Inside: Find easy and healthy toddler lunch ideas. These simple ideas are great for toddlers, preschoolers, and even “big” kids. Whether you’re looking for make-ahead ideas, easy ways to reuse leftovers, or ideas you can throw together quickly – I’ve got you covered.
As I’m writing this post, we’re currently on week 8 (I think?) of “stay at home” orders. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the last 5 years, so this isn’t all that different for me.
That being said – the cooking & cleaning lately is just non-stop. Even though I’m used to being at home, I’m also used to being on-the-go, eating out, and packing lunches.
Cooking 3 meals a day, plus non-stop snacks for my family of 4 has just been, well, never-ending.
In search of healthy toddler lunch ideas…
On Instagram Stories I’ve been sharing lots of easy meal ideas in real-time. I’ve really just been snapping pictures of what I’m feeding the girls and posting it to Stories – no fancy food photography – just simple ideas straight to you! Plus sharing posts (like the one below) with helpful information you can save and come back to when you need some inspiration.
Help! My Toddler Doesn’t Eat Lunch…
Lunch is one of those weird meals, right? My girls like to eat a big breakfast and a small dinner – and lunch can really go either way.
But since we’ve been home all day, every day and playing outside A LOT, they’ve been eating more and more food at lunchtime. Which means I’m always coming up with new ideas to see what works, and of course, I’m always looking to reuse leftovers.
Now, many factors can influence how much your toddler eats at lunch:
- Growth spurt
- Hunger/Lack of
- Interest in food
- Picky eating / food preferences
More Toddler Meal Ideas
- Healthy Toddler Breakfast Ideas
- 2 Year Old Feeding Schedule (And Meal Ideas)
- Easy Toddler Meal Planner (Printable or Digital)
- When Your Toddler Won’t Eat Dinner
How many meals or snacks should my toddler eat in a day?
All kids are different! And please remember, I am not a pediatrician or a dietitian. Some days your toddler may eat nonstop and other days they may take one bite and be done. Yes, this is just life with a toddler.
- It’s important to take into account what your toddler eats throughout the week, not just in a single day.
- Toddlers are also known for front-loading their calories, meaning they may eat a huge breakfast, small lunch and even smaller dinner. This is normal.
- As kids get older, growth slows down a bit, so you may notice that your 4 year old eats less than your 2 year old.
- Most kids this age will need 3 meals and 2 snacks. That being said, it’s okay if your toddler is more (or less) hungry and requires more (or less) meals and snacks.
With that knowledge in mind, let’s look at what MyPlate considers to be an appropriate amount of food for a 2 year old in a day:
- 3 oz of grains (1 oz is a slice of bread, or half a cup of cooked oatmeal, rice or pasta)
- 1 cup of vegetables (5-6 broccoli florets or 4-5 bell pepper strips)
- 1 cup of fruit (½ a banana or 4-5 strawberries)
- 2 oz of protein (1 oz is an egg or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter)
- 2 cups of dairy (or dairy alternative)
Now remember, these serving suggestions are for an entire day! So you may be surprised to learn that your toddler is actually eating enough, and maybe even more – which is okay!
The key term here is also “suggestion” – there’s no need to break out the measuring cups and weigh or measure everything your child eats. And unless instructed by your pediatrician, there’s no need to restrict eating. I shared these figures so that hopefully they could provide some relief in terms of how much your toddler should be eating.
Easy & Healthy Toddler Lunch Ideas
Below you’ll find simple lunches I’ve served to my two girls (ages 2 & 4). Mix and match, use what you have on hand and don’t be afraid to repeat favorites!
- Tuna salad on mini pita bread, sliced cucumbers, chopped tomatoes & cheese cubes
- Cooked black beans, shredded cheese, avocado & chopped tomatoes
- Homemade pizza bites (bagel, marinara sauce, broccoli & cheese), cucumbers, sliced carrots, avocado & bell pepper slices
- Cheese & black bean quesadilla, sour cream, and sliced rainbow carrots.
Next up are some fun lunchboxes I made for my daughter in Pre-K. Even if you’re at home, you can still serve up their lunch in a lunchbox and have them eat outside for a little picnic.
You can find these lunchboxes + all of my best lunch-packing tips & gear in our Ultimate Preschool Lunchbox Planning Kit.
Lunchbox Tips for Toddlers
- The lunches above were all packed at the beginning of the school year, last August, when peaches & raspberries were in season here in the South. With that in mind, change up the fruit for whatever is in season for you!
- My girls love cucumbers & tomatoes, so you’ll see those veggies on repeat in my lunches. Sub in whatever your toddler’s favorite is. Adding a dip like hummus is always a good idea.
Make-Ahead / Meal Prep Lunch Ideas for Toddlers (And Mom)
Two of my favorite make-ahead lunch ideas are quesadillas and mini pizzas. I always have tortillas and mini naan bread in my freezer so I can easily prep these lunches in advance.
The ongoing joke between my husband and I is that if I had my own cooking show, it would be called “Can You Quesadilla It?” That’s pretty much my go-to with any type of leftovers. I just make a quesadilla out of it.
- Left: sheet pan quesadillas – line a sheet pan with foil and spray with oil. Lay out 4 tortillas, spread with refried beans, top with shredded cheese, and then top with another tortilla. Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes until crispy.
- Right: sheet pan mini pizzas – line a sheet pan with foil and spray with oil. Lay out 4 mini naan breads, spread with marinara sauce, top with shredded cheese. Bake at 400 F for about 10 minutes until crispy and melty.
How to make these lunches in advance
- After cooking, let cool completely.
- Wrap each quesadilla or pizza individually in foil, and store in an airtight plastic bag in the freezer. Will keep for about a month.
- If going to eat within the week, store in the fridge wrapped in foil, plastic or in glass storage container.
More Make-Ahead Ideas
Here are some of my favorite make-ahead toddler lunches. I’ll usually make one big batch of something (like beans) on Sunday or Monday and then just warm it up throughout the week. I’ve also included leftovers here, since technically, they’re made ahead!
- Black beans/pinto beans
- Chicken or tuna salad (keeps for 3-4 days in the fridge)
- Leftover pasta with pesto or marinara (serve with beans or leftover meatballs for extra protein)
- Chicken taco meat with rice, avocado, and chopped tomatoes
- Mini turkey burgers, meatballs, etc. (leftover for dinner)
- Last night’s pizza or make-ahead pizza