Inside: These easy lunchbox ideas for 1 year olds are perfect for preschool, daycare, or serving lunch at home. Quick and healthy ideas toddlers will love.
Today I’m going to share my secret lunch-packing strategy with you.
This strategy will change your life when it comes to packing lunches for your toddler.
But first. Do you ever get overwhelmed scrolling through Pinterest, sifting through hundreds of lunchbox ideas?
After pinning a million ideas, you may find yourself wondering:
- What can I put in my toddler’s lunch?
- How can I keep track of all these ideas?
- What kind of plan can I make for packing lunches?
Now, I love Pinterest just as much as anyone (and I also have several boards dedicated to lunchbox ideas), but if you don’t have a plan for how you’ll use all of these ideas you just saved, then that’s it – all you have are ideas, but no plan as to how you’ll execute them.
P.S. – Hi! I’m Marla, full-time SAHM to 3 little girls. If you’re all about step-by-step help, I teach a course called the Ultimate Stay at Home Mom Course that will help you take your stay at home mom life from chaos to controlled. There’s an entire module where you’ll learn how to feed your family (including packing lunches) without the stress! Learn more here.
What should a 1 year old eat for lunch?
Let’s start here.
If you came in search of daycare lunch ideas for 1 year olds or lunches you can serve at home, you’re in the right place – and this simple question will help us get started.
You *should* pack your 1 year old food that they like! That being said, from 12-18 months most babies/toddlers enjoy a variety of foods and have not become picky just yet.
Serve healthy foods (low in added salt/sugar), that are easy to eat and meet the nutritional needs of your growing toddler.
- Healthy fats: avocado, full-fat dairy or milk alternative for allergies, nut butters (thinly spread)
- Fruit: halved blueberries, sliced strawberries, raspberries, banana, soft-cooked apples or pears
- Protein: string cheese, shredded cheese, hummus, bite-size chicken bites, ground turkey/beef
- Carbs: Tortilla, pita, whole grain bread, muffins, pasta, etc.
- Crunchy: Cheddar bunnies, Puffs, Freeze-dried fruit, Cheerios
Now let’s put these examples together to see what you can put in your toddler’s lunchbox. This is where my “secret” strategy for packing lunches comes in.
We’ll get to my simple system below.
Related: 1 Year Old Meal Ideas & Feeding Schedule
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Easy Lunchbox Ideas for 1 Year Olds (Preschool, Daycare, or At Home)
Today I’m going to share my favorite healthy lunch ideas for 1 year olds including:
- Cold lunch ideas
- Finger foods
- No-cook lunches
These ideas can work whether you’re packing lunches for daycare, preschool or serving lunch at home for your 1 year old.
If you want to know my favorite gear for packing lunches, this post breaks down all of my favorite preschool lunchbox gear.
Read: Favorite Preschool Lunchbox Gear (Bento Boxes, Water Bottles + More)
Lunch-packing strategy for back-to-school:
Instead of being overwhelmed with hundreds of lunchbox ideas, I stick to 5 “main” ideas I know my 1 year old will like, and I fill the lunchbox in terms of categories.
- Main: Cheesy Broccoli Bites, Chicken & Sweet Potato Nuggets, PB&J, Pasta, and Tuna Salad
- Fruit and/or Veggie
- Crunchy + Dip
The ideas listed above are her favorite “main” lunches, and in addition to those ideas, I also add whatever fruit or veggies I have on hand, something snacky like puffs or bunnies, and usually hummus – as that’s an ultimate favorite.
While my 1 year old doesn’t attend preschool just yet, we are on-the-go a lot with my two older girls’ schedules so I’m often packing her lunches to take with us.
A friend once asked me how I came up with different lunches every day to pack my toddler and when I told her my “secret” strategy, she was shocked at how easy it was! No more endless pinning that ultimately leads to feeling like you have no idea what to pack.
Pick 5 main ideas and rotate them each week. Fill in the other categories with what you have on hand.
P.S. – Still feeling a little lost with packing lunches every day for your toddler? My Ultimate Toddler Lunchbox Guide covers EVERYTHING.
1. Easy Cheesy Broccoli Bites – great cold lunch idea
Get the recipe for the 4 Ingredient Cheesy Broccoli Bites, here.
2. Chicken & Sweet Potato Nuggets – easy to prep-ahead & freeze
I made the chicken bites by combining ground chicken and mashed sweet potato, then rolling in breadcrumbs. You can use a recipe or use your favorite store-bought option. Dr. Praeger’s makes some great freezer options!
3. PB&J – great finger food lunch option
When I shared this idea on IG someone asked if the white cubes were marshmallows – they’re not 😉 – it’s a Babybel cheese cut up. I also frequently get asked about Cheddar bunnies vs. Goldfish – I’ve found that in the 12-18 month range, Cheddar Bunnies are much easier to eat as they are soft and dissolve quickly. Goldfish on the other hand are very crunchy and can get really gummed up in their mouths, posing a choking hazard.
4. Pasta – easy go-to idea
Above is an example of how you can serve pasta at home (I wouldn’t give a 1 year old that cute food pick though, that’s just for the picture!)
Below is an example of how you can pack pasta in a thermos to keep it warm until lunch.
5. Tuna Salad – perfect “no cook” idea
While these are my 1 year old’s favorites lunches, your little one may of course have different favorites!
In order to keep lunch packing simple, take a moment and list their 5 favorites (or if they don’t really have favorites, just 5 ideas that are easy/realistic for you to make) – and then rotate those ideas each week!
What to Read Next:
- 1 Year Old Sleep Schedule (with 1 nap)
- My 1 Year Old’s Daily Routine
- What My 1 Year Old Ate in a Day
- Easy Preschool Lunchbox Ideas
- Healthy Toddler Lunch Ideas