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.
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.
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.)
- 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.
- Try to make lunch a mix of foods that are yummy, healthy, easy to chew, and familiar.
- Check any allergy guidelines at your center or school to help keep everyone healthy.
- Remember that you may or may not be able to send nuts.
- 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.
- Don’t worry too much if their appetite varies from one day to the next. This is totally normal!
- Add water and milk as needed and as preferred to these toddler lunch ideas.
- Always cut and serve specific foods in sizes that your toddler can handle.
- Round out meals easily with the best finger foods for toddlers.
- 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.
Toddler 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!
Toddler 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.
Preschool 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.
Kids 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.
Kids 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.
Toddler 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 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 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.
My 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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!
I’d love to know your challenges and successes with packing your toddler’s lunch. Please share in the comments below!
15 Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare (No Reheating Required)
- 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
- 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
- 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.
This is a very informative article. I more like the 2021 trend post than this one. Thanks for sharing
Your Written article and topic both are excellent . Thank you for your shared.
Any ideas that don’t require reheating or refrigeration? School is requiring a completely disposable lunch, including the bag and will not reheat.
How old is the child? And wow, that is really so difficult for parents. I will work on some ideas though!
Due to our school is doing the same thing. They want disposable instead of bringing lunch bags back and forth to eliminate possible contagion
Here are some cold lunch ideas that work at room temp. And disposable packing options.
Here are some cold lunch ideas that work at room temp. And disposable packing options.
love this, so simple but wonderful ideas. thank you very much!
Hi, I like your blog and the way you write your articles, I’m glad to follow you and your yummy recipe, thanks a lot.
Your blog is amazing! for the past year I’ve been a mom to 4 kids under 3 years old and your ideas have saved me! Thank you so much!
I’m so glad and you’re so welcome!
Thank you sharing.
This is amazing. Your site is everything I’ve been missing in my life! Feeding a toddler is such a struggle — there’s so much turmoil about feeding good foods, keeping it interesting, making sure they eat enough, every day, 3x+ per day!! I just dread every single mealtime and this blog is giving me life. Can’t thank you enough — so eager to try all of it!
I’m so glad that you found it and that it seems helpful!
I like your concept. Thanks for sharing.
Nice article and thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your idea. I hope you will post more details on this topic. Waiting for another fantastic one.
I have been making food from scratch since I got married 8 years ago. Kids are tough – especially toddlers! I have a mild panic attack about packable lunches at the beginning of each school year. This blog is full of outstanding ideas perfect for my 2yo’s daycare lunches and even my 5yo. THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!
As for commenters complaining about what a kid will / won’t eat – I have found toddler liking is highly dependent on how it’s prepared. As in I can hide spinach & avocado in chocolate popsicles or they don’t eat roasted broccoli but yes for raw broccoli with pink sauce (mayo-ketchup mix). Neither of my kids will eat raw tomatoes but they eat tomato sauce. Italian food is super-easy to hide veggies! It’s frustrating and exhausting to constantly hide or re-introduce foods over and over again, but their taste and liking of good (nutritious) food is critically important for lifelong health so I try hard. Yes my kids have rejected entire meals. The choice? Go hungry or eat some raw veggies with a nut butter or dip.
Thank you for the nice words Amber and I’m glad you find the lunch content to be helpful. And I love hearing how you make toddler unpredictability work for you!
be careful with tuna salad – most tuna is very high in mercury – and is one of the fish not recommended for toddlers
Safe Catch is a great option since they test all of their fish for mercury levels! https://safecatch.com/buy-safe-catch-tuna
Great starter ideas! Thank you. My daughter just started daycare, they don’t give them lunch you have to bring it for them but yet they can’t have anything that needs to be heated. Ugh! limits things since my toddler can only eat certain foods yet. I would also suggest adding tuna salad to this list.
Oh yes, tuna salad is a good idea—thank you for sharing!
I love this site! Every straight forward and simplified. Can’t wait to try all of the different ideas. Ive also read that if your child does not care for something the first time offered… offer if at least 10-15 times to rule it as a “dislike”. One thing I have learned is be sure to still introduce your little ones to the varieties of food (even if you as the parent DISLIKES a certain veggie or fruit. Still buy it for your toddler to try. Thank you for all these awesome ideas! Appreciate it
Thank you for the comment Shaina and yes, it is true that it can take up to 15 exposures for a little one to try and like a food. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been totally shocked when my kids finally decide to try something, so absolutely, yes, do keep buying a wide range of foods! (I love the point about even buying things you yourself don’t like!)