Packing lunches is one of those things that many parents dread. And while I loved the lunches that my mom packed for me when I was growing up, I understand how hard it is to keep things interesting (and delicious) now that I have a kiddo of my own. Plus, if your little one goes to daycare and brings a lunch, they may or may not be able to have their food warmed. If they are, you have more options (and I'll have a list for you next month!). If their food has to be able to go straight from fridge to table, then things are a little more challenging.
Here are 15 toddler lunch ideas that you can send to daycare that do not require reheating. Mix and match as you like for your little one, refer to my Master Snack List for help rounding out meals, and try to include fresh veggies and fruit when possible. And keep these things in mind when assembling your child's food for the day:
- Try not to send something that your kiddo has never seen in any form or tasted in any variation before. You want lunch to be fun, yummy, and familiar.
- Check any allergy or ingredient guidelines at your center or school to help keep everyone healthy.
- Ask for feedback on how your child ate so you know what they are liking (and not liking...).
Chime in with more ideas to help other parents with the packing!
1. Hummus Sandwich
Spread hummus between slices of soft bread or place into a container and serve with whole grain crackers or sliced soft veggies. There's Butternut Squash Hummus, Black Bean Hummus, Edamame Hummus, Beet Hummus, Pea Hummus, or Regular Hummus to keep things varied.
2. Avocado Egg Salad
Mash hard-boiled eggs together with avocado, a little lemon juice, and a touch of salt. Spread into a pita pocket or pair with crackers. Or simply slice or cube hard-boiled eggs and serve along side whole grain pita wedges as deconstructed sandwich. Include a fruit, a veggie, and perhaps a little treat in the mix too.
3. Spinach and Cheese Pizza Rolls
Include a dipping sauce if your kiddo likes dipping (and doesn't just dump said sauce right out...), some fruit, a simple dessert, and/or some cubed meat or beans.
4. Toddler Taco Salad
Make a container with brown rice, black or pinto beans, diced veggies, cubed cheese, and some salsa (if your kiddo likes it) for a tot take on a taco salad.
5. Pesto Pasta Salad
Either using store-bought or homemade pesto (you can skip the nuts if need be and the flavor will be almost the same), toss into a pasta salad with halved cherry tomatoes, diced cheese or chicken, and thawed peas. Pair with fruit.
6. Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins
These are good at room temperature or heated (and they work well to make-ahead). Include whole grain crackers or pita bread, some fruit, and perhaps some beans or simple veggies.
7. Power Packed Fruit and Veggie Muffins
Pair with yogurt or a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, and maybe a little cubed chicken, turkey, or ham.
8. Tortilla Roll Ups
Spread Sunbutter onto a soft flour or whole grain tortilla and top with a banana or whole-fruit jam. Roll up and slice. Or, spread on cream cheese, add sliced turkey, and serve as a wrap for a simple main course.
9. Sandwich Bread Sushi
Roll soft whole grain sandwich bread flat and thin with a rolling pin. Spread on cream cheese and jelly, hummus, mashed beans and salsa, herbed goat cheese, or nut butter and jam and roll up. Slice and serve as spirals.
10. Pancake Sandwiches
The next time you have pancakes on the weekend, double the batch and place leftovers in the fridge or freezer. Spread nut butter (use Sunbutter if lunch needs to be allergy-free) or cream cheese and jam or honey between for a simple, but unexpected sandwich.
11. Soft-Baked Cinnamon Chickpeas
Pair these flavorful beans with whole grain crackers, diced veggies, cheese, and a piece of fruit. Or place over leftover brown rice and roasted veggies.
12. Sweet Potato Yogurt Parfait
Layer roasted sweet potatoes with plain full fat yogurt and granola. Or, serve all ingredients side-by-side in a container. Or puree everything in the food processor and serve in a reusable pouch. Serve with apple slices (dip briefly in equal parts lemon juice and water to prevent browning) and a favorite green veggie.
13. Overnight Oats with Yogurt and Berries
There's no reason you can't do breakfast for lunch—and you could spoon this yogurt and oat mixture into a reusable pouch if that's easier for your toddler. Include a sliced fresh veggies, some thawed peas or leftover roasted veggies, whole grain crackers, and/or some beans.
14. Mini Meat and Cheese Stackers
Cut cheese and meat slices into small, bite-size shapes and stack with a thin smear of mayo, mustard, or hummus between. Serve with whole grain pita bread, toast, or crackers, and a favorite fruit.
15. Creamy Quesadillas
Spread herbed goat cheese onto soft tortillas. Top with minced spinach, thinly sliced cucumber, mashed roasted sweet potato, or shredded carrot. Slice into wedges for a quesadilla that's great cold or at room temperature.
---> P.S. What and how to pack the little one's lunch so that it stays fresh and they are able to easily eat it in is an entirely separate topic that I will cover soon!
---> P.P.S. More lunch packing tips are in this post from Super Healthy Kids.