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24 Fast Delicious Toddler Lunch Ideas for Home and Day Care

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24 Fast Delicious Toddler Lunch Ideas for Home and Day Care

Ideally, your toddler’s lunch will manifest itself out of thin air. Alas, the reality is that so much time and effort goes into making the food- that your child may or may not actually eat. Being a mother is simply a full-time job.

The next best thing to a magic wand is to seek fast and yummy recipes that you can make in a pinch. Luckily, there are many ideas to try with your little one, perfect for staying at home or packing before they head to daycare.

little boy toddler eating applesauce food pouch
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Warm Toddler Lunch Ideas at Home

When feeding your toddler at home, you can take some liberty with making and plating the dishes. That way, they can enjoy a nice warm meal. Try whipping up these quick and easy lunches.

1.  Quesadillas

A melt-in-your-mouth warm cheese quesadilla can feel like a hug for your toddler. It’s easy to make since all you have to do is heat a soft tortilla in a pan and sprinkle on some cheese. You can fold and cut it into slices for your kid to enjoy. 

You can also incorporate leftover meats, beans, and vegetables into your quesadilla. Just remember to thaw frozen food safely. It should be consumed within three to four days after thawing to ensure freshness and safety.

2. Tomato Pasta

Pasta can be quite a heavy meal, so it’s best for little ones after a bit of playtime. Choose your noodles and boil them in water, ensuring they’re soft enough for your toddler. You can then create your tomato sauce from scratch or make it during the weekend as a form of meal prep.

Saute chopped garlic and onion in a pan with hot oil. Add chopped tomatoes and let the liquids simmer and thicken. Sprinkle a few herbs or cheese before tossing in noodles for your toddler. Easy and delicious.

3. French Toast

French toast is a beloved brunch meal for pretty much every person. You’ll need bread, eggs, milk, vanilla extract, and unsalted butter. 

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, dip the bread in, and toast it up in a pan. Cut the French toast into sticks to make it easier for your toddler to eat. Serve them with a drizzle of maple syrup and side of fruit.

4. Sausage and Egg Casserole

If you want a one-pan dish, go with a sausage and egg casserole. Most toddlers value texture and flavor, and this protein-filled meal offers the best of both worlds. Start by scrambling your egg and adding a bit of cheese.

Chop up bite-sized pieces of sausage to add on top of your egg mixture. Bake the casserole in the oven. This soft and cheesy dish can be quite a hit with the kids, no matter the time of day.

5. Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Macaroni and cheese is another pasta recipe you can’t go wrong with making for lunch. Boil elbow macaroni noodles until they’re soft. Set them aside while you make your cheese sauce.

In a saucepan, melt the butter before adding a bit of flour for the base of your sauce. Slowly add milk and your cheese of choice while stirring, ensuring the consistency thickens. Once melted, toss in your noodles to mix. Add chicken, sausage, peas, cauliflower rice, or other simple veggies that your toddler likes.

6. Small Sliders

Sliders are perfectly sized for toddlers. Creating them at home will be more nutritious than what you get dining out. Plus, you can make it quickly if you prep and freeze your patties beforehand. 

Cook the premade beef patties in a pan. You can also toast the mini buns and cut a few leafy greens. Allow your younger ones to assemble their sliders themselves for extra fun.

7. Chicken and Waffles

Chicken and waffles are an iconic food combination that everyone should have the pleasure of trying. You can give toddlers a taste by air-frying a couple of chicken nuggets and adding a bit of salt and pepper to taste.

Use a boxed pancake mix if you don’t feel like making waffle batter from scratch. It will still form its signature shape in your waffle maker. Put it all on a plate for your toddler to feast on.

blue lunch box with strawberry grapes orange
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Cold Lunch Ideas for Day Care (Snackable Options)

Think beyond the basics when making lunch for your toddler to take to daycare. It’s key to pack food they will enjoy even when cold. These focus on “snack” style foods since it is what most toddlers love anyway.

1. Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Bites

Peanut butter and oatmeal bites are a great lunch option for kids in the middle of the day. They’re packed with protein and antioxidants to boost energy, fueling your toddler to get through the day. All you need are peanut butter and oats.

Combine these two ingredients to make a thick paste. Add dark chocolate chips if your toddler enjoys the chocolate-peanut butter flavor combination. Form these into a ball and refrigerate them until you pack them for lunch.

2. Mini Pancakes

Create a couple of mini pancakes for your toddler to bring to daycare if you have leftover batter. They’ll love to find them in their lunchbox, along with a few fruits to nibble on. You can use cookie cutters to make fun shapes that appeal to little ones.

3. Muffins

Muffins can be quite filling during lunchtime, no matter what flavor they are. Make a few minis of these baked goods for your toddler to eat. You can also encourage them to share with a few friends.

Make the batter in advance and choose your toddler’s favorite add-ins before baking. Some kids enjoy sweeter versions of this recipe, requesting blueberries and chocolate chips. Others might ask for something more savory, like bacon and cheese.

4. Banana Bread

Banana bread is another delicious and nutritious baked good to pack for your toddler. It’s also easy to whip up. Mash a couple of ripe bananas and whisk in a couple of eggs in a bowl. Mix flour, baking soda, brown sugar (or a sugar alternative like apple sauce), white sugar, and salt in another bowl. You can make it even easier and use boxed cake mix instead. The output will still have the same consistency once baked in a loaf pan, although it’l have more additive. 

5. Mashed Potato

Almost every toddler loves mashed potatoes, and they’re quite a delight even after a few hours. To make them, peel and dice your potatoes before boiling them in water. Once they’ve softened up, drain and mash them. 

Stir in whole milk and a touch of sour cream to make the potatoes as creamy as possible. Add butter, salt and pepper to taste. If you feel like something’s missing, you can sprinkle in cheese, bacon bits or meat as well.

6. Yogurt and Granola

Toddlers would love to find yogurt and granola in their bags. Packing it up is also quite a perk, considering you just need to add your plain yogurt to the container and pile on the granola. If you want to go the extra mile, drizzle a little bit of honey and include a couple of berries. This will add the perfect amount of sweetness and texture to your kid’s meal.

7. Smoothies

Smoothies are cold and mess-free, making them ideal for young eaters. Just mix their requested ingredients into a blender. You can even sneak in some veggies to add more nutrients without raising their suspicions. Just be sure to keep the smoothie mix in an insulated container to ensure that it will retain its temperature.

family eating lunch
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Easy Lunch Ideas to Pack in Minutes

There are just some days that you only have minutes to pack a lunch. Whether it’s because your alarm didn’t go off or you forgot about daycare, breathe. There are definitely a couple of ideas that you can put into your toddler’s lunchbox.

1. Taco Bowl

When you don’t have the time to cook, invest in assembly and presentation instead. Slice and dice tomatoes, cucumbers, and some leftover meat if you have any. Tear up bits of your soft tortilla to make a deconstructed taco bowl (or leave it whole as a wrap). Add a dollop of sour cream and cheese to complete the packed lunch.

2. Snack Tray

Try to get a small snack tray insert to use in your kid’s lunchbox. When you’re in a pinch, you can add a variety of snacks like pretzels, cheese, and lunch meat that your toddler likes to snack on. To make this packed lunch healthier, add nuts (if safe), a couple of fresh fruits, and veggies like grapes, oranges, cucumbers, and the like.

3. Chicken Poppers

Chicken poppers are perfect when you’re in a rush. Just pop them in the air fryer and get your toddler’s lunch container ready. While they’re getting crisp, you can add some ketchup and mayo as sauces for this protein. Don’t be surprised if the container is empty by the time your kid comes home.

4. Hummus Dip

It’s best to always have hummus dip ready to go in the fridge. You can make this on the weekend with chickpeas, garlic, tahini, and a little bit of olive oil, or buy individual packs from the store for true grab-and-go convenience. When you’re in a hurry to get to the childcare center, just put it into your toddler’s lunchbox. Add some crackers and chop up some carrots and cucumbers for a nice crunch to their lunch.

5. Avocado Puree

A creamy avocado puree is a fast and easy way to whip up a sweet lunch for your little one. Just take a ripe avocado and remove the skin and pit. Run it through a food processor with a dash of condensed milk and whipping cream to get a smooth yet fluffy texture. Let your kid enjoy this alone or add a few crackers or chips.

Lunch Ideas for Young Picky Eaters

Cooking for your toddler can require a bit more thought when they’ve adopted picky eating. And while around one-third to one-half of picky eaters usually outgrow their habits within two to three years, it’s still important to consider their preferences. 

1. Buttered Toast

Buttered toast is a classic food option that will avoid overwhelming your toddler with too much flavor or texture. To make this, simply take your white piece of bread and toast it in the pan with butter. After toasting, slice the bread into triangles to make it appealing and easier to eat.

2. Pizza Rolls

Pizza rolls offer a nice balance of flavors for your toddler. Assemble your pizza dough, sauce, and cheese as you would to make a regular pizza. If your kid has any preferred meats or veggies, add them to the mix. Afterward, roll this up and slice it into pieces before baking.

3. Ham and Cheese Quiches

Ham and cheese are another familiar combo your kid should be accustomed to. Put them onto puff pastry with some milk and cheese to make some bite-sized quiches. These savory muffin-like bites are the perfect addition to your toddler’s lunch pack 

4. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sushi

Peanut butter and jelly is another safe combination of flavors that children love. To level up your sandwich, you can turn them into tiny sushi rolls. Simply flatten your bread and add the spread before rolling and slicing it up.

5. Crispy Hashbrown

If your toddler loves potatoes, make hashbrowns for their lunch pack. Peel your potatoes and grate them down before mixing in a bit of egg. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to your frying pan to cook and crisp up your hashbrowns.

Other Easy Grab and Go Options for Busy Moms

Need more ideas? Maybe you’re just too busy, have other kids, or you’re pregnant and tired. We’ve got you!

  • Boiled eggs
  • Rice cakes with peanut butter or cream cheese
  • Cheese sticks
  • Yogurt tubes or pouches (watch out for added sugar)
  • Fruit pouches
  • Chicken or tuna salad (just open the can, add mayo and seasoning- and put on toast or crackers)
  • Leftovers (save extras in individual serving size containers to easily grab!)

See other yummy meal ideas to make during pregnancy and postpartum.

Keep Your Toddler Well-Fed

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to making lunch, especially when you’re tailoring it for your toddler. Know their food preferences and ensure that they get full, no matter where they are, during noontime. Try the food options above and find your toddler’s new favorite lunch!

Author: JayDee Vykoukal

Title: Writer

Expertise: motherhood, pregnancy, postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, raising kids, physical therapy, healthy habits, holistic health, writing, freelancing, working from home

JayDee Vykoukal is a writer, author, mom, and Doctor of Physical Therapy. She has been writing about everything motherhood and health-related since 2018 when her first daughter was born, and she wanted to stay home.

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