PB&J getting a little old? Tired of waiting until 11:39am to figure out what you’ll feed the kids? You’re in luck! Today, I’m serving up 32 toddler lunch ideas that are easy, quick, and super doable.
The Anatomy of a Toddler Lunch
First, let’s go over the general guidelines I follow when coming up with new toddler lunch ideas.
Fruit or Veggies
I always aim to include a fruit or a veggie. You totally can serve both, but you don’t have to. Fruit & veggies can be fresh, frozen, canned, packaged– they all have benefits, so serve whatever you’ve got in the cupboard and in the budget.
Just be sure to look for fruits that don’t have added sugar. This means opting for canned or packaged fruit in 100% juice instead of syrup.
And of course, some days, I will serve a lunch or other meal without a fruit or veggie, and that’s okay. They will survive. Just make it up at the next meal or snack (or even tomorrow if your fridge and pantry are bare!).
Whole grains are the sh*t. No, seriously! They help to keep kids from getting constipated, which is why I try to include them in every meal I serve my kids.
I find that the best sources of whole grains for toddlers are whole grain breads, pastas, and crackers, so try and reach for these whenever you can.
Toddlers often have a better appetite at lunch than they do at dinner, which makes lunch a great time to include something new in their meal! As long as they’re at home, they’re way more likely to try a new food at this time of day.
That said, if you’re packing a lunch, you’ll want to make sure it’s mostly (or all) items they like. When they’re out, your main goal is to get them to eat enough fuel to make it through the rest of the day at daycare or preschool, so it’s unfair to them if you pack mostly unfamiliar foods or ones that you know they’re not crazy about.
My Favorite Toddler Lunch Products
Once you start looking through the toddler lunch ideas included below, you’ll probably notice that we rely heavily on a few go-to lunch packing items.
I’m linking all of the products I love most here, so that you can easily shop for any that happen to catch your eye!
For Lunch On-The-Go
Lunchbots Five Section Bento Box
Snack-Size Leak Proof Containers (love these for things like yogurt!)
For Lunch At Home
32 Toddler Lunch Ideas
Some of these are for my 5 year old and some for my 2 year old – I made a note when it’s a 5 year old lunch because some contain foods that are choking hazards for toddlers (like whole grapes, whole nuts). For a full list of choking hazards for toddlers see this post.
1: 1 can of salmon (lower in mercury than tuna and more mild tasting) with about 2-3 tbsp mayonnaise and 1 tsp dijon mustard (I split the can between the kids) with Triscuits and blueberries.
2: Chickpeas, hummus (she asked for some with her carrots), leftover noodles, thin sliced carrots and peppers.
3: Plain whole milk yogurt with a bit of Crofter’s Superfruit spread, frozen mixed veggies (still frozen, she likes them that way), pieces of cashews, whole wheat crackers.
4: Granola butter sandwich, chocolate butternut squash muffin, and fresh raspberries. Berries are one of my favorite fruits to pack because I don’t have to chop anything!
5: Leftover biscuit from dinner, a couple crackers, cheese stick (slice lengthwise for young toddler and can cut into half moon bite size pieces), blueberries, and cucumbers cut with veggie cutters.
6: Almond butter and Crofter’s jelly on whole wheat (bread recs here), raw broccoli, raspberries.
7: Eek bad lighting! Simple Mills crackers, 1/3 of a Nature Valley almond butter granola bar, pineapple, chickpeas, dates. This is a “help, the fridge is bare!” kind of lunch!
8: Chopped dried mango, cinammon topped yogurt, 1/2 of a Nature Valley almond butter granola bar, clementines, broccoli.
9: Zucchini banana bread muffins, carrots, hummus, triscuits, and oranges.
10: Simple Mills almond flour crackers, blueberries, mini black bean brownie bite, carrot chips, and hummus.
11: Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat, dates, pepper, sliced grapes (for my 2 year old). Pretzel sticks and whole grapes for my 5 year old.
12: Cashew butter sandwich, cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon, and seaweed snacks (surprising toddler favorite!).
13: 1/4 granola butter sandwich on Dave’s Killer Bread White Bread Done Right, egg whites (they don’t like the yolks), cucumber, chickpeas, zucchini banana bread mini muffins.
14: Leftover dinner roll with butter, orange, carrots, cucumber, hummus.
15: Slice of a peanut butter oatmeal bake (this recipe plus peanut butter swirled in), kiwi, and hard boiled egg.
16: Quinoa cooks up pretty quickly and is a good protein source! I served it with some Amy’s refried beans, steamed potato wedges with olive oil, and strawberries and cantaloupe.
17: Almond butter and honey roll up on a tortilla, leftover sauteed garlicky kale, and watermelon sticks. My kids at this kale before they got into their picky stage!
18: Leftover pasta with veggie packed tomato sauce, pb & j, avocado, carrots, clementines. I did the pb&j and pasta because I wasn’t sure what she would eat so I gave 2 options!
19: Raspberries, cheese crackers, leftover chicken, peppers, cucumber, carrot, and chickpeas. Chickpeas are a staple for us, but feel free to sub in black beans, pinto beans, or even peas!
20: Rice, black beans, and shredded cheese (I used microwave rice!) with cucumber sticks and freeze dried raspberries. Those are fun for a little crunch and are still packed with nutrition.
21: Raisins, roasted chicken from Trader Joe’s, egg whites (just because she didn’t want the yolk that day), cucumber strips. And 1/2 of an almond butter and jelly on whole wheat bread.
22: 1 tbsp canned pumpkin and 1 tsp honey mixed into plain whole milk Fage Greek yogurt, frozen peas, oranges. And a No Bake Nut Butter bar – I make these and freeze them for an easy grab and go option.
23: Rice cake for something crunchy, Pacific tomato soup, apple slices, leftover crispy baked chicken, leftover roasted parsnips and butternut squash.
24: Cream cheese and jelly with a “T” theme (I was feeling extra this day apparently). Along with broccoli “trees” and a couple carrots.
25: Butter and jelly on an english muffin, a hard boiled egg, and some watermelon and honeydew.
26: Top: carrot chips (near the baby carrots in the store), cashews, walnuts, craisins, unsweetened dried mango, carrot apple muffins. This was my 5 year old’s lunch.
Bottom: leftover chicken, carrots, muffin, craisins, cheerios, and dried mango cut into pieces.
27: Zucchini banana bread muffins, cucumbers, clementines, raisins, triscuits (bottom has hippeas and unsweetened applesauce).
28: This was one of those days I had very little food on hand! Nuts are filling so even though this doesn’t look like much, it can be enough for lunch! Celery and peppers, oranges, pieces of cashews, and Made Good chocolate chip granola minis.
29: Broccoli cheese soup (storebought), Blueberry Baked Oatmeal Cups with hemp seeds on top (similar to this recipe). Plus a strawberry and some cottage cheese mixed with strawberry jam.
30: Cottage cheese with leftover blueberries that were frozen and I cooked down to make more concentrated. Served with roasted broccoli, brussels, and snap peas in avocado oil and salt and pepper, 1/2 pb&j, watermelon.
31: Peppers, berries, cashews (chop up for your toddler), and banana bread.
Have a picky eater who won’t eat most of these things?
I’ve been there too. I know it’s frustrating when you scroll through and only come away with one or two ideas that your kid *might* eat.
There is tons of support here at Mama Knows Nutrition for picky eaters, including the Simple Steps to Picky Wins Course, helpful blog posts and podcast episodes, and one-on-one online consults!
Chris · September 16, 2022 at 9:21 am
Can I serve frozen veggies still frozen? A lot of the packages I have say that for safety reasons they need to be cooked.
Marybeth · September 15, 2022 at 8:23 pm
SO helpful! Thank you!