20 Quick and Nutritious Lunch Recipes Toddlers Will Love
Coming up with healthy lunch ideas that will nourish your toddler — and that they'll actually enjoy — can be a pretty tall task for parents and caregivers. Once your kid reaches full-fledged toddler status, they start developing an opinion of what they want to eat and may crave more autonomy at mealtime, which can complicate your job. But because they tend to start consuming less human milk or infant formula at this life stage, what they eat also becomes even more important.
For toddlers, a healthy dietary pattern includes a variety of nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods (including lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, nuts, and seeds), dairy (including milk, yogurt, and cheese), and oils. And lunchtime is a great opportunity to sneak key nutrients into your kiddo's diet. Though plenty of kids go through phases where they avoid one or more food groups, the right toddler lunch recipe can help ensure your little one is eating the right nutrients to fuel their body.
If you're searching for nutrient-dense toddler lunch ideas, look no further. We've rounded up some great options that you'll definitely want to add to the rotation. Plus, these lunch ideas for toddlers are all very packable, so you can send them off to pre-K or nursery school knowing that they'll have a nutritious and delicious lunch.
— Additional reporting by Lauren Manaker
Toddler Lunch Idea: Turkey Meatloaf
Turkey meatloaf is a simple way to sneak some protein into your kiddo's day. Serve this with a whole grain and a veggie for a balanced meal.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Avocado Fries
Avocados are packed with healthy fats, fiber, and important nutrients. But sliced fresh avocados can be hard for tiny hands to grasp, as they can be quite slippery. These avocado fries supply kids with these good-for-you fats while allowing for self-feeding, helping prevent table time frustration and a potential meltdown.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Oven Baked Turkey Meatballs
The turkey in this recipe can be swapped for lean beef, which will provide your child with iron and zinc, two nutrients that are essential fora child's growth and development. Oven-baked turkey meatballs are easy to serve and fun to eat. Serve these with a healthy carb and some veggies, and perhaps a glass of milk.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Avocado Toast Recipe
Serve this avocado toast recipe on whole grain bread and slice it into strips for a dish that is easy for little hands to grasp. Pair it with some fresh fruit and a protein for a simple meal.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Banana Pancakes
Pancakes aren't just for breakfast. Banana pancakes help your kiddo include more fruit in their day, and pancakes are always a kid-favorite. Skip the maple syrup and serve this dish with fresh fruit for a bit of sweetness, because added sugars should not be served to toddlers per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Baked Salmon Meatballs
Fish is incredibly important for a toddler's diet because it is one of the best sources of DHA omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that supports brain development. Skip the sauce and serve these baked salmon meatballs plain for tiny palettes.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Mini Broccoli Cheddar Egg Muffins
Skip the added spice in this recipe and try making these mini broccoli cheddar egg muffins ahead of time for a quick and nutritious lunch. Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse, and the yolks are one of the best sources of choline, a nutrient that supports brain health.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Easy Vegetarian Bento Box For Kids
Bento boxes are fun for kids to eat and are easy for caregivers to make. While the portion sizes provided in this particular easy vegetarian bento box recipe may be too large for a toddler, you can use it as inspiration to create your own bento box recipe ideas.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Egg Salad Sliders
The combo of silky egg salad and soft rolls in this egg salad slider recipe is so tasty, you'll have trouble not sneaking some from your kid.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Cheesy Lunchbox Poppers
If you're over making sandwiches, these cheesy lunchbox poppers are a great way to mix up lunch throughout the week.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Macaroni Salad
In this macaroni salad recipe, every kid's favorite noodle gets lunchtime fixings with a cool dressing and crispy veggies cut so finely, they'll barely know they're there.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Turkey Pinwheels
Roll up your tot's favorite sandwich fillings into flatbread, and you've got turkey pinwheels — a school lunch you can make on autopilot.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Baked Ham and Cheese Mozzarella Sticks
These tempting baked ham and cheese mozzarella sticks may look worthy of a kids' menu, but they're crazy easy to make at home. Hiding beneath those egg-roll wrappers are simply cheese sticks and ham.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Beetroot Blender Muffins
These blender beetroot muffins contain beets, chickpeas, peanut butter, bananas, and oats. You've probably never pictured these words together, but their flavors together? Pillowy, peanut butter and banana perfection. Trust us.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Pesto Pasta Salad
Your kids may not know what the heck pesto is, but no matter; once they bite into the chewy pasta, tangy tomatoes, and creamy mozzarella in this pesto pasta salad, they'll forget any previous doubts.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Chocolate Granola Bars
Served with other snacks like fruit, veggies, and hummus, these chocolate granola bars will keep little ones charged until dinner. These are naturally sweetened so they taste like dessert but are also full of nutritious ingredients and require no baking!
Toddler Lunch Idea: Sweet Potato Pizza Bites
Put the kids to work making pepperoni smiley faces on these better-for-them sweet potato pizza bites. The leftovers can be the next day's lunch.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Barbecue Chicken Bites
Any barbecue-lover would be stoked to find these fluffy, cheesy barbecue chicken bites waiting for them at lunch.
Toddler Lunch Idea: Mini Shepherd’s Pie Muffins
Chances are, if it's shaped like a muffin, toddlers will eat it. If it's shaped like a muffin and also made of tender beef, creamy mashed potatoes, and colorful veggies — like these mini shepherd's pie muffins — they just might enjoy it, too.
Toddler Lunch Idea: PB&J Kebabs
If your little ones have PB&J fatigue, this jazzed-up PB&J kebab recipe will make them fall in love with the combination all over again.