What To Pack My Toddler For Lunch

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Okay so you have a toddler, but what should you pack them for lunch? They’re in that age where they can be pretty picky and they eat more than an adult. It’s easy to make mistakes (especially if you’re new mom/dad) so I’m going to give you some great tips on what to pack my toddler for lunch.

If you’re like me, you wonder what to pack my toddler for lunch all day long. You might think it’s time consuming or too complicated. Just hear me out… I’ve got a system!

What To Pack My Toddler For Lunch

Thank you to Juicy Juice for sponsoring this post. Chef Jeff Mauro has paired up with Juicy Juice to share some of his favorite flavorful and fun school lunch ideas, too.

I love seeing all of the cute and creative lunches that people pack for their kids. They cut out fun shapes, draw pictures on their food, make pirates and animals and everything in between. But, I see them and I think, yeah, I’m totally not that creative at all. I’m sure my kids would appreciate it, but I just can’t get myself to do it. Plus, it always seems like so much work (I know, it’s probably not)!

juicy juice for lunch and swimming

We are over 7 years into packing school lunches, and they all make it a challenge! But, also keeping them easy and still enjoyable for the girls.

So, if somebody is looking for some easy meals to pack for preschoolers and even toddlers, I thought this could help, or at least give you some ideas.*

EASY PRESCHOOL LUNCHES

The preschooler has been a little more demanding with her lunches this year, but we’ve found some winners. Having compartmentalized lunch containers really helps. And, the silicon cupcake liners add a little more separation if you need it.

{Mango with a grid cut on it, cutie/clementine, peas, left-over homemade baked chicken nuggets, cheese tortellini and GoGo squeeZ pouch}

Sometimes we go the totally easy route, pack a PB&J, a clementine, some goldfish and a Juicy Juice box (on Fridays). You can’t go wrong with a classic and don’t have to overthink lunches.

Easy preschool lunch

Other times, you get a little more adventurous.

Bento Lunch Boxes for Toddlers/Preschool

{Bagel with cream cheese, green beans, grapes, tortellini, applesauce}

Bento Lunch Boxes for Toddlers/Preschool

{green beans, tortellini, grapes, vanilla wafers, GoGo squeeZ Fast Fruit}

Bento Lunch Boxes for Toddlers/Preschool

{carrots + ranch, homemade pickled okra, bagel with cream cheese and jelly, GoGo squeeZ, cheese and whole wheat crackers}

EASY TODDLER LUNCHES

I was definitely more worried about what to send an 18 month old to school with for lunch. I make sure everything is cut up so the teachers don’t have to worry about the size of the food and try to find things she enjoys. Not pictured in any of these lunches are cherry/grape tomatoes which she absolutely loves and/or black beans which I will also send.

Bento Lunch Boxes for Toddlers/Preschool

{cut up tortellini, goldfish crackers, green beans, halved grapes}

Bento Lunch Boxes for Toddlers/Preschool

{GoGo squeeZ appleberry pouch, cheese stick, cut up mango, goldfish crackers, peas, cut up tortellini in Easy Lunchboxes}

These make easy and quick lunches at home, too. Pack them with the other kids lunches and your little will feel like a big kid!

LUNCH BOX IDEAS: 6 METHODS FOR EASY PACKING

Take the fuss out of coming up with lunch box ideas for school or daycare with 6 simple methods to customize every which way for your kid’s preferences.lunchbox ideas for kids in grid

HEALTHY LUNCH BOX IDEAS

Coming up with daily ideas for packing kids lunch boxes is no easy feat, but narrowing the vast options down to five simple methods can go a long way towards making it easier. I hope these ideas help you pack nutritious school lunches that your kids enjoy eating!

cheese plate lunch in bento boxLUNCH BOX IDEA #1: KID’S CHEESE PLATE

While it may be true that cheese plates are a staple of adult parties, the concept can also make packing school lunches easier!

Combine cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, veggies, and/or sliced meats for an easy-to-eat lunch that toddlers will love. Vary the type of each component for endless variations on this idea to pack all year long.

sandwich lunches for kids in bento boxesLUNCH BOX IDEAS #2: YUMMY SANDWICHES

If you are stuck in a turkey and cheese rut, try these ideas, either packed cold or warm in a thermos. You can pack them assembled or deconstructed with the elements side by side depending on the age of your kiddo and their chewing ability.

  1. Cream cheese and jam
  2. Cheddar cheese and apple butter
  3. Salami and cheese
  4. Hummus and sliced cucumbers
  5. Ham and cheese
  6. Sliced hard-cooked eggs and cheese
  7. Sunbutter and jam
  8. Chicken cutlets or tenders and lettuce
  9. Tuna or salmon salad
  10. Sliced meatballs with cheese

TIP: You never know what the kids will like so don’t “yuck” their “yum”. My oldest likes lettuce and cheese sandwiches—why not?!

pancakes in insulated lunchboxLUNCH BOX IDEA #3: BREAKFAST FOR LUNCH

Who says breakfast foods can’t served for other meals? Not me! And they are often ones that kids love, and are easy to pack. Try these ideas for healthy school lunches:

  1. Overnight oats
  2. Leftover pancakes with maple syrup or sandwiched with nut or seed butter or cream cheese.
  3. Muffins with a side of fruit and cheese.
  4. Hard-cooked eggs with fruit, veggies, and crackers
  5. Egg muffins with simple sides
  6. A snack box with dry cereal, fruit, veggies, and a simple protein source like a cheese stick or turkey lunchmeat
  7. Banana bread with simple sides and milk
  8. Scrambled eggs with cheese in a thermos with simple sides
  9. French Toast Sticks with nut or seed butter and syrup
  10. Breakfast burrito

TIP: I love using a kids thermos to pack warm foods for school and preschool.

mac and cheese in lunchboxKIDS LUNCH BOX IDEA #4: PASTA

Pasta is easy to make ahead and in bulk, and it packs up so well in a thermos. Add whichever simple sides your kids like to these go-to lunch ideas for pasta. You can also swap in any other grains in place of pasta too!

  1. Pasta and Peas with Spinach Pesto
  2. Pasta with Broccoli Pesto
  3. Noodles with Peanut Sauce (use Sunbutter if needed for peanut-free)
  4. Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
  5. Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
  6. Sausage Pasta with Green Beans
  7. Broccoli Pasta
  8. Stir Fry Noodles with Veggies
  9. Citrus Noodles with Shrimp
  10. Boxed mac and cheese with broccoli or peas

TIP: I often set aside some dinner for the next’s days lunch, then simply warm it up and pack it for lunch in a thermos.

snack lunch boxes for kidsKIDS LUNCHBOX CONCEPT #5: SNACKY LUNCH

You can assemble your little one’s favorite snacks into a nutritious and balanced lunch very easily if you cover the food groups. Try to include at least one carbohydrate and one protein, then 1-3 produce options.

  • Complex carbohydrates that we like include whole grain crackers, flat bread, toast, dry whole grain cereal, a granola bar, or whole grain pretzels.
  • Favorite proteins are sliced meat or poultry, hard-boiled egg, cheese, beans, edamame, nuts, puffed or roasted chick peas, seeds, or nut butter.
  • Good fruits for lunch boxes include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, sliced kiwi, grapes, small bananas, dried fruit and freeze-dried fruit.
  • Easy veggies for kids lunches include cucumbers, snap peas, roasted zucchini, carrot sticks, Roasted Carrot Fries, cherry tomatoes, thawed frozen peas, thawed frozen corn, and whatever else your kids enjoy!

TIP: Halve grapes as needed for little kids.

kids lunchbox with soup, waffles, and berriesHEALTHY LUNCH BOX IDEAS #6: LEFTOVERS

If you have a kids thermos and pack leftovers with simple and yummy sides, it’s a great way to use up the food you have and nourish the kids. Try not to pack foods that the kids didn’t eat the first time around and check in with them when packing to make sure the lunch sounds good to them! Some leftovers we love to pack:

  • Quesadillas
  • Pasta
  • Chili
  • Pasta and meatballs
  • Chicken soup
  • Pancakes or waffles

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.

breakfast-for-lunch-in-omieboxTODDLER 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-lunches-for-toddlersEASY 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.

BEST TODDLER LUNCHBOX

I specifically love the Easy Lunchboxes and the OmieLife Bento Box with one insulated compartment for packing foods you want to stay warm or cold. The Lunchbots thermos is also a great option for packing hot foods. I’ve been trying out lunchboxes for the past 5 years and I have 5 distinct favorites based on price and how you’ll use them.

TIP: You can find my favorite toddler lunchboxes here.

MY DAYCARE WON’T REHEAT OR REFRIGERATE LUNCHES—ANY TIPS?

Yes, here are some ways to ensure you keep the food safe until lunch time and also have options for what to send.

  1. First, get a thermos. This will help cold foods stay cold and hot foods stay hot and give you a lot more options for the types of foods you can send.
  2. Second, use at least two thin ice packs on either side of the lunch (however you pack it—in a lunchbox or in a plastic bag).
  3. Third, consider freezing an applesauce pouch, a yogurt tube, or a shelf stable milk container to add more coldness as they will thaw by lunchtime. I even heard of a mom who froze her son’s cheese sticks to help keep the food cold and they also thawed in time for lunch.
  4. Keep meals simple. It’s okay to rely more on snack boxes or simple sunflower seed and jam sandwiches, especially if this is a temporary situation. (But even if it’s not!)
  5. Do your best and remember that you have a lot of challenging constraints on packing lunches that are making this really hard—it’s not you!
  6. If you need disposable lunch packaging, this post has disposable lunch box and containers.

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