25 Healthy Toddler Lunch IdeasThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
These 25 quick and easy toddler lunch ideas are the perfect way to introduce healthy foods that taste great. Even picky kids can’t resist the flavors in these fun and balanced meals, and you’ll be so glad you made them! As an added bonus, they work for big kid lunches too!
Coming up with toddler lunch ideas for preschool, daycare, or just for taking on the go can be a challenge! How do you create lunchtime recipes for kids that are tasty, healthy, and that your kids will actually eat?
These lunch ideas for toddlers will give you a quick and easy, go-to list of meals that are both delicious and nutritious. Once your kids have tried these incredible lunches, they will be eating healthy without even realizing it.
While these lunch ideas are perfect for toddlers and young kids, I won’t tell anyone if you make some for yourself! They’re so easily adaptable and honestly great for adults and for older kids too.
What Does a Healthy Lunch for Kids Include?
When it comes to toddler lunches, or lunches in general, this is what I typically try to include (with the understanding that not every day is going to be perfect and that’s ok!)
- Vegetables: At least 1 serving of vegetables (the more the better!), cut small. For toddlers, I’ll often steam veggies somewhat soft since they’re easier to chew. For bigger kids you can prepare the veggies any way they like: roasted, sautéed, steamed, raw with a dip or dressing – the possibilities are endless!
- Fruit: 1 serving of fruit, which can be great for a snack or dessert. Try to go for lower glycemic fruits like apples, pears, oranges, berries, and stone fruits. When it comes to fruit, don’t do more than 1 serving for lunch.
- Protein: 1 serving of protein, can be plant-based (e.g. beans, lentils); dairy (cheese, yogurt/Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs); or meat (chopped chicken, meatballs, fish)
- Complex Carbohydrates: The key here is to avoid all white grains. Choose whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread/tortillas/pita/crackers, whole wheat or legume based pasta, and brown rice or quinoa.
- Healthy Fats: Nut butters, Olive oil, Coconut oil, Cheeses, Avocado, Nuts and Seeds are all great options here.
Best Lunchboxes for Kids
These are my picks for my favorite kid and toddler lunchboxes – depending on whether you want to send all cold foods vs. foods that need to stay hot after they’ve been packed. I have ordered them from least to most expensive, so there’s an option for every budget!
These are the perfect size for a toddler lunch, are super affordable, BPA free, and durable. Microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Best for cold lunches that don’t need to be reheated or kept warm, and for smaller portioned “snack type” lunches.
A great option for an older kids lunchbox, or if you want to pack a full sandwich in your toddler’s lunch. Super affordable, BPA free, and durable. Microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Best for cold lunches that don’t need to be reheated or kept warm.
A great non-plastic option for toddlers and kids (and adults!) Super durable, affordable, 100% stainless steel. Dishwasher safe (not freezer or microwave safe). Available in multiple sizes and compartment options too. One tip – the lid isn’t completely airtight, so this is best for dry/non-liquidy foods (e.g. don’t pack applesauce or soup in this lunchbox!)
This is honestly my favorite kid and toddler lunchbox and is the one I use for my kids. It can be used to store both cold and hot food, because it has a thermos insert that fits inside the bento box. And if you don’t need the thermos insert, you can remove it and use the compartment for a sandwich or something else. It’s BPA free, super durable, and top rack dishwasher safe (it is not microwave or freezer safe). It’s a little more pricey but will last forever – and you really only need one per kid!
While these lunchboxes are pricey, they will literally last forever. They also have a ton of compartments which makes it easy to pack a bunch of options all at once.
Each Rover Set includes 1 Rover Lunch Box, 1 Big Dipper food container, 1 Little Dipper food container, Insulated Carrying Bag, and Magnet Set (so you get a lot for the price!) They are stainless steel, and free of PVC, phthalates or BPA materials.
25 Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Toddlers: Savory Sandwiches
- Hummus and Cucumber Sandwich: Lightly toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread, spread with hummus, top with sliced cucumbers. Serve with your child’s favorite fruit (e.g. mandarin orange slices), and veggie (e.g. steamed broccoli cut into small florets, dressed with olive oil and salt). Optional: a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
- Healthy Grilled Cheese: On sprouted wheat bread, with some chopped baby spinach or diced tomatoes mixed into the cheese. Serve with a fruit (e.g. apple slices), and a veggie (e.g. roasted sweet potato “fries” – which can be made in bulk advance and last for 4-5 days in the fridge!)
- Egg Salad or Chickpea Salad Sandwich on sprouted wheat bread, served with a favorite fruit and carrot sticks (or steamed carrots) with hummus for dipping on the side.
- Avocado “Toast” Sandwich: Spread mashed avocado or guacamole on two slices of sprouted wheat bread, top with cojita cheese (or your child’s favorite shredded cheese) and tomatoes. Serve with a few tortilla chips + fresh fruit on the side.
Sandwich Lunch Ideas for Kids: Sweet Sandwiches
- Nut Butter and “Fresh Jam” Sandwiches! Toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread, spread with favorite nut butter or sun butter, and top with thin slices of your child’s favorite fruit (instead of the jelly/jam) – e.g. sliced strawberries, apples, pears all work well. Serve with some fresh blueberries and steamed cauliflower cut into small florets, dressed with olive oil & salt on the side. Optional crunchy snack: 5-6 crackers or pretzels.
- Apple and Cheddar: Toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread, top with slices of mild cheddar cheese and apples. Can be served cold or grilled (like a “fancy” grilled cheese). Serve with steamed or sautéed veggies (broccoli, squash, sweet potatoes would all work well).
- Brie and Pear (with a drizzle of honey and crushed walnuts!): Toast two slices of sprouted wheat bread, top with brie or your child’s favorite mild cheese + thin pear slices. Drizzle 1 tsp honey and add 1 tsp crushed walnuts on top. Serve with steamed or roasted veggies (or a fresh salad) on the side.
Kids Lunches: Burritos and Wraps
- Bean & Cheese Burrito “Sushi”: Whole wheat tortilla spread with refried black beans, sprinkled with cheese, diced tomatoes, diced bell peppers, rolled and cut into “sushi” like slices. Served with cucumber sticks + hummus + apple slices on the side.
- Breakfast Burrito: Scrambled eggs with some diced bell peppers, tomatoes, and baby spinach mixed in (seasoned with salt + pepper as needed), wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and topped with shredded cheese. Served with your child’s favorite fruit and crunchy snack on the side.
- Rainbow Wraps: Spread cream cheese on a whole wheat tortilla, top with thin slices of fresh veggies: red and yellow bell peppers, thinly sliced carrots, shredded baby spinach. Serve with your child’s favorite fruit with Greek yogurt for dipping!
Toddler Lunch Ideas: Bento Box Style Lunches
- Mezze Platter: Add hummus, whole wheat pita, cherry or grape tomatoes, a couple of olives, sliced cucumbers, and mild cheddar cheese slices to a bento box and let your child mix and match!
- Fancy Cheese and Crackers: Whole grain crackers and your child’s favorite cheeses + cucumbers / carrot sticks / snap peas / olives + slices of apples and pears. Serve with 1 tablespoon of your child’s favorite nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts) and a couple dried apricots or cherries on the side.
- Protein Bento Box: Hardboiled eggs, a cheese stick, steamed veggies (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) tossed with olive oil and salt, and crackers with nut butter for dipping on the side.
Preschool Lunch Ideas: Pizzas and Flatbreads
- Pita Pizzas: Use this pita pizza recipe, cut into 4 triangles, served with carrot sticks, celery sticks + hummus on the side; diced pears for dessert.
- BBQ Pizza: Make this BBQ Black Bean Pizza the night before, cut into slices for lunches all week. Serve with tortilla chips and guacamole on the side + your child’s favorite fresh fruit.
- English Muffin Pizzas: Toast whole wheat english muffins, top with pizza sauce and let your child pick out veggies for their toppings! Serve with a green salad or steamed broccoli + fruit on the side.
Easy Lunchtime Recipes for Kids: Quesadillas
- Bean and Cheese Quesadilla on a wheat tortilla, guacamole or salsa for dipping, cherry tomatoes, tortilla chips and strawberries on the side.
- Lentil Quesadillas served with fresh or roasted corn, steamed or raw carrot sticks, and fresh berries on the side.
- Butternut Squash and Kale Quesadillas with applesauce and pretzels on the side.
- Sweet Quesadillas: Spread nut butter on a wheat tortilla, top with sliced bananas, crushed walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon and 1 tsp honey drizzled on top. Fold in half and cut into triangles. Serve with steamed broccoli or cauliflower on the side.
Even More Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas: Pasta Lunches, Salad Lunches, Soups, Grain Bowls, Breakfast for Lunch!
- Pasta Lunch Ideas: Use any kind of whole wheat or legume based pasta shape your child enjoys, and toss with either a pesto sauce or marinara sauce and sautéed veggies (zucchini, carrots, bell peppers and spinach are my kids’ favorites)
- Salad Lunches: With salads, you can go one of two ways: a chopped salad that has a combination of protein and healthy fats – like this chickpea and avocado salad; or a pasta salad like this one.
- Soups and Stews: The possibilities are endless here, but two that are always a hit are this tuscan bean stew served with garlic bread, or this vegan chili served with brown rice, quinoa, or tortilla chips.
- Grain Bowls: Burrito bowls are the obvious choice and are always a hit with kids!
- Breakfast for Lunch: Try this vegan baked oatmeal, served with your child’s favorite raw veggies and fresh fruit on the side. These grab and go breakfast cookies are also a fun lunchbox treat, served with a cheese stick and steamed veggies on the side. My kids also love getting pancakes for lunch instead of their regular sandwich (you can spread nut butter in between two pancakes for a “pancake PB&J!”)
How to pack toddler lunches
Here are my tips and tricks for making it super easy to assemble your child’s lunchbox each morning:
- Prep anything you can the night before. Usually for us that means cooking anything that can be cooked ahead of time, so in the morning it’s just reheating and assembling.
- Pick familiar items. If you’re planning to give your child something new in their lunch, try it out the week before so they get exposure to it a few times before you add it to their lunchbox.
- Try to choose a mix of options: Fruits, veggies, grains, protein are all great to mix and match for your child during the week.
- Pay attention to your child’s school’s allergy guidelines: Some schools allow nuts, some don’t!
- Cut veggies into small, bite sized portions: They are more likely to get eaten that way! Also figure out how your child likes to eat their veggies – do they like them softer and easier to chew, or crunchy and raw? Serve the veggies the way they like them!
- Keep in mind they may not have time to finish all their lunch. Some schools only allocate 20-30 minutes for lunch + recess. That makes it tough for kids who want to maximize playing time! Often my daughter wouldn’t finish her lunch and I’d just have her finish it as her “after school snack.”
- Serve only water or milk. Stay away from high sugar fruit juices and sodas.
- Feel free to add a small treat or crunchy snack! When it comes to treats, it’s important to choose something small (like a 1 inch by 1 inch portion) so that your child can’t get full if they just eat their treat and nothing else. A few dark chocolate chips, or a square of chocolate; a few animal crackers or graham crackers; or pretzels/cheddar bunnies/etc. are all great options.
Tips for Getting Toddlers to Eat Healthy
- Set the stage by showing your toddlers that you eat healthily too. When they see you eating bell peppers or carrots for a snack, they are more likely to mimic your behavior.
- Have your kids help you make their lunches. Even toddlers will enjoy filling the bento boxes with foods. It will help them feel excited about the meal because they helped prepare it.
- Use lots of bright colors and textures. This will encourage the kids to dig in because it looks pretty and inviting. For example, maybe they don’t like green bell peppers, but they are willing to eat red bell peppers. The flavor is a lot different, but the bright colors are more appealing to some kids.
- Don’t make mealtime a battle (here are some tips for avoiding that!), and try some of these strategies to help your child learn to love veggies.
Check Out These Other Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids!
- Kid-Friendly Mexican Taco Casserole
- Vegan Tacos with Black Beans and Avocado
- Vegetarian Pesto Pasta
- Healthy Copycat Taco Bell Mexican Pizza
- Healthy Quesadillas with Black Beans and Veggies
If you have tried these Toddler Lunch Ideas or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM, and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!