Use this list of toddler lunches the next time you’re at a loss for what to pack in the lunchbox or for what to serve at home for the midday meal. There are 80 lunch ideas for kids here—that work just as well for big kid lunches too—so you’ll never run out of ideas!

healthy toddler lunch ideas for kids in grid of 5

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

I’m not sure what it is about lunch, but I always feel like it creeps up on us and I’m forced to scramble to throw something together for the kids. Many days, this is simply a sign that we’ve been having fun, though I know that having quick and easy ideas for assembling healthy kids lunches can go a long way towards making the process of actually getting meals on the table much easier.

This list is meant to inspire you when you run out of ideas, so use these ideas as a starting point for meals at home or packed in a lunchbox!

What does the ideal lunchbox for kids include?

Here’s a look at what you should aim to include in healthy lunches for kids.

  • Fruit: At least 1 serving of fruit.
  • Vegetables: At least 1 serving of veggies.
  • Protein: At least 1 serving of protein, whether it’s in the form of meat or poultry, nuts, legumes, or dairy.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains are essential for long lasting energy and proper toddler brain development.
  • Fats: Toddlers need fats to grow properly so choose dairy products with fat and don’t shy away from plant-based fats like avocado and nut or seeds.

TIP: I know that reality often looks less balanced, so try not to feel any guilt if you don’t check all these boxes every single lunch!

lunch ideas for kids with pasta in grid of 4

Toddler Lunches with Pasta

Keep a few boxes of pasta in the pantry to help you make quick lunches for the kids. Serve these lunches at home or pack them in a thermos or insulated lunchbox to send to daycare or school. I like to make twice as much as we need so we have a second lunch for later in the week. (P.S. Small shapes of pasta, like ABCs, cook really fast in about 5 minutes!)

  • Spinach Pesto Pasta with peas and a simple side of fruit.
  • Pesto Pasta Salad with sweet corn, cheese, whole grain cookies, and berries.
  • Broccoli Pesto Pasta with a banana and diced chicken or ham.
  • Pasta with Marinara Sauce with white beans and diced ham or meatballs. Berries and milk on the side.
  • Pasta with Sweet Potato Pasta Sauce, steamed green beans, and melon.
  • Veggie Chili Mac with shredded cheese and sliced or diced cucumbers.
  • Buttered Pasta and Cauliflower florets (add it to the pasta water for the last 4-5 minutes of cooking) with Parmesan, diced chicken, dried fruit.
  • Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with a side of applesauce.
  • Boxed Mac and Cheese with steamed broccoli, peas, and/or diced ham, chicken, or sausage.
  • Ravioli with Pasta Sauce (or Alfredo or another favorite sauce) with quickly steamed zucchini and/or an orange.
  • Gnocchi with Pasta Sauce (or Alfredo or another favorite sauce) with peas, diced broccoli, or even shredded carrots added to the pasta cooking water.

lunches for kids with quesadillasHealthy Lunch Ideas for Kids with Quesadillas

With the help of cheese and tortillas (wheat or corn, depending on your preference), you warm up a yummy kids lunch in a skillet in just a few minutes. I typically do mine in a lightly greased cast iron skillet set over medium-low heat for 2-4 minutes on each side. Flip carefully with a heat-proof spatula. (You can also heat them for about 15 seconds in the microwave.)

  • Simple Cheese Quesadillas on wheat or corn tortillas. Add diced grapes and steamed or roasted carrots on the side; salsa for dipping.
  • Broccoli and Cheese Quesadilla: Add steamed and dried chopped broccoli and shredded cheese to a tortilla. Prepare as a quesadilla. Serve with berries.
  • Sheet Pan Black Bean Quesadillas with warmed corn and fruit.
  • Sweet Potato and Cheese Quesadillas with applesauce and milk.
  • Chickpea and Cheddar Quesadillas (maybe without the green onions!) with avocado and salsa.
  • Quesadillas with White Beans and Kale—layer shredded cheese, white navy beans, and a small amount of snipped kale between tortillas.
  • Spinach Quesadillas with a side of steamed veggies and/or sliced melon.
  • Cream Cheese and Fruit “Quesadillas”. Warm two tortillas slightly and sandwich around cream cheese and sliced strawberries.
  • Banana Nut Butter Quesadilla. Warm two tortillas slightly and sandwich around nut butter and sliced banana.
  • Chicken, Corn, and Cheese Quesadillas with shredded leftover or rotisserie chicken, thawed frozen corn, and shredded cheese.
  • Pinto Bean and Cheese Quesadillas with corn, zucchini, and Strawberry Applesauce.

TIP: You can also roll up mashed beans and cheese in a tortilla, then slice into spirals for a fun and different shape.

kids lunches with sandwiches in grid of 4Healthy Sandwich Lunch Ideas

While not all little kids can handle the mixed texture of a traditional sandwich quite yet, you can still serve the elements in a way that they can enjoy—whether by cutting the sandwich into cubes, sticks, or serving the components side-by-side.

  • PB&J or Sunbutter and Jelly, with an easy vegetable and fruit.
  • Mashed Roasted Sweet Potato on Bread and cut into sticks with turkey lunchmeat and pear.
  • Tuna or Salmon Salad with Bread Sticks for dipping, with cheese cubes and a clementine.
  • Carrot Hummus spread onto Bread and cut into cubes served with diced strawberries and roasted broccoli.
  • Apple Butter and Cream Cheese (or a slice of cheddar cheese) between whole grain bread, cubed as needed. With diced cucumber and raisins.
  • Hummus with Pita with sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes, and milk.
  • Grilled Cheese on Whole Grain Bread, maybe with a little snipped baby spinach or kale in the cheese. With a favorite fruit and drink alongside.
  • Grilled Cheese with Mashed Roasted Sweet Potato—simply spread it on one side of the bread before cooking—with edamame beans and sliced peaches.
  • Favorite Lunch Meat with Whole Grain Bread, cut into small cubes or served with the components alongside each other.
  • Soft Whole Grain Roll with Egg Salad. Cut into cubes and serve with fruit, chickpeas, and milk.

TIP: When buying deli meat, look for low sodium varieties.

breakfast for lunch ideas for kids in grid of 4Lunchbox Ideas with Breakfast Foods

I LOVE breakfast for lunch (and dinner!) and find that often, classic breakfast foods make for easy meals that the little kids love. And serving them for lunch is a great way to use up leftovers.

  • Yogurt with Granola and Fruit.
  • Overnight Oats with Applesauce and maybe a side of steamed frozen veggies like corn or carrots.
  • Smoothie with Hidden Veggies with crackers or dry cereal. (Lunchtime smoothies are one of our go-to mama and little lunches in our house.)
  • Banana Spinach Muffin with fruit and cheese.
  • Leftover Pancake Sandwich with Cream Cheese and Jam, side of veggies.
  • Leftover Waffle Sandwich with Mashed Roasted Sweet Potato, fruit, halved tomatoes.
  • Cottage Cheese with Fruit like peaches canned in juice, raspberries, or pineapples. With a side of crackers
  • Drinkable Strawberry Yogurt with dry cereal and avocado.
  • Zucchini Banana Bread with cream cheese on top, fruit, and milk.
  • Oatmeal with Blueberries and milk. Or use your toddler’s favorite fruit—raisins, banana, strawberries. You could even let them add their own toppings!

TIP: Add milk or water as a drink to round out any lunch.

toddler lunch ideas with eggs in gridKids Lunches with Eggs

Eggs are easy to keep on hand in the fridge and super fast to cook up. Plus, they’re a great source of vegetarian protein and healthy fats. Try making these kids lunch ideas with eggs.

TIP: Some kids only like the whites of hard cooked eggs due to the texture and that’s understandable. It’s normal to have preferences.

Lunch Box Lunch Ideas for Grain Bowls

Make a batch of grains on the weekend and use them for easy toddler lunches throughout the week. Experiment to see which ones your toddler likes best—sometimes just a simple switch between types of rice can make a huge difference.

  • Couscous with Meatballs and Marinara Sauce. Maybe add some green beans or zucchini!
  • Rice and Beans with Salsa and shredded cheese and a side of fruit.
  • Jasmine Rice with Scrambled Eggs and Peanut Sauce, with a side of whole grain cookies and/or fruit.
  • Coconut Rice with Black Beans and a side of mango.
  • Coconut Rice with Peas and a side of dried fruit.
  • Quinoa with Spinach Pesto, white beans, and fruit.
  • Quinoa with Tomato Soup (just a little so it’s still thick enough to eat easily with a spoon) with crackers and fruit.
  • Easy Fried Rice with Eggs and Veggies. Maybe add a simple smoothie alongside!
  • Warmed Leftover Rice with Mashed Avocado, paired with shredded chicken or beef and oranges.
  • Barley in Chicken Broth with Corn, Peas, and Carrots (you know, the veggie medley from the freezer section!). Top with Parmesan cheese.
  • Cheesy Rice with fruit and a snack bar.

TIP: Plain grains can be messy, but these ideas have something in the mix to help hold them together.

healthy lunches for kids with snack platesKids Lunch Ideas for Snack Plates

Assembling bits and pieces of ingredients to make a fun snack plate is an easy toddler lunch—and one that you can easily adjust to make an adult lunch for yourself while you’re at it! This works so well at home or in a kids lunch box.

  • Simple Cheese and Crackers with your choice of whole grain crackers, sliced or diced cheese, fruit, and a simple veggie like cucumber or snap peas.
  • Deluxe Cheese and Crackers with all of the above plus chopped salami or deli turkey or ham, diced dried apricots, and yogurt covered pretzels.
  • Muffin Tin Lunch with an assortment of proteins, carbohydrates, and produce in the cups of a muffin tin. (Leftovers can work well in this!)
  • BLT Snack Plate with components of the classic sandwich—bacon, lettuce, tomato, and brea—cubed and served side-by-side on a plate.
  • Cobb Salad Snack Plate with the components of the classic salad—grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, cheese, corn, and more—cubed and served side-by-side.
  • Caprese Snack Plate with mozzarella, halved cherry tomatoes, and cubed baguette or bread. Add some fresh fruit and maybe some chickpeas alongside.
  • Protein Snack Plate with a meat stick, cubed avocado, steamed cauliflower or broccoli, and sliced hard cooked eggs.
  • Taco Snack Plate with browned ground beef, shredded cheese, black beans, diced tomatoes, and thawed sweet corn. Add strips of warm tortilla if you want.
  • Pretzels and Nut/Seed Butter Plate with a simple veggie like snap peas or tomatoes and berries. (Trade in cheese for the nut/seed butter to vary this idea.)
  • Homemade Lunchables with whole grain crackers, deli meat, cheese, and a treat. And maybe some fresh fruit to round things out!

TIP: This sort of snack lunch is a great option when it seems like you’re out of “regular” lunch foods.

lunch ideas for kids with muffins in grid of 4Lunch Box Ideas for Kids with Muffins

There are few things more satisfying than a warm muffins, especially if you make them ahead and have them waiting in the fridge or freezer. Though actually, baking muffins is also a perfect toddler activity, so consider making them late morning and then enjoy them together for lunch! Pair any of these kids lunch ideas with fresh fruit or veggies, cheese, milk, or a smoothie.

TIP: You may want to dice up a muffin for a toddler to make them easier to eat.

best lunchboxes for toddlers

Best Lunch Boxes for Kids

You can find all of my favorite lunch boxes for big and little kids here.

Best Thermoses for Kids

I have a few thermoses that I regularly use, both stand alone and one that’s in a bento style lunch box. You can find those picks here.

Healthy Snacks to Buy at the Store

These picks for store bought snacks will give you easy ideas for sides that require no prep work on your part!

WHAT ARE YOUR KIDS FAVORITE LUNCHES? I’D LOVE TO HEAR IN THE COMMENTS!

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Comments

  1. I love all the suggestions. My wife and I have been racking our brains as to what we should send in to daycare for snacks and lunches.

  2. 5 stars
    Do you have any suggestions for toddlers who dont like the texture of cheese or pasta?
    He used to love strawberries, blueberries and bananas but now I cant get him to eat them at all.

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