time! Below is a sample menu for a 3-year-old. This is simply an example of what one mom (me!) feeds her son. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I try to mix up the food options as much as I can so that it encourages healthy nutrition and an open palate.
7:30 AM: BREAKFAST IS SERVED!
Examples of breakfast options:
- Steel cut oats with vanilla, cardamom, and nutmeg (Sow Your Oats recipe from the What a Good Eater! cookbook)
- Plain yogurt (sometimes with a teaspoon of almond/peanut butter mixed in for protein and to keep them full longer)
- Cereal with milk (Raisin Bran, shredded wheat, etc.)
- Eggs, toast, and a slice of cheese (typically scrambled eggs, Poached Eggs recipe from the What a Good Eater! cookbook, or fried eggs)
- Blueberry waffles (sometimes with almond/peanut butter and fresh berries on top)
- Pancakes (typically on special weekends)
Drink: Milk or water in a cup
11:00 AM: IT’S LUNCH TIME!
Examples of lunch options:
- Dinner leftovers from the previous night (convenient and healthy!)
- Avocado, Hummus, Tomato Sandwich from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Peanut/Almond Butter and Jelly Sandwich
- Scarborough Fair Grilled Cheese from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Basil and Kale Frittata from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Eggs, toast, and a slice of cheese (scrambled eggs, poached eggs, or fried eggs)
- Black bean burrito with cheese on whole wheat tortilla
Options to serve on the side of the lunch course:
- Diced fruit (avocado, pear, berries, watermelon, grapes, peach, apricot, plum, tomato, mango, etc.)
- Diced vegetables (brightly colored bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc.)
- Cottage cheese
- Hummus with unsalted pretzels
Drink: Water or milk in a cup
3:30 PM: SNACK TIME!
Examples for snack time:
- Diced fresh fruit (apples, plums, berries, oranges, kiwi, etc.)
- Dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, blueberries, etc.)
- Apple Cinnamon Sticks
- Whole wheat crackers with cheese, peanut butter, or almond butter
- Cheese (try all kinds – gouda, cheddar, mozzarella, goat cheese, etc.)
- Cottage cheese
- Unsalted nuts
- Unsalted pretzels
- Diced vegetables (bell pepper, cucumber, broccoli, carrots) with salad dressing for dipping sauce
- Cookie (We love moderation!)
Drink: Water or milk in a cup
5:30 PM: DINNER’S READY!
Note: If we’re cooking dinner at home, our kids are expected to eat what the family eats for dinner, and we rarely make exceptions. When possible, we try to include a protein, whole grain, and/or vegetable in the meal.
Examples of dinner options:
- Chicken thighs with vegetables and fresh herbs
- Basil Spinach Meatballs
- Grilled chicken thighs marinated in lemon juice and herbs
- Grilled salmon on a cedar plank
- Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Whole wheat pasta tossed with marinara sauce, fresh vegetables, and herbs
- Chicken Tikka Masala from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Turkey cutlets from the What a Good Eater! cookbook
- Steak (my husband makes a great steak!!)
Options to serve on the side of the dinner course:
- Vegetables (roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, spinach, kale, green peas, etc.)
- Sauerkraut (an excellent probiotic for kids packed with fiber and nutrition!)
- Whole grain (farro, bulgur, barley, wild rice, brown rice, etc.)
Drink: Water or milk in a cup
10 Toddler Meal Ideas for 3 Year Olds
A list of 40 easy and toddler-approved toddler meal ideas for 3 year olds based on what my toddler eats every day.
I’ve compiled more than a month of toddler lunch ideas (that could be used for snacks or dinner too!). 3 year old toddler meal ideas that are easy, healthy, nutritious, and mom-approved.
Help prevent mealtime decision fatigue and add some of these easy 3 year old toddler lunch ideas to your meal rotation. Simple ingredients and most require little to no cooking!
You might also like these related posts:
- Easy Toddler Meal Ideas: 21 Meals for the Week
- Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas for 2 Year Olds
- How To Make A Toddler Snack Plate Lunch + 30 Toddler Lunch Ideas
Red more from my meal idea series >>> Meal Ideas
3 Year Old Toddler Meal Ideas
Before we jump in I want to share some of my favorite toddler feeding supplies that help with mealtime. You will see these pictured below:
Toddler Preschool Lunchbox Ideas
Toddler Meal Idea Side Dishes
I love using divided plates because it makes it easy to visualize toddler portion size (it’s a good place to start but allow your child to eat until they are full) and reminds me to serve healthy, nutritious sides. Here are some side dish ideas:
- Whole milk yogurt
- Sliced, shredded, or string cheese
- Unsweetened applesauce
- Thinly sliced apples
- Mandarin orange
- Grapes (halved or quartered)
- Canned fruit (in 100% juice)
- Thawed frozen fruit
- Baby carrots
- Broccoli w/ ranch dressing
- Bell pepper
- Graham crackers
Easy Toddler Meal Ideas 1-4
- Pretzels w/ guacamole: we love the flat pretzel crisps with dips like guacamole for dipping. Side of green smoothie and cheddar cheese. (Cup shown: Elk & Friends Glass Toddler Cup)
- Bagel w/ cream cheese: toasted bagels are great for older toddlers who have all their teeth and are very comfortable chewing (bagels can be chewy). Side of unsweetened cinnamon apple sauce, grapes, and string cheese.
- Cheese tortilla roll up: tortilla sprinkled with cheese and then rolled up and cooked on the stove. Side of sour cream (or greek yogurt) for dipping, carrots, and frozen wild blueberries.
- PB&J bites: peanut butter (or other butter) and jelly sandwich made toddler size by cutting into bite sized pieces. Side of baby carrots with cream cheese and string cheese.
3 Year Old Meal Ideas 5-8
- Broccoli eggs & cheese: make scrambled eggs but toss in some chopped broccoli for a more nutritious twist. Side of whole milk yogurt with blueberries and chicken sausage.
- Turkey & cheese roll ups: lay sliced cheese or string cheese on a piece of turkey and roll up tightly. Side of apples with peanut butter and baby carrots. (Food picks pictured: Fun Animal Food Picks)
- Pizza: leftovers make easy lunches! Leftover bbq chicken pizza with sides of avocado with everything but the bagel seasoning (EBB) and thawed frozen mango.
- Egg & cheese quesadilla: quesadilla filled with scrambled eggs and cheese. A breakfast quesadilla can be easier for toddlers and preschoolers to eat compared to a full breakfast burrito. Side of thawed frozen mango, chicken sausage, and avocado with EBB.
Toddler Meal Ideas 9-12
- Pancake dippers: cut pancakes into strips to make them a fun toddler-friendly finger food. Served with side of maple syrup for dipping and whole milk yogurt.
- Turkey & cheese grilled pinwheels: lay out a slice of bread and top with turkey and cheese then tightly roll up. Cook in butter on all sides until crispy like grilled cheese then cut into slices or pinwheels. Side of cucumber with cream cheese and sliced pears. (Food picks pictured: Fun Animal Food Picks)
- Scrambled egg sandwich: serve scrambled cheesy eggs inside an english muffin (or toast) to make a toddler-friendly breakfast favorite. Side of extra eggs, avocado, kiwi, and a homemade cereal bar.
- Chili: loaded chili served deconstructed. Chili with sour cream, crackers, shredded cheese, and avocado.
8 PRESCHOOL AND KINDERGARTEN SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS
KINDERGARTEN LUNCH IDEAS
Are you struggling to come up with school lunch ideas for your toddler, preschooler or kindergartener?
Then you’ve come to the right place 👋!
I’ve spent the last 5 years making it my mission to create EASY and NUTRIENT-PACKED lunches. I even wrote an entire cookbook dedicated to school lunches!
Below you will find tips, tricks, printables, my favorite school lunch packing tools as well as 68 IRL examples of healthy school lunches.
Bonus – most of the lunches below only took me 5 minutes to pack 👍!
REASONS TO LOVE THESE SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS:
- great for ages 3-6
- can be used for inspiration for older kids – just pack more
- perfect packed lunches at home or school
- fun foods so they will eat
- hidden veggies
- can be used for any bento box you own
- 13 weeks of lunch ideas
- all real school lunches
- my kids devoured (most of) these lunches below
TIPS ON HOW TO PACK BENTO BOXES
I live by two Bento Packing Principles – protein and color.
That’s really it! After I get those items packed, the rest of the lunch usually falls right into place.
TIP #1 – PACK A PROTEIN
Packing a good and healthy source of protein 🍗🥚🥜 into each lunch box is key for making kids feel full and energized all afternoon long. Some of our favorite protein sources are: hummus, Greek yogurt, hardboiled eggs, almond/seed/peanut butter, beans, edamame, cheese or chicken.
TIP #2 – MAKE IT COLORFUL
I live by the #eattherainbow method when it comes to lunches 🌈 (and I’m not talking about skittles here;). The goal is to try to pack the entire rainbow of colors into each and every lunch.
Why am I so into this philosophy of eating? It’s pretty simple.
By packing lunches full of color I know, without a degree in nutrition, that my girls are getting a variety of nutrients from each fruit and veggie I pack.
Colorful Food = Healthy Food
Although it might sound pretty labor-intensive to pack a ton of different colored produce in a lunch, I promise you that it’s actually as hard as you think! Once you open up your fridge and start poking around, you will be able to find a ton of colorful fruits and veggies that are perfect for your kiddos lunches.
TIP #3 – GET THE PRINTABLE
Make your life even easier and get these FREE printables – one for planning out kindergarten school lunches and the other with over 100 easy school ideas to keep you inspired! Head to the full post here – 100 Healthy School Lunch Box Ideas (FREE Printables!).
1. Spiced sweet potato mini muffins, peach chunks + blackberries, cherry tomatoes, Annie’s bunnies and chopped pears in the Innobaby Bus Bento.
2. Beet + apple hummus with rainbow veggie dippers, multigrain crackers, strawberries, yogurt covered pretzels and dried pineapple in the Planetbox Bento.
3. Fajita chicken quesadilla, dried cranberry + pistachios mix, chopped peaches, cherry tomatoes and a couple of dark chocolate chips (in the yellow container) in the Planetbox Bento.
4. Pesto + spinach pita pizza (recipe in book), pineapple, chocolate covered sunflower seeds (in the pink container), ants-on-a-log, mandarin oranges+ blueberries and Annie’s chocolate bunnies in the Planetbox Bento.
5. BBQ chicken pita pizza with corn and bacon, melon balls, carrot slices and raisins in the Ecolunchbox Bento.
6. Healthy chocolate zucchini bread with cream cheese, grapes + blackberry finger salad, yellow peppers and dip, Annie’s organic yogurt and cashew pieces in the Planetbox Bento.
7. BBQ chicken pizza, snap peas and dip, pineapple + honeydew + blackberry finger salad, strawberries and pomegranate seeds and raisins in the Planetbox Bento.
8. Leftover tomato + corn + walnut couscous salad, watermelon, avocado chunks, baby carrots and dark chocolate chips in the Planetbox Bento.