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Nutrition, Tips / How-Tos, Toddlers

Easy Toddler Lunch Ideas: Mix and Match to Build a Nutritious Plate

Feeding a hungry toddler can feel like a full-time job, especially when you’re facing a demanding day of work or a long to-do list of appointments, extracurricular activities and household errands. On busy days like these, it helps to have your little one’s lunch planned and ready to go—which is why we’ve compiled a list of healthy lunch ideas from the most important food groups: protein, whole grains, veggies, fruits and dairy.

For easy toddler lunch ideas that build a balanced plate, choose one option from a few of the following categories:

Protein

  • Meatballs: Opt for meats that are high-protein and low-fat, such as the lean ground turkey found in these turkey apple meatballs. We also love that meatballs are great to cook in bulk and easy to chop into little bites for your toddler.
  • Hummus: For a vegetarian option that still packs protein, we often turn to legumes like chickpeas found in hummus. Serve it with baby carrots or pre-cut celery sticks for an extra easy way to get those veggies in.
  • Hard-boiled eggs: It doesn’t get easier than hard-boiled eggs! We love them for toddlers because they’re soft, full of B vitamins and serve as a good source of protein.

Whole Grains

  • Fried rice: Whipping up a batch of fried rice can be super easy, especially when you just throw together some brown rice and a pre-cut frozen veggie medley. If you’re looking for an option with a little more protein, we also love this quinoa fried rice .
  • Whole wheat couscous: Couscous is tiny and fun, just like your little one! Try this garlic couscous for a side even the pickiest palates will appreciate.
  • Whole wheat pasta salad: Pasta salad keeps well in the fridge, so you can make it and save it for multiple lunches! We love this whole wheat pasta salad recipe because the rotini pasta is easy for toddlers to pick up and chomp on.

Vegetables

  • Veggie fries: Kids love a good fry. These crinkly carrot fries offer a way to make carrots even more approachable for your little one! For an even quicker option, use pre-cut veggies like these pre-cut butternut squash zig-zags tossed in olive oil and a bit of seasoning.
  • Fiesta corn: With some frozen corn and just a few other ingredients, you can make this colorful fiesta corn for an easy toddler veggie side.
  • Roasted cauliflower: This roasted cauliflower recipe only uses three ingredients. Plus, cauliflower has a mild taste, making it an easier sell when you’re trying to get your toddler to enjoy their veggies!

Fruits

  • Frozen mango: Frozen mango adds vitamins and fiber to your child’s plate with very little prep. It’s pre-cut, and if you’re packing lunch boxes, the fruit will be perfectly soft when lunch rolls around!
  • Simple fruit salad: Toss together blueberries, raspberries, and sliced bananas for a simple fruit salad that requires minimal chopping. Mix it with a a bit of lemon or lime juice to prevent the bananas from browning!
  • Fruit strips: Although we always prefer serving fresh fruit, adding the occasional other source can be a great quick option that’s still packed with nutrients! We like Peaceful Fruit fruit strips because they don’t have any added sugar, and they come in lots of fun flavors. Plus, they make a great alternative to processed desserts.
  • Applesauce: With little cups already divided into perfect portions, applesauce is the most hassle-free fruit option a parent can offer their toddler! Just make sure to choose one that contains no added sugar.

Dairy

  • String cheese: Perfectly sized and fun to peel, string cheese is a no-prep way to add calcium and vitamin D to your toddler’s lunchbox.
  • Greek yogurt and granola: With less sugar and more protein than regular yogurt, we love introducing little ones to the delight of creamy Greek yogurt. Top it with a few sprinkles of low-sugar granola to give it some fun crunch!
  • Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese is another protein powerhouse, and its neutral flavor pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.

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Mix-and-Match Lunch Ideas for Toddlers

Need some inspiration for combining these options into easy toddler lunch ideas? Whether for warm meals at home or packed lunches on the go, here are a few of our favorite ideas for mixing and matching:

  • Garlic couscous + veggies fries + string cheese
  • Meatballs + roasted cauliflower + fruit strips
  • Fried rice + simple fruit salad + cottage cheese
  • Hummus + veggies + fiesta corn + frozen mango

If you’d like a hand creating balanced yet easy toddler lunch ideas, Nurture Life is here to help! Our ready-to-eat toddler meals have been thoughtfully crafted to satisfy your little one’s taste buds and dietary needs. Take a week off from the kitchen by ordering a full week of lunches, or intersperse our dishes with your own homemade meals for well-balanced nutrition without the meal-prep stress.

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RJ Bio

Rachael Janas

Rachael joined the Nurture Life team as the Marketing Production & QA Manager. From menu design to nutrient analysis, she covers all things food. Rachael is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian with a strong foundation in clinical nutrition and a keen interest in nutritious food with phenomenal flavor. Her passion for incorporating whole foods and creative cuisine while focusing on age-specific nutrient needs of children is essential to Nurture Life’s menu design. Rachael has been practicing dietetics since 2011, with the bulk of her experience in clinical nutrition at Loyola Medical Center, specializing in patients with cystic fibrosis as well as critical care nutrition related to lung disease and lung transplant. She also has experience in cardiac health and nutrition during pregnancy. Rachael received her B.S. from Saint Louis University in Missouri and completed a dietetic internship with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Rachael’s interests include creative cooking at home, using a variety of ingredients, spices and herbs for a unique meal each night. She truly believes nutrition and food should be enjoyable and that all food can be enjoyed in moderation.