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!
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.
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.
Healthy 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 snipped kale between tortillas.
- Spinach and Refried Bean 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.
Healthy 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 cubes.
- 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.
Lunchbox 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 Toast and Fruit (it’s particularly yummy with peached canned in light syrup!).
- 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!
Kids 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.
- Mini Egg Muffins with Cheese and Veggies, paired with dry cereal and fruit. (You can make these ahead and keep them in the fridge!)
- Mexican Egg Muffins with Spinach, with salsa for dipping and applesauce. (Also good for making ahead.)
- Make-Ahead Egg Muffins with Bacon, with toast or a waffle and berries.
- Grain Bowls with Scrambled Eggs and Peanut Sauce—which is a fancy way of saying to serve scrambled eggs over cooked rice! Add a sauce or serve this plain.
- Cubed Hard-Cooked Eggs, Roasted Sweet Potato Cubes, and Avocado, with a mixture of salsa and sour cream or yogurt drizzled on top or on the side.
- Huevos Rancheros Tacos paired with sliced pear and shredded cheese.
- Scrambled Eggs with Toast and Jam, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes.
- Mini Omelet with Cheese, Snipped Baby Spinach, and/or Sauteed Mushrooms. Served with dry cereal or toast and fruit.
- Eggs Baked in Tomato Sauce with chickpeas and a side of fruit on the side.
- Hard-Cooked Egg Plate with crackers, berries, snap peas, and yogurt covered raisins. (Your toddler may only like the white or yellow part of the egg—that’s normal!)
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.
Kids 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.
- Paleo 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!
Lunch 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.
- Healthy Strawberry Muffins: Fresh and versatile if you need to bake egg or gluten-free, these are a healthy muffin option.
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins: Gluten-free and super indulgent tasting, these muffins have protein and yummy flavor.
- Vegan Zucchini Muffins: Make a batch of these mini muffins to serve up a slightly sweet veggie muffin.
- Fruit and Veggie Muffins: These muffins are totally packed with produce!
- Blueberry Muffins with Oats: Moist and naturally sweet, these blueberry muffins boast fiber, whole grains, and fruit.
- Allergy-Friendly Banana Muffins: If you need to bake without the top allergens, these little muffins are a wholesome choice.
- Chocolate Banana Muffins with Oats: Whole grains, fruit, and just enough cocoa to make them taste like a treat, the kids will love these muffins.
- Muffin Tin Pizza Bombs: Who wouldn’t want something called a pizza bomb??
- Applesauce Muffins: Warm with a side of fruit and milk, these muffins would make for a simple and satisfying toddler lunch.
- Cocoa Protein Muffins with Hidden Veggies: These little muffins taste like brownies but boast super—and veggies!
- Zucchini Fritter Muffins with sliced tomatoes and a side of fruit.