Here are 5 simple ways to pack a toddler lunch that’s nutritious and yummy without all the fuss. Because whether you need food to take to the park, the beach, or on other summer adventures, anticipating toddler appetites can be daunting. But these easy ideas are toddler-tested and will hopefully make meals on the go a lot less stressful for you and your kiddo. (Make sure you pack plenty of water!)
1. Think Cheese Plate.
While it may be true that cheese plates are a staple of grown up parties, the concept of assembling one can make packing toddler lunches easier. Combine cheese, crackers, fruit, nuts, veggies, and/or sliced meats for an easy-to-eat lunch that toddlers will love. Vary the type of each component for endless variations on this idea to pack all summer long.
2. Try a New Kind of Sandwich.
If you are stuck in a hummus rut, try cream cheese and jam. Or cheddar cheese and apple butter. Or salami and cheese. We often have better success introducing a new food or flavor when we’re outside—something about the happy environment makes kiddos more receptive to trying a new food. (And you can always bill it as a special “picnic sandwich” or what have you.)
3. Serve Breakfast for Lunch.
Overnight oats pack up easily and make a cool lunch for a warm day. Sandwich leftover pancakes together with nut butter or cream cheese in between. Pack muffins with a side of fruit or hard-boiled eggs. Make a snack mix with dry cereal, dried fruit, and pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts.
4. Pack Pasta Salad.
Pasta is a toddler favorite and since it’s so versatile—and delicious at room temperature or chilled—it’s a great option for a summer lunch. Try rotini with pesto and halved cherry tomatoes; penne with a drizzle of olive oil, thawed peas, and cubed mozzarella; or cut up spaghetti with peanut sauce.
5. Assemble Snacks.
As you know, snacks are only “snacks” since they are smaller than meals. Which means you can assemble your little one’s favorite snacks into a nutritious and balanced lunch pretty easily. Include at least one carb and one protein and 1-3 produce options depending on the serving sizes. Complex carbohydrates that we like include whole grain crackers, flat bread, toast, dry whole grain cereal, a snack bar, or whole grain pretzels. Favorite proteins are sliced meat or poultry, hard-boiled egg, cheese, beans, edamame, nuts, or nut butter. And our favorite fruits and veggies at this time of year are cucumbers, snap peas, zucchini, tomatoes, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, watermelon cubes, cantaloupe, and sliced kiwi.
Need something to pack it in? Check out our favorite toddler lunch boxes here.
The containers shown here are Easy Lunchboxes.