Serving a variety of healthy foods is important for creating a lifetime of good eating habits for your toddler. Fixing a fun and nutritious lunch for your toddler doesn’t have to be a chore. Several of these meal ideas are dishes that your toddler can help prepare, which often increases their willingness to try the finished product. Many can be made ahead of time and froze, so you don’t have to sacrifice nutrition for speed and simplicity. Mix and match these ideas to create a fun and healthy lunch for your toddler.
This is a great way to use up leftover beef or chicken. Beans and rice are delicious, too. Use a rolling pizza cutter to easily cut the quesadilla into bite size pieces for your toddler.
2) Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken noodle soup freezes well, so make a big batch ahead of time and freeze it in lunch-size portions. Just as fast as canned soup, but your homemade soup will be so much tastier!
3) Parmesan Pasta
Have leftover spaghetti noodles? Warm them up, then toss with a little bit of butter or olive oil and frozen peas. Shred fresh parmesan over the dish.
4) Pizza Bread
Roll out a package of refrigerated pizza dough. Sprinkle mozzarella and pizza toppings, such as mushrooms and pepperoni, over the dough, then roll it up. Bake as directed on package. Cut into thin slices and serve with a small dish of pizza sauce for dipping. If you don’t have any jarred pizza sauce, mix some garlic, basil, and oregano into canned tomato sauce.
5) Cottage Cheese and Fruit
One cup of cottage cheese provides your toddler with one third of the daily recommended amount of calcium. Serve with slices of pears or peaches to make it more colorful.
6) Snack Lunch
Make your own snack-style lunch with leftover roast chicken or turkey cut into chunks, cheese cubes, and wheat crackers. Hard boiled eggs, grapes, olives, and other small finger foods are fun additions to this snack lunch.
7) Fruit and Yogurt Dip
Toddlers love to dip. Serve any combination of fruits such as apple slices, strawberries, melon chunks, pears, and bananas with a little vanilla yogurt. Sprinkle some granola or even a small dusting of cake sprinkles on the yogurt to make it more visually appealing.
8) Chicken or Tuna Salad Sandwiches
Mix tuna or shredded chicken with a little bit of mayo, finely chopped onion and celery, and a sprinkling of black pepper. Serve on whole wheat bread with a pickle on the side.
9)Mac and Cheese
Dress up this old favorite with some steamed broccoli and ham mixed in.
10) Beef Stew
Like chicken noodle soup, beef stew can be made ahead of time and frozen in lunch size portions. Use beef broth for a base, then add in veggies such as carrots, celery, and corn. If you’re going to freeze it, don’t use potatoes as their texture changes when frozen. Barley is a great whole grain add-in that is soft and small for toddlers to handle.
11) Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serve sliced cucumbers and diced tomatoes tossed with a little bit of vinegar or italian dressing.
12) Meatloaf Minis
Use your favorite recipe for meatloaf, but instead of baking in a loaf pan, use a muffin tin to make toddler-size servings. Fill each muffin space halfway with your meatloaf mixture, add a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, then add more meatloaf mixture on top. Bake until cooked through, and freeze extras for future lunches.
13) Personal Pizzas
Using pita pockets, english muffins or hoagie rolls for the crust, spread a little tomato sauce on and then hand over the personal pizza to your toddler. Provide pizza toppings such as mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, green peppers, olives, mushrooms, onion, pepperoni and let your toddler top the pizza on their own. Toast the personal pizza in your toaster oven or regular oven.
14) Ham and Broccoli Pockets
Lay out a square of refrigerated croissant dough. Top one of the square with a mixture of sliced ham, broccoli, and shredded cheddar cheese. Fold over and pinch the sides shut. Bake until croissant dough is cooked through and cheese is melted.
15) Peanut Butter Dippers
Let your toddler dip various finger foods into peanut butter. Suggestions: apple slices, carrot sticks, bananas, and pretzels.
16) Chicken Nuggets and Sweet Potato Fries
Homemade or from the freezer section, chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries are always a big hit with toddlers.
Who says that pancakes are only for breakfast? Mix and match breakfast foods such as pancakes, waffles, french toast, fruit salad, sausage, bacon, and eggs to make a quick lunch for your toddler.
18) Ham Rolls
Lay out a slice of ham lunch meat. Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on, then top with a pickle spear. Roll up and secure with a toothpick.
19) Mini Bagels
Mini bagels are the perfect size for toddlers. You can buy all kinds of varieties, such as whole wheat or cinnamon raisin. Top with your favorite nut butter or cream cheese, or even make a miniature sandwich out of it. Serve with a cup of applesauce on the side.
20) Fried Rice
Make a healthier version of this take out favorite. Saute whatever veggies you have on hand, such as carrots, mushrooms, or peas, with a little bit of ginger. Scramble an egg in a separate pan, then toss in with the veggies. Add in cooked rice (cold, leftover rice is best). Toss in a little soy sauce or sesame oil, and serve.
21) Grilled Cheese
Another lunch favorite. To make this classic healthier, use whole wheat bread and quality cheese. 1-2 year olds need fats for healthy brain development, but if you don’t want to use butter to grill the sandwich, try spraying the pan with a little bit of cooking spray. A slice of tomato on a grilled cheese sandwich is yummy, too.
Spaghetti is a dinner favorite, but in reality it is just as fast as boxed macaroni and cheese. Use jarred sauce or make your own.
23) Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Serve on soft whole wheat bread. Add jelly, thinly sliced apples, a touch of honey, or banana to dress it up. You can also cut sandwiches into fun shapes with cookie cutters to make them more visually appealing to your toddler.
24) Turkey Roll Ups
Spread cream cheese lightly on a tortilla. Layer on a slice of turkey lunch meat and piece of lettuce, then roll up. Serve rolled up, or cut it into medallions. This is easy enough that your toddler can help you build it.
Mix ground beef or turkey with finely diced onion, bread or cracker crumbs, an egg, and your favorite seasonings. Roll into small balls and then bake until cooked through. These can be made ahead of time and frozen in small portions for a quick lunch. Serve on their own, with a helping of spaghetti, or even on the personal pizzas.
26) Mini Chicken Pot Pies
Another lunch idea that can be made ahead of time and frozen. Make a chicken “gravy” by melting butter in a sauce pan, then stirring in chicken broth, milk, flour, and a sprinkle black pepper. Make your own pie crust or use a store bought one. Roll out the pie crust, then cut large circles out with a glass or cup. Fill a muffin tin with the pie crust circles. In each pie, put a few chunks of cooked chicken, some veggies (carrots and peas are especially delicious in pot pie), and a spoonful of the gravy you made. Top with another pie crust circle, then bake in the oven until pie crusts are cooked through.