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25 Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas for Every Picky Eater

Pack up these meals for daycare or a play date.

Headshot of Christina Montoya FiedlerBy Christina Montoya Fiedler
toddler lunches

Lunchtime can be difficult with little ones. They might be so engrossed in play that nothing can get them to stop and eat, or they're so desperately in need of a nap they refuse to sit down to eat altogether. And if you're going back to the same staples every week (we see you, chicken nuggets), it can be even harder. So, we've come up with some easy toddler lunch ideas that will have them eager to chow down.

Your child's ability to eat solid foods opens up a whole new world of flavors and textures and the possibilities are truly endless. Now that they're past the strained vegetables and mushy fruit phase, you can start feeding them a variety of dishes to help expand their palates with new salty, sweet, sour, and even mildly spicy dishes. These lunch ideas for toddlers are packed with protein, nutrients, and all that good stuff that keeps tummies full and energy levels up. And they're so good, you might just want to serve yourself up a dish, too.

Everything below should be safe for your toddler to eat at home, on a play date or in daycare. However, you may need to omit certain ingredients (like nuts) if your child has a food allergy or your daycare center doesn't allow it. Also keep in mind that all recipes on this list should be cut-up into small pieces to avoid choking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the following as potential choking hazards for young children:

  • Uncut cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Cooked or raw whole corn kernels
  • Pieces of hard raw vegetables or fruit, such as raw carrots or apples
  • Whole pieces of canned fruit, uncut grapes, berries, cherries, or melon balls
  • Uncooked dried vegetables or fruit, such as raisins
  • Whole or chopped nuts and seeds
  • Chunks or spoonfuls of nut and seed butters, such as peanut butter
  • Tough or large chunks of meat
  • Hot dogs, meat sticks, or sausages
  • Large chunks of cheese, especially string cheese
  • Bones in meat or fish
  • Whole beans
  • Cookies or granola bars
  • Potato or corn chips, pretzels, popcorn, or similar snack foods
  • Crackers or breads with seeds, nut pieces, or whole grain kernels
  • Whole grain kernels of cooked barley, wheat, or other grains
  • Plain wheat germ
  • Round or hard candy, jelly beans, caramels, gum drops, or gummy candies
  • Chewy fruit snacks
  • Chewing gum
  • Marshmallows
1

Stove Top Mac 'n' Cheese

family dinner ideas stovetop mac n cheese
Johnny Miller

Give the boxed stuff a break and make a skillet full of this cheesy goodness instead. It takes just 34 minutes, and can be scooped perfectly into a bowl or thermos.

Get the Stove Top Mac 'n' Cheese recipe.

2

Grilled Cheese

grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup
LauriPatterson//Getty Images

The great thing about a grilled cheese sandwich is that it's good either hot or cold. So if you make it the night before, it doesn't have to be reheated, or if you make it the day of and wrap it up in tinfoil, it'll stay warm. Also, cheese is filled with calcium for your little ones, just make sure to cut it up into bite-sized pieces.

Get the Grilled Cheese recipe.

3

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins

healthy snacks peanut butter and jelly muffins

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a lunchtime staple. But if you're trying to change things up, try a muffin version instead. Pair with a glass of milk and apple slices for a full meal. Just make sure to check that your daycare is okay with peanut butter!

Get the Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins recipe.

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4

Scrambled Egg Tacos

meatless dinner ideas scrambled egg tacos
CON POULOS

Protein-packed eggs aren't just for breakfast. Scramble up a few and toss them into a taco and top with cheese for an easy toddler-approved lunch. You can even go with a deconstructed version. Just make sure to skip wheat tortillas until they are a bit older as they tend to be chewy, as well as any toppings and beans.

Get the Scrambled Egg Tacos recipe.

5

Slow Cooker Applesauce

healthy organic applesauce with cinnamon
BHOFACK2//Getty Images

Sure, you can pack the store-bought apple sauce in their bag, but if you want to try something homemade where you can control the ingredients, try our slow cooker recipe that has just four ingredients.

Get the Slow Cooker Applesauce recipe.

6

Monster Wraps

healthy halloween treats monster wraps

Hangry toddlers can be downright scary. Pack your little monsters' plates with these wraps. They can be filled with any sandwich filling: tuna, turkey, cheese, or whatever their hearts desire. Just skip the olives.

Get the Monster Wraps recipe.

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7

Tex Mex Chicken Quesadilla

tex mex chicken quesadillas
Kate Sears

Kick up your quesadilla a notch by giving it a Tex-Mex spin with shredded rotisserie chicken, jack cheese, and some milk salsa.

Get the Tex Mex Chicken Quesadilla recipe.

8

Crispy Baked Chicken

kid friendly dinner ideas crispy baked chicken
Photo credit: Steve Giralt; Food styling by Anne Disrude; Prop styling by Megan Hedgpeth

Making your own chicken nuggets is a lot easier than you think, plus you'll know that each one is made with wholesome ingredients sans fillers or nitrates. Make extra to freeze for a later meal.

Get the Crispy Baked Chicken recipe.

9

Pizzadilla

toddler lunch ideas pizzadillas by budget bytes
Budget Bytes

Quesadillas and pizza, together? It's a winning combination that toddlers will love.

Get the Pizzadilla recipe at Budget Bytes.

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10

Blueberry Smoothie

easy toddler lunch ideas blueberry smoothie

Need lunch on the go? Try a protein-infused smoothie that has wholesome ingredients like blueberries, almond butter, and bananas that will help keep tiny tummies full.

Get the Blueberry Smoothie recipe at Love and Lemons.

11

Zuchinni Slice

toddler lunch ideas zucchini slice by budget bytes
Budget Bytes

Any dish that you can make ahead and serve up the next day is a winning recipe. This recipe is easy to prepare and packs well for lunches on the go.

Get the Zucchini Slice recipe at Budget Bytes.

12

Classic Chicken Soup

soup ideas classic chicken soup
Woman's Day

There's a reason soup is a go-to lunch choice for toddlers. Even a small bowl can pack in a ton of nutrients.

Get the Classic Chicken Soup recipe.

RELATED: 30 All-Time Best Soup Recipes

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13

One Pot Creamy Beef Pasta

easy toddler meals one pot creamy beef pasta by butter be ready
Butter Be Ready

If you've gone with chicken one too many times for lunch, try this recipe where beef is the star. Just make sure the pasta isn't hot, and it's cut up.

Get the One Pot Creamy Beef Pasta recipe at Butter Be Ready.

14

Broccoli and Cheddar Rollups

afters school snacks broccoli and cheddar rollups
Photo credit: Chris Court; Food stylist: Justine Poole; Prop stylist: Lucy Tweed

Ready-made pizza dough helps this easy-to-make lunch option come together. While the recipe calls for cheddar cheese you can use whatever you have on hand. Be sure to cut them up for easier eating.

Get the Broccoli and Cheddar Rollups recipe.

15

Crunchy Tortilla Fish Sticks

healthy appetizers
MIKE GARTEN

Too many chicken nugget-centered lunches? Try fish sticks instead. These get their crunch exterior from tortilla chips.

Get the Crunchy Tortilla Fish Sticks recipe.

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16

Sloppy Joe Sliders

30 minute weeknight dinner ideas easy sloppy joe sandwiches
Ryan Dausch

Why have a plain old burger when you can have a sloppy Joe? This all-time favorite is shrunk down to toddler-sized sliders.

Get the Sloppy Joe Sliders recipe.

17

Loaded-with-Veggies Soup

fall soups loaded with veggies soup
Philip Ficks

Frozen or fresh veggies and canned broth make this wholesome, vegan-friendly recipe come together in minutes flat.

Get the Loaded-with-Veggies Soup recipe.

18

One-Pot Spaghetti Marinara

one pot spaghetti marinara
Erika Lapresto. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Allstar Turnbull

Sometimes something as simple as spaghetti makes the best lunch for toddlers. Bonus points for this recipe because it calls for just one pot. Just make sure you cut up the pasta.

Get the One-Pot Spaghetti Marinara recipe.

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19

Oatmeal

plain oatmeal porridge in bowl
Arx0nt//Getty Images

Oatmeal is so nutritious and easy on the tummy. You can make it plain or top if with sliced fruit. Plus, you can make it the night before if you want.

Get the Overnight Oatmeal recipe.

20

Waffles

rustic traditional waffle with butter and maple syrup
zkruger//Getty Images

Breakfast for lunch? Sign us up! You can freeze and reheat waffles so easily, plus you can add good-for-you toppings like, fruit and scrambled eggs.

Get the Make Ahead Waffle recipe.

Headshot of Christina Montoya Fiedler
Christina Montoya Fiedler

Christina Montoya Fiedler is a Los Angeles-based freelancer with over 15 years of experience writing for online publications. Her work can be seen in Good Housekeeping and Woman's Day, where she covers everything from gift guides to personal essays. She holds a B.A. in English from Chapman University and is working toward her Early Childhood Education teaching credentials. 

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