Try these healthy toddler lunch ideas when your little one needs a meal for preschool, daycare, or the sitter. They’re toddler meals that are easy to pack and that don’t need to be reheated to make things super easy for you.

6 toddler daycare lunches in grid

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

Coming up with toddler lunch ideas is such a huge challenge for so many parents, myself included! These ideas will help you continue to come up with easy-to-pack toddler lunches that are also yummy and healthy. Each packed lunch can be enjoyed right out of a lunchbox, no reheating required, whether your toddler goes to daycare, preschool, or just needs a meal to take on the go.

TIP: Mix and match as you like for your little one, refer to my Master List of Healthy Snack Ideas for help rounding out meals, and you can include fresh veggies and fruit that your toddler usually likes as simple sides.

pack-ahead-lunches-for-toddler

How to Pack Easy Toddler Lunches Step-by-Step

Here are a few reminders to keep these in mind when assembling your child’s food for the day. (Lunches and snacks above shown in Easy Lunchboxes.)

  1. Try not to send something that your kiddo has never had before. Try new foods at home so you know how your child likes them and whether they have any difficulty chewing them.
  2. Try to make lunch a mix of foods that are yummy, healthy, easy to chew, and familiar.
  3. Check any allergy guidelines at your center or school to help keep everyone healthy.
  4. Remember that you may or may not be able to send nuts.
  5. Ask for specific feedback on how your child ate so you know what they are liking (and not liking…) so you know if you need to send more or less food.
  6. Don’t worry too much if their appetite varies from one day to the next. This is totally normal!
  7. Add water and milk as needed and as preferred to these toddler lunch ideas.
  8. Always cut and serve specific foods in sizes that your toddler can handle.
  9. Round out meals easily with the best finger foods for toddlers.
  10. Don’t stress if the kiddo eats more or less or differently at daycare than they do at home. Different environments have different outcomes.

15 Toddler Lunch Ideas

Here are some of my go-to lunch ideas for toddlers. Adjust the serving sizes and what you pack alongside to both offer nutritional variety and to account for whether your child needs their snacks packed too.

hummus lunch with dippers in pink boxToddler Lunchbox Idea #1: Hummus Sandwich

Spread hummus between slices of soft bread and cut into squares or small cubes, or place into a container and serve with whole grain crackers or sliced soft veggies like cucumbers or steamed carrots. We like Carrot Hummus and Creamy (Nut-Free) Hummus.

Preschool Lunch Idea #2: Spinach and Cheese Pizza Rolls

Include some fruit, a simple dessert, and/or some cubed meat or beans to round out this easy pizza-inspired lunch. (You can pack it in a thermos—we LOVE this thermos—or cube it so it’s easy to eat chilled. These pizza rolls are soft on the inside, so they’re not too chewy even if chilled or at room temp. And change it up with pesto pizza rolls another week!

hard-cooked-egg-lunchToddler Lunch Idea #3: Egg Snack Box 

Slice or cube hard-boiled eggs and serve along side whole grain pita wedges, leftover waffles, or crackers. I like to add some fruit and a simple fun food like fruit leather, a few pieces of a favorite dried fruit, or your kiddo’s favorite snack. (P.S. Some toddlers take a while to learn to like the texture of hard cooked yolks and that’s okay—just send the whites for now.)

Toddler Lunchbox Idea #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. We really like pureed mild salsa stirred together with plain whole milk yogurt as a yummy dipping sauce for this sort of a meal.

pesto pasta salad lunch containerPreschool Lunch Idea #5: Pesto Pasta Salad

Either using store-bought or homemade pesto (like this Spinach Pesto), toss with pasta, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cheese or chicken, and an easy veggie. Pair with fruit to and a fun food to round out the meal.

Toddler Lunch Idea #6: Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins

These easy to make egg muffins are good at room temperature or heated (and they work well to make-ahead). I love them since they have a veggie tucked right inside! Include whole grain crackers or pita bread, some fruit, and perhaps some beans or simple veggies along side.

carrot muffin lunch box for toddlerKids Lunchbox Idea #7: Veggie Muffins

These Sweet Spinach Banana Muffins, Carrot Cake Muffins, Savory Veggie Muffins, or Flourless Cocoa Muffins with protein and hidden veggies are a perfect lunch option. They’re a balanced meal all on their own and are easy to enhance with a side of yogurt or a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, and maybe a little cubed chicken, turkey, or ham.

Easy Lunch Idea #8: Tortilla Roll Ups

Spread Sunbutter or other favorite nut butter onto a soft flour or whole grain tortilla and top with a banana or whole-fruit jam. Roll up and slice. Add thawed edamame, puffs, clementine, or another favorite fruit and veggie alongside. Or, try spreading on cream cheese, add a piece of sliced turkey, and roll up into a simple wrap.

toddler-muffin-lunchKids Lunch Idea #9: Ham and Cheese Box

Pair diced ham with shredded cheese and a whole grain bread or muffin as a sort of toddler-friendly sandwich. Add simple produce options such as thinly sliced cucumber and clementine to round it out. (You can use a different lunch meat or shredded cooked chicken or turkey if you prefer.)

Toddler Lunchbox Idea #10: Sandwich Bread Spirals

Roll soft whole grain sandwich bread flat and thin with a rolling pin. Spread on cream cheese and jelly, nut butter and jam, mashed sweet potato and nut butter, hummus, mashed beans and salsa, or herbed goat cheese. Slice and serve as spirals with simple sides like fruit and yogurt to round things out.

Daycare Lunch Idea #11: Leftover Pancake or Waffle 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. Add halved cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, cheese, or berries on the side.

breakfast-for-lunch-in-omieboxToddler Lunchbox Idea #12: Yogurt and Granola

This is one of our favorite toddler lunch ideas, especially when it seems like we’re out of food! Layer granola (remove any big clumps or whole nuts) over yogurt. Add simple sides like fruit and tomatoes. The granola will soften a bit as it sits in the thermos to ensure it’s easy to chew.

Toddler Lunch Idea #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 it’s blended smooth if you think that will be easier for your toddler. Include sliced fresh veggies like halved cherry tomatoes, fresh snap peas, or shredded carrots or leftover roasted veggies, whole grain crackers, and/or some beans or shredded meat for added protein. (And this Applesauce Overnight Oats recipe can actually be stirred together in the morning and it will be soft enough by lunchtime—if you don’t think to do it the night before.)

easy-lunches-for-toddlersEasy Lunch Idea #14: Snack Box

Add cheese (slices, cubes, or string cheese); meat (cut up deli meat, leftover shredded chicken or beef); thawed frozen peas or corn, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots; cut grapes, berries, melon, or another favorite fruit, to a lunchbox. Put in a few crackers or a favorite dry cereal and call it good with a simple, and toddler-pleasing snack lunch!

Kids Lunchbox Idea #15: Soft-Roasted Cinnamon Chickpeas

Pair these flavorful beans with whole grain crackers, diced veggies, cheese, and a piece of fruit for a simple snack lunch. (Or pair with leftover rice, shredded chicken, and roasted veggies.) They’re a little salty, a little sweet, and are packed with easy-to-eat nutrition.

 

best lunchboxes for toddlers with easylunchboxes, lunchbots, and omiebox bento

Best Toddler Lunchbox

I specifically love the Easy Lunchboxes and the OmieLife Bento Box with one insulated compartment for packing foods you want to stay warm or cold. The Lunchbots thermos is also a great option for packing hot foods. I’ve been trying out lunchboxes for the past 5 years and I have 5 distinct favorites based on price and how you’ll use them.

TIP: You can find my favorite toddler lunchboxes here.

cold-lunch-ideas-in-lunchboxesMy daycare won’t reheat or refrigerate lunches—any tips?

Yes, here are some ways to ensure you keep the food safe until lunch time and also have options for what to send.

  1. First, get a thermos. This will help cold foods stay cold and hot foods stay hot and give you a lot more options for the types of foods you can send.
  2. Second, use at least two thin ice packs on either side of the lunch (however you pack it—in a lunchbox or in a plastic bag).
  3. Third, consider freezing an applesauce pouch, a yogurt tube, or a shelf stable milk container to add more coldness as they will thaw by lunchtime. I even heard of a mom who froze her son’s cheese sticks to help keep the food cold and they also thawed in time for lunch.
  4. Keep meals simple. It’s okay to rely more on snack boxes or simple sunflower seed and jam sandwiches, especially if this is a temporary situation. (But even if it’s not!)
  5. Do your best and remember that you have a lot of challenging constraints on packing lunches that are making this really hard—it’s not you!
  6. If you need disposable lunch packaging, this post has disposable lunch box and containers.

TIP: Find 20 Cold Lunch Ideas (that work at room temp too!) here.

More Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas

You can find all of my best easy toddler lunch ideas, plus allergy-friendly and packable recipes, together in my ebook  Yummy Toddler Lunches ebook. I hope you’ll check it out!

toddler lunches ebook

I’d love to know your challenges and successes with packing your toddler’s lunch. Please share in the comments below!

6 toddler daycare lunches in grid

15 Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare (No Reheating Required)

Choose one lunch and adjust the idea and sides according to the preferences of your kiddo. Use these portions as general guidelines and 100% adjust for the reality of your child's appetite. (Nutrition info will vary based on the specific ingredients you use.)
4.95 from 20 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 0 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Cuisine American
Course lunch
Calories 114kcal
Servings 1

Ingredients

  • Hummus Sandwich: assembled or deconstructed: 1/2-1 slice bread, 2 tablespoons hummus, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie, ¼ cup animal crackers
  • Spinach and Cheese Pizza Rolls: 1 pizza roll, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie
  • Hard-Cooked Egg Snack Box: 1 hard-cooked egg, sliced or cubed, ½ cup pita bread or crackers, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie
  • Toddler Taco Salad: ½ cup brown rice, 2 tablespoons-¼ cup black or pinto beans, ¼ cup diced veggies, 1 oz cubed cheese, and salsa or guacamole. Add a fruit if desired.
  • Pesto Pasta Salad: 1-1 ½ cup pasta salad, ¼ cup puffs, fruit if desired.
  • Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins: 1-2 muffins, 1/4-½ cup crackers or pita bread, small piece of fruit
  • Veggie Muffins: 1 muffin, 1 tube or ½ cup yogurt, ¼ cup cubed chicken, turkey, or ham, small piece of fruit
  • Tortilla Rolls: 1 tortilla, 2 tablespoons Sunbutter or other favorite nut butter, 1 small banana or 1 tablespoon whole-fruit jam, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie.
  • Sandwich Spirals: 1 slice whole grain bread, 2 tablespoons cream cheese, 1 tablespoon jelly OR 2 tablespoons nut or butter and 1 tablespoon jam OR 2 tablespoons mashed roasted sweet potato OR 2 tablespoons hummus or 2 tablespoons mashed beans and salsa. Add 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie and a fun food.
  • Ham and Cheese Snack Box: 1 oz each diced ham and shredded cheese, 1 slice whole grain bread or mini muffin, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie.
  • Pancake or Waffle Sandwich: 2 small leftover pancakes or waffles, 2 tablespoons nut or seed butter or cream cheese, 1 tablespoon jam. 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie.
  • Yogurt and granola: ½ cup yogurt, 2 tablespoons-¼ cup granola, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie
  • Overnight Oats : ½ cup overnight oats, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie, fun food if desired
  • Snack box: 1 oz each cheese and meat, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie, and 1/4-½ cup crackers or dry cereal
  • Cinnamon Chickpeas:1/4-½ cup chickpeas, 1 oz cheese, 1/4-½ cup each fruit and veggie, 1/4-½ cup crackers

Instructions

  • Hummus Sandwich: Spread hummus on bread or serve as a drip with bread cubes. Add sliced pepperoni, cut up fruit, animal crackers, and desired veggies.
  • Spinach and Cheese Pizza Rolls: Prepare rolls ahead. Pack warm in a thermos or chilled in a lunchbox. Add beans and fruit on the side.
  • Hard-Cooked Egg Snack Box: Add hard-cooked eggs, pita or crackers, fruit and veggies to a snack box.
  • Toddler Taco Salad: Pack brown rice, black or pinto beans, diced veggies, cubed cheese, and salsa or guacamole in a lunchbox. (Sub pasta for the rice if that's easier.)
  • Pesto Pasta Salad: Prepare pasta salad ahead. Pair with fruit and a fun food like puffs.
  • Egg and Cheese Mini Muffins: Prepare muffins ahead. Pack with crackers or pita bread, fruit, and a veggie.
  • Veggie Muffins: Prepare muffins ahead. Pack with a yogurt tube, fruit, and cubed chicken, turkey, or ham.
  • Tortilla Rolls: Spread Sunbutter or other favorite nut butter onto a tortilla. Add a banana or whole-fruit jam. Roll up and slice into spirals. Can also do this with turkey and cheese. Add simple sides to round out the meal.
  • Sandwich Spirals: Roll soft whole grain sandwich bread flat and thin with a rolling pin. Spread on cream cheese and jelly, nut butter and jam, mashed sweet potato and nut butter, hummus, mashed beans and salsa, or herbed goat cheese. Slice and serve as spirals with simple sides to round things out.
  • Ham and Cheese Snack Box: Pack diced ham, shredded cheese and a whole grain bread or muffin into a lunch box.
  • Pancake or Waffle Sandwich: Spread leftover pancakes or waffles with nut or seed butter or cream cheese and jam. Add another pancake or waffle on top and pack as a sandwich. (Cut up if needed.) Add simple sides as needed.
  • Yogurt and granola: Layer granola over yogurt and pack with simple fruit or veggies on the side 
  • Overnight Oats: Make overnight oats the night before. Pack with simple sides.
  • Snack box: Add cheese (slices, cubes, or string cheese); meat (cut up deli meat, leftover shredded chicken or beef); thawed frozen peas or corn, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots; cut grapes, berries, melon, or another favorite fruit, to a lunchbox. Put in a few crackers or a favorite dry cereal
  • Cinnamon Chickpeas: Make chickpeas ahead. Pack with cheese, fruit, crackers, and veggies

Notes

  • Add water or milk as desired.
  • Add a fun food with the lunch if you'd like.
  • Add easy sides like fruit, an applesauce pouch, yogurt tube, a snack bar, cheese stick, crackers, or dry cereal as needed.
  • Pack in a lunch box or thermos, with ice packs if needed to keep the food cool until lunch.
  • Communicate with the teacher if sending to daycare to know if you're sending the right amount of food.
  • Try new foods at home before sending to daycare.
  • Make sure the food is easy for your child to eat.

Nutrition

Calories: 114kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 171mg, Potassium: 220mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 7g, Vitamin A: 58IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 35mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Hi , can you share which steel lunch boxes you have in the pictures above?

    I am going to try some of these recipes

  2. 5 stars
    Amy, Parents of toddlers are well aware of the effect of meals and snacks on their child’s happiness and your ideas are best ideas ever. Thank you

  3. Your resources have been so helpful to me as a new toddler parent. I was getting really overwhelmed by meal-planning for my 13 month old. We’ve been doing BLW, but he’s almost fully weaned now. I feel good knowing that I can balance his meals properly now that his nutrition is coming exclusively from what he eats, and I know not to panic when there are fluctuations to his diet or demands. We also (the whole family) are kind of addicted to your banana muffins. Thanks so much.

  4. Amy, there is important misinformation in this. Sesame is a very common allergy. So much so, it’s been recently added as the top 9th allergy in the US and is one of the leading childhood allergens now. Tahini is made from sesame seeds (not nuts as you stated above).

    1. Hi, yes, sesame can be a concern and it’s good to keep that in mind. I may be missing the part that you’re talking about as being misinformation though—I believe I say that the hummus recipe I link to in the first idea is “nut-free”, which it is because as you say sesame is a seed. Please let me know if there’s another spot that’s confusing or misleading though! Thank you for chiming in, I appreciate it.

  5. 5 stars
    Hey Amy, You ideas are awesome, If your family enjoyed this that means you will also love our ideas. Please check and let me know your thoughts. Thank you

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