HEALTHY LUNCH IDEAS FOR TODDLERS
Try these healthy toddler lunch ideas when your little one needs a meal for preschool, daycare, or the sitter. They’re toddler meals that are easy to pack and that don’t need to be reheated to make things super easy for you.
Here are some of my go-to lunch ideas for toddlers. Adjust the serving sizes and what you pack alongside to both offer nutritional variety and to account for whether your child needs their snacks packed too.
TODDLER LUNCHBOX IDEA #1: HUMMUS SANDWICH
Spread hummus between slices of soft bread and cut into squares or small cubes, or place into a container and serve with whole grain crackers or sliced soft veggies like cucumbers or steamed carrots. We like Carrot Hummus and Creamy (Nut-Free) Hummus.
PRESCHOOL LUNCH IDEA #2: SPINACH AND CHEESE PIZZA ROLLS
Include some fruit, a simple dessert, and/or some cubed meat or beans to round out this easy pizza-inspired lunch. (You can pack it in a thermos—we LOVE this thermos—or cube it so it’s easy to eat chilled. These pizza rolls are soft on the inside, so they’re not too chewy even if chilled or at room temp. And change it up with pesto pizza rolls another week!
TODDLER LUNCH IDEA #3: EGG SNACK BOX
Slice or cube hard-boiled eggs and serve along side whole grain pita wedges, leftover waffles, or crackers. I like to add some fruit and a simple fun food like fruit leather, a few pieces of a favorite dried fruit, or your kiddo’s favorite snack. (P.S. Some toddlers take a while to learn to like the texture of hard cooked yolks and that’s okay—just send the whites for now.)
TODDLER LUNCHBOX IDEA #4: TODDLER TACO SALAD
Make a container with brown rice, black or pinto beans, diced veggies, cubed cheese, and some salsa (if your kiddo likes it) for a tot take on a taco salad. We really like pureed mild salsa stirred together with plain whole milk yogurt as a yummy dipping sauce for this sort of a meal.
pesto pasta salad lunch container.
PRESCHOOL LUNCH IDEA #5: PESTO PASTA SALAD
Either using store-bought or homemade pesto (like this Spinach Pesto), toss with pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cheese or chicken, and an easy veggie. Pair with fruit and a fun food to round out the meal.
TODDLER LUNCH IDEA #6: EGG AND CHEESE MINI MUFFINS
These easy to make egg muffins are good at room temperature or heated (and they work well to make-ahead). I love them since they have a veggie tucked right inside! Include whole grain crackers or pita bread, some fruit, and perhaps some beans or simple veggies along side.
KIDS LUNCHBOX IDEA #7: VEGGIE MUFFINS
These Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins, Carrot Cake Muffins, Savory Veggie Muffins, or Flourless Cocoa Muffins with protein and hidden veggies are a perfect lunch option. They’re a balanced meal all on their own and are easy to enhance with a side of yogurt or a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, and maybe a little cubed chicken, turkey, or ham.
EASY LUNCH IDEA #8: TORTILLA ROLL UPS
Spread Sunbutter or other favorite nut butter onto a soft flour or whole grain tortilla and top with a banana or whole-fruit jam. Roll up and slice. Add thawed edamame, puffs, clementine, or another favorite fruit and veggie alongside. Or, try spreading on cream cheese, add a piece of sliced turkey, and roll up into a simple wrap.
toddler-muffin-lunchKIDS LUNCH IDEA #9: HAM AND CHEESE BOX
Pair diced ham with shredded cheese and a whole grain bread or muffin as a sort of toddler-friendly sandwich. Add simple produce options such as thinly sliced cucumber and clementine to round it out. (You can use a different lunch meat or shredded cooked chicken or turkey if you prefer.)
TODDLER LUNCHBOX IDEA #10: SANDWICH BREAD SPIRALS
Roll soft whole grain sandwich bread flat and thin with a rolling pin. Spread on cream cheese and jelly, nut butter and jam, mashed sweet potato and nut butter, hummus, mashed beans and salsa, or herbed goat cheese. Slice and serve as spirals with simple sides like fruit and yogurt to round things out.
DAYCARE LUNCH IDEA #11: LEFTOVER PANCAKE OR WAFFLE SANDWICHES
The next time you have pancakes on the weekend, double the batch and place leftovers in the fridge or freezer. Spread nut butter (use Sunbutter if lunch needs to be allergy-free) or cream cheese and jam or honey between for a simple, but unexpected sandwich. Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, cheese, or berries on the side.
TODDLER LUNCHBOX IDEA #12: YOGURT AND GRANOLA
This is one of our favorite toddler lunch ideas, especially when it seems like we’re out of food! Layer granola (remove any big clumps or whole nuts) over yogurt. Add simple sides like fruit and tomatoes. The granola will soften a bit as it sits in the thermos to ensure it’s easy to chew.
TODDLER LUNCH IDEA #13: OVERNIGHT OATS WITH YOGURT AND BERRIES
There’s no reason you can’t do breakfast for lunch—and you could spoon this yogurt and oat mixture into a reusable pouch if it’s blended smooth if you think that will be easier for your toddler. Include sliced fresh veggies like halved cherry tomatoes, fresh snap peas, or shredded carrots or leftover roasted veggies, whole grain crackers, and/or some beans or shredded meat for added protein. (And this Applesauce Overnight Oats recipe can actually be stirred together in the morning and it will be soft enough by lunchtime—if you don’t think to do it the night before.)
EASY LUNCH IDEA #14: SNACK BOX
Add cheese (slices, cubes, or string cheese); meat (cut up deli meat, leftover shredded chicken or beef); thawed frozen peas or corn, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots; cut grapes, berries, melon, or another favorite fruit, to a lunchbox. Put in a few crackers or a favorite dry cereal and call it good with a simple, and toddler-pleasing snack lunch!
KIDS LUNCHBOX IDEA #15: SOFT-ROASTED CINNAMON CHICKPEAS
Pair these flavorful beans with whole grain crackers, diced veggies, cheese, and a piece of fruit for a simple snack lunch. (Or pair with leftover rice, shredded chicken, and roasted veggies.) They’re a little salty, a little sweet, and are packed with easy-to-eat nutrition.
HELPFUL TODDLER FEEDING TOOLS
- open cups
- smoothie cups
- booster seat
- suction plate
- lunch box
- reusable pouches
TODDLER DAILY NUTRITIONAL GUIDELINES
According to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrients of concern for underconsumption in a child’s second year are vitamin D, calcium, fiber, and potassium, so make sure your toddler gets a variety of foods with these nutrients daily.
Below are recommended daily intakes for toddlers of different ages. Still, it’s important to look at what your child eats throughout the whole week instead of focusing on each day since toddlers’ eating habits can be erratic and unpredictable. As long as you keep offering a variety of foods from all of the food groups, your child’s nutrition should balance out each week.
Daily Recommended Intake for Toddlers 12-23 months
- 700-1,000 calories a day split between 3 meals and 2 snacks
- Half of the daily calories should be from healthy fats
- 2/3 – 1 cup of vegetables daily
- ½ – 1 cup of fruit daily
- 1 ¾ – 3 ounces of grains daily
- 1 2/3 – 2 cups of dairy daily
- 2 ounces of protein daily
Daily Recommended Intake for Toddlers 2-4 years
- 1,000-1,400 calories a day for girls and 1,000-1,600 calories for boys split between 3 meals and 1-2 snacks
- Healthy fats should be reduced to about 30% of total daily calories
- 1-2 cups of vegetables daily
- 1- 1 ½ cups of fruit daily
- 3 – 5 ounces of grains daily
- 2 – 2 ½ cups of dairy daily
- 2 – 5 ounces of protein daily
HOW TO BUILD A TODDLER MEAL
A good method for building a well-balanced meal for 1-3-year-old toddlers is to include foods from a variety of food groups each day. You don’t have to have all food groups represented at every meal but make sure you offer a protein at all meals and snacks to help keep little bellies full.
A typical toddler plate should be made up of:
- half fruits and veggies
- a quarter of grains
- a quarter protein
- serving of dairy
When serving dairy products, give whole milk products until age 2. Focus on whole fruits instead of fruit juice and aim to make half of grains whole grains for more fiber and other nutrients.
Offer foods multiple times, even if your toddler acts like he does not like it, because it can take up to 15 times of being presented with a food for a child to develop a taste for it. Try offering foods cooked in a variety of ways so your toddler can explore different tastes and textures. Even better, serve your child what you are eating (in age-appropriate sizes, of course) and eat meals together so you can model healthy eating behaviors for them.
SAMPLE TODDLER MEAL PLAN
Below is a sample 5-day meal plan for toddlers. Feel free to use leftovers if you have them to add to the next meal. You can also add in sides of cut veggies and fruit that you have on-hand.
Breakfast: Blueberry Oatmeal with a cup of milk
Morning Snack: Whole Grain Cheese Crackers
Lunch: Turkey + Carrot Roll-Ups with a side of sliced strawberries and milk
Afternoon Snack: Healthy Spiced Apple Dip
Dinner: Chicken Parmesan Meatballs served with whole-wheat penne, side of asparagus, and a cup of milk
Breakfast: Avocado Egg Toast for Baby + Toddler with a cup of milk
Morning Snack: Healthy On-The-Go Granola Bars
Lunch: Mini Bagel Pizzas with Pepper “Sprinkles” with a side of cut cucumbers and pineapple, and a cup of milk
Afternoon Snack: Funfetti Energy Balls
Dinner: Taco Tuesday for Baby + Toddler with a side of oranges and milk
Breakfast: 3-Ingredient Banana Pancakes with milk
Morning Snack: Strawberry Applesauce with a cheese stick
Lunch: leftover Taco Tuesday for Baby + Toddler with a side of peaches and milk
Afternoon Snack: Chewy Mint Chocolate Granola Bars
Dinner: Crispy Salmon Bites with a side of green beans and milk
Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Yogurt Bark
Morning Snack: Applesauce Mini Muffins
Lunch: Easy Tomato Soup with Cheesy Bread Dippers, side of blueberries and a cup of milk
Afternoon Snack: Funfetti Energy Balls
Dinner: Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Slaw with a side of baked sweet potatoes and milk
Breakfast: Cottage Cheese + Fruit Bowl with a side of whole-wheat toast
Morning Snack: Healthy On-The-Go Granola Bars
Lunch: Kale + Spinach with Apple Quesadilla and milk
Afternoon Snack: Chewy Mint Chocolate Granola Bars
Dinner: Crispy Seasoned Fish with Pineapple & Avocado Chunks with a side of rice and milk
PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA ROLLUPS SNACK BOX
God forbid those PB&B rollups touch that celery, right? These snack boxes let you meal prep—and give kids plenty of options to choose from.
2. BROCCOLI PESTO PASTA
We’re not saying you should lie, but if you don’t tell ’em there’s broccoli in there, they won’t know.
3. SOFT AND CHEESY PEPPERONI PIZZA PUFFS
They’re made with whole wheat flour for a boost of nutrition.
4. TIC TAC TOE SANDWICHES
Whoever came up with “don’t play with your food” had never eaten one of these sandwiches
5. SWEET POTATO NOODLE HAM AND CHEESE CUPS
The ability to eat their lunch with their fingers is a major plus.
6. 4-INGREDIENT BANANA PANCAKES
Pancakes for lunch? Listen, it’s all about choosing your battles.
9. HOMEMADE CRISPY BAKED FISH STICKS
The eternal question: To dip, or not to dip?
11. BAKED QUINOA CHICKEN NUGGETS
They might not be shaped like dinosaurs, but they’re just as easy to make and taste a lot better, too. The quinoa breading is crispy, the chicken is moist—they’re practically begging to be dipped in barbecue sauce.
16. TURKEY SPINACH PINWHEELS MEAL PREP
Kiddo hates turkey? Swap in ham or chicken. No-go on the spinach? Skip it. These easy lunchboxes are endlessly adaptable—pick whatever fruit and veggie they like.
1: Cream cheese fruit crackers, warmed corn with a pinch of paprika and chopped avocado with a squeeze of lime juice.
To make Cream Cheese Fruit Crackers – spread whipped cream cheese on top of your toddler’s favorite crackers. Dollop a teaspoon of banana, blueberry & avocado coldpuree pouch (or your favorite jam) on top and serve. You can keep the rest of the pouch for a healthy snack later on in the day.
2: Butternut squash mac and cheese + peas, apple ring with cinnamon and orange sections. I used this veggie cutter to cut the flower into the apple.
To make Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese + Peas – prepare the noodles from a normal size box of mac & cheese (this is our favorite brand). Follow the instructions for making the cheese sauce except only use half of the package of cheese powder and instead add in 2 heaping tablespoons of just butternut squash puree. I sprinkle the leftover cheese powder onto homemade popcorn for a fun mom snack:). Stir in the noodles and 1/3 cup fresh or frozen peas and serve. Wanna make it homemade? Here is my very popular recipe for homemade Butternut Squash ‘Mac & Cheese’.
3: Mango rice + edamame, roasted beets with nutmeg and pretzels.
To make Mango Rice with Edamame – In a small skillet over medium/low heat, whisk together 2 tablespoons just mango puree, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and a pinch of garlic powder. Add in 2 cups of cooked rice and 1/2 cup shelled edamame and stir until everything is incorporated. Feel free to add in some leftover chopped eggs into this recipe for a more authentic fried rice dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve. Fast Tip – I always keep a bag of frozen pre-cooked rice in my freezer for fast meals like this one.
4: Cubed cheddar cheese, hard boiled egg with pepper, green bean and turkey roll-ups, pumpkin yogurt and chopped raspberries.
To make Pumpkin Yogurt – spoon some Greek yogurt into a small bowl or section of the plate. Place a cookie cutter (any shape works here) into the yogurt and gently press down. Spoon in just pumpkin puree and push around the puree until the entire cookie cutter shape is covered. Gently remove the cutter. Any puree or jam will also work in this recipe (recipe for easiest homemade jam can be found here).