Do you ever find yourself thinking ‘What am I going to make for lunch today?’ or staring at the open fridge looking for inspiration? You want easy toddler lunches that don’t take long to prepare as you’re probably on borrowed time as it is.
Here are 21 of my favourite nutritious toddler lunch ideas and links to the websites where you can find the recipes. Some of them are cook at home lunches and others make great lunch box additions, perfect for taking to nursery.
And if you want to plan out the week, you can download my free meal planner here.
Potatoes have a bit of a bad rep but there is absolutely no reason why. On their own, potatoes are a great source of starchy carbohydrates, packed with protein, fibre and lots of nutrients such as Vitamin C and potassium. Not only that but they’re super cheap and will last a while in a dark cupboard.
This recipe adds in some tinned tuna for a hit of protein, some omega 3 fats, and Vitamin D. Unfortunately, tinned tuna can’t count towards their oily fish target of 1 portion of oily fish each week, but it does go towards 1 fish portion.
The addition of beans in this recipe adds a plant-based source of iron too. With the addition of fruit (tomatoes) and veg, this goes towards their 5 a day too. It’s a quick, easy, low fuss lunch that your toddler will love.
Sandwiches are quick and easy meals for toddler lunches. Not only that but they are also an ideal way to pack in nutrition as most little ones will happily munch on bread. In terms of which bread you should use, it’s ok to use white, wholemeal or seeded bread, pitta, sourdough etc… just go for whatever is the norm for your family. Bagels, wraps and thins are fine too.
This sandwich combo has chicken for a source of protein (if you can use the dark chicken meat such as towards the thigh, this can give a good quality source of iron too) alongside avocados which are full of healthy fats (oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fat). Make sure to use some spread too (i live olive spreads) for a little helping of fat, which young children need in their diet.
Get creative and cut your sandwiches into fun shapes and even get your toddler involved, that way they’re more likely to give them a try too. Add in a piece of fruit or a selection of berries and an extra item like one of my healthy muffins or fruit teacake and you’ve got a healthy balanced meal.
This lunch option is something you can batch cook for the whole family at the same time, making a super quick, easy nutritious meal that everyone will want some more. You can mix up your ingredients to get a bit of variety, but this recipe uses black beans, pumpkin (you could just use butternut squash, this is an Australian recipe where pumpkins are much more abundant), baby spinach, cheese, wraps and a little pinch of spices for some flavour. That’s a perfect mix of carbs, vegetables, protein, and dairy. This dish is also suitable for vegetarians and if you’re following a vegan diet you could replace the cheese for a plant based cheese alternative instead. Trust me when I say your toddler will be asking for more!
Omelettes are such a cheap, quick way of getting so many good nutrients into your toddler’s diet and the best thing about them is they are so versatile. You can make them over and over again and simply try a different combination of fillings each time.
The staple ingredient for any omelette is an egg, which is in my opinion, is like a superfood as it’s a natural source of so many nutrients. This includes high quality protein, a good dose of fat and a host of vitamins (such as B vitamins, Vitamin A) and minerals (such as iodine and phosphorus).
Add in some cheese for a source of dairy (meaning a source of calcium) and whatever veg you fancy. You can also add in some meat, for an extra hit of protein and iron, and the vitamin C from the veg will help the iron get absorbed.
Lentils are a plant-based legume, which are packed with nutrients. They contain plant proteins and fibre (both soluble and insoluble), as well as an array of vitamins and minerals. One mineral is iron, which is an essential mineral for a growing toddler.
This soup is made from a bunch of store cupboard ingredients, is relatively cheap to make and you could easily batch cook and freeze portions to have at a later date.
This recipe has tomatoes which contain vitamin C to help that iron get absorbed too, as well as carrots and onion for an extra boost of Vitamin C and some vitamin A. If you don’t have these veg in you could always pop in some other veg from the freezer instead.
This recipe is suitable for vegetarians and vegans (if you use vegetable stock). Whatever stock you go for, opt for a reduced sodium version to ensure you’re keeping salt levels down.
This recipe can be ready in just 10 minutes so it is perfect for a speedy lunch. Not only that but it will keep your toddler full up, because it contains chickpeas which are made up of a mixture of carbs and plant-based protein – two nutrients that keep you fuller for longer.
Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian or a meat lover, it’s good to increase the amount of plant foods in your diet as it’s proven to be beneficial for both heart health and the environment.
The addition of frozen veggies means your adding towards your child’s 5 a day too, and did you know that by using frozen not only are you saving pennies and reducing waste, but they also tend to have more nutrients available as they are locked in before they’re frozen.
This curry is a great way to get your child used to spicier flavours but without too much heat as the addition of coconut milk will cool it down, whilst adding in extra nutrients such as fat (it is mainly saturated fat so not something to have frequently), Manganese, Copper and Selenium.
Serve with some speedy microwave rice for a balanced meal.
7. Falafel Wrap
This wrap contains tahini which is a paste made from sesame seeds. It is very high in calcium, so a great non-dairy source to get into your child’s diet (especially if they can’t have dairy for any reason such as an allergy or intolerance.
Falafel originates in the middle east and is predominantly made of chickpeas, with some herbs and spices for flavour. It’s a staple vegetarian or vegan option as it contains a good quality source of plant-based protein.
Kids will love getting involved in making these wraps too, which are a perfect balanced lunch.
I would suggest omitting the sriracha (hot chilli salty sauce) from this recipe, as this could be too spicy for children.
We all, children included, should be eating two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. This recipe contains sardines which contain an abundance of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the ‘good’ kind of fat.
Sardines are also high in calcium (as they contain soft bones which can be mashed up) ,Vitamin D and Vitamin B12. Not only that but they’re a source of protein and iron, so basically a bit of a superfood!
You can keep tinned sardines in the cupboard until you’re ready to use them. This recipe is super simple and super quick so you can whip it up in no time to feed hungry tummies.
I personally LOVE pesto, it’s one of my favourite flavours. It’s usually made up of pine nuts, basil, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese making it an excellent source of fat and protein as well as vitamins such as Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.
Mixed with some pasta, which are a great source of slow release carbohydrates (which will keep your little one fuller for longer, and you have an amazing pasta and sauce combo.
Add in some meat or fish for added protein (I think chicken or salmon work especially well) alongside some broccoli for added nutrients, and you’re on for a sure win at lunch time.
Not only will this be super delicious but it’s super nutritious too.
10. Fish Burger Wrap
What child doesn’t like burgers?
This one mixes things up a bit, using homemade bread-crumbed fish instead of the usual beef burger. You can use any white fish for this, even frozen, which is a healthy, high-protein food, high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fats that our bodies don’t produce on their own that play an essential role in brain development and heart health.
Instead of the usual bun, this recipe uses a wrap, but realistically you can use any carbohydrate alternative such as bagels, thins, or pitta etc.
This is a perfect lunch if you’re stuck for time and just need to throw something together.
Peanut butter is an amazing source of nutrients, especially plant based protein and healthy fats.
When you’re picking peanut butter, make sure to check the label and try to buy one with no added sugar or salt.
The addition of banana goes towards one of their 5 a day, whilst also adding in nutrients such as potassium.
12. Pitta Pizza
Encourage your kids to make their own lunch with these fun pitta pizzas and provide 1 of their 5 a day with veggie toppings!
You can get as creative as you like with the toppings.
Practice Positive Food Parenting by prepping all your veggie toppings so then your child can choose whichever ones they fancy. This is ‘reasonable choice’.
Once prepped, they can be ready in minutes, so your children won’t be kept waiting long.
This dish is a great way to introduce new, different flavours to your child.
It’s an easy one pot dish so you can throw everything in together and get on with other jobs whilst it’s cooking (if you’re anything like me your to do list will have at least a 100 things on it a day!).
The recipe contains chickpeas for a source of protein, alongside veg and couscous for some carbohydrates so a great balanced meal. You could even add in some raisins or sultanas to add in a sweet twist to this savoury dish and an iron boost.
You can make these fishcakes from ingredients you’ll probably already have in your store cupboard at home. All you need is some tinned tuna, eggs, milk, potatoes and some bread. This makes a perfect healthy balanced recipe for the whole family to enjoy.
There’s a bit of everything for the essential food groups. Starchy carbohydrates from the potatoes, a source of dairy from the milk, a generous portion of protein from the eggs and the tuna, alongside some omega-3 fats from the tuna too. Serve with some broccoli (can be fresh or frozen) for some veg, which is high in lots of nutrients including fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium
This is a super affordable meal that’s packed with nutrients too. The predominant ingredient in this burger is means which are a great source of high quality protein and iron.
Not only that but you can buy tins of beans really cheap and keep them in the cupboard until whenever you need them.
Mash in some veggies too for some extra vitamins.
The recipe suggests adding in some Tahini (sesame seed paste), which I would recommend, as it’s a great source of non-dairy calcium for your growing toddler.
You could always batch cook and freeze extras for a speedy nutritious lunch or dinner another time.
I love this recipe, it’s a great starter for 10 for a healthy lunch. Turkey mince is an amazing, lean protein food that is full of protein.
The homemade sauce and meatballs contain lots of veggies, and you can add whatever veg you have in your fridge or freezer.
Serving the meatballs with pasta ensures your toddler will be getting some slow release carbohydrates to give them lots of energy to play and for brain power.
You could even sprinkle a cheese bit of cheese on the top for a helping of dairy, high in calcium.
Did you know beetroot is in season in September? Where possible, we should try to eat seasonally as not only is it better for the environment, and fresher, but it can help your child learn about food and where it comes from.
Why not set a family challenger to try a new seasonal veg that you haven’t tried before? Beetroot also makes an awesome ‘tattoo’ – just cut the beetroot in half and into the shape of your choice!
Beetroot is a sweet root vegetable, and unpickled has a similar texture to carrot. It’s packed with essential nutrients such as fibre, folate, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin C.
If you look at any children’s menu in a restaurant you will usually see ‘chicken nuggets and chips’. But you can make your own much healthier version from fresh ingredients.
Chicken is a great source of protein, and you can mix up your coating. The recipe suggests crushed tortilla chips for a crunchy coating or you could swap this for homemade breadcrumbs instead. I often add a sprinkling of Parmesan to the breadcrumbs too.
This dish is also baked rather than fried, reducing the saturated fat content. Chicken ‘nuggets’ aren’t complete without chips, you could swap standard potatoes to sweet potatoes to add an extra bit of colour to your plate and add another one of your five a day.
Serve with more veggies or salad on the side.
Couscous is a grain product made from little balls of durum wheat or semolina flour, so a bit like pasta but tiny tiny bits. It’s really versatile as you can add whatever flavour you want to the water it’s rehydrated in. This recipe mixes a bit of savoury and sweet, with a combination of chicken (for protein), peas (1 of your five a day) and apricots (another of your 5 a day). Not only is apricot delicious, they contain iron and they’re a great source of many antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, and E.
20. Tuna Pasta Bake
This dish requires little effort for big taste. Once you’ve cooked the pasta, it’s as simple as mixing all the ingredients and popping in the oven. This is a great dish to have together with the whole family, served family style in the middle of the table and everyone can help themselves.
This recipe uses tomato and herb pasta sauce, if you’re short on time you can use a shop bought one or I have a super nutritious (and much more delicious) homemade version you could cook up, the recipe is here. You can batch cook and freeze into portions for as and when you need it.
This wrap is a great way to introduce spice to your toddler, and you can always cool it down with spoonful’s of yummy sour cream if they find it a little too spicy.
Again, this is a great family meal where you can serve each of the components in the centre of the table and let everyone help themselves. This is a great balanced meal with a bit of everything but I like to add an additional nutrient boost such as some mashed avocado for a helping of healthy fats.
So there you have it!
I’d love to know if you have any other ideas for healthy lunches for toddlers.
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If you’ve enjoyed what you’ve learned here then I’d like to introduce you to the Happy Healthy Eaters Club. This is a members-only club where you’ll learn how to raise a child who skips to the table (without you having to ask 50 times first), sits down, and happily munches away.
The club will teach you all about food and parenting techniques so that you can nip fussy eating in the bud (or prevent it before it begins) and make you’ll feel safe in the knowledge your child has eaten their nutrients, that they’ll sleep well, grow healthy bones and brains, and not pick up all those bugs.
Your parenting around food means that your little one will learn to be excited to try new foods, family mealtimes are a breeze and there’s not a reward, bribe, or iPad insight and you haven’t spent hours in the kitchen cooking up different meals for everyone either. And I promise you… you’ll no longer be scraping rejected food from the floor! Here’s the link to learn more: https://www.thechildrensnutritionist.com/hhec-open