Anyone who has a toddler knows that feeding one is not always the easiest thing. My sixteen month old is a pretty adventurous eater, but he also definitely prefers certain foods that are quintessential “toddler” foods- mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, etc. I do my best to create easy lunches using the things he loves, while also making sure I’m offering him lots of healthy options and variety. These are the things I make him for lunch most frequently that both of us love!
- Quesadillas- I do these a few different ways. One option is a more traditional quesadilla with refried pinto or black beans and shredded cheddar cheese. I also make “breakfast” quesadillas with egg, chopped spinach, and cheese; or quesadillas with peanut butter (or any nut butter or alternative) and thinly sliced banana. He loves all of them and they are a bit more fun and interesting than a regular sandwich. Serve it with a side like guacamole for the traditional quesadillas, fruit for the “breakfast” quesadillas, or a veggie/yogurt for the pb & banana to round out the meal.
- English Muffin Pizzas- super easy and always a huge hit. I spread store-bought organic pizza sauce on half of an English muffin (I love Food for Life Baking Ezekiel English muffins) and top it with shredded mozzarella cheese. Add whatever toppings your kiddo likes- mini pepperoni, chopped cooked veggies (we love bell pepper and/or mushroom), etc.
- “Snack” Plates- variety is the spice of life! Connor loves snack plates because he gets to sample a lot of different foods. I set out a few different “snack” foods to create one meal- cut up cheese, fruit (usually berries or grapes), crackers, hummus, hard-boiled egg, cooked soft carrots/bell peppers, etc. This is also a great option if your kiddo is in daycare because nothing needs to be hot.
- Chicken/Tuna/Egg Salad with Whole Wheat Crackers- switch it up depending on what your little one likes! This one is easy too because I usually make enough so that both of us can eat it. Whip up your favorite chicken salad, tuna salad, or egg salad and let your kiddo dip his/her crackers. Make sure to add a fruit with it, too!
- Pasta with Veggies- A lot of times I use leftovers for this, but sometimes I also use boxed mac and cheese (I like Annie’s organic). Some of our favorite combinations include mac and cheese with peas and pasta with red sauce with peppers or mushrooms.
- Egg “Muffins” – I meal prep these a lot (see this recipe- but you can really use any) and pack them for Connor when he goes to my parents’ house. They are super easy and I love that it’s easy to use a variety of different vegetables. Aside from the Italian Egg Muffins I linked, Connor also loves broccoli and cheddar!
- Veggie Tots- This recipe is GOLDEN. Connor loves these and I have made all of the different kinds. His favorites are the broccoli tots and the zucchini tots. I usually pair them with fruit and yogurt and he devours them!
- Toast with Toppings- Connor LOVES bread- so much so that “bread” was one of his first words. He loves toast and he will eat with almost anything on it. I like to switch up the toppings- sometimes we use mashed avocado, sometimes a nut butter and banana, other times classic peanut butter and jelly. We always use natural peanut butter (just peanuts and salt) and a lower sugar jelly (Trader Joe’s makes a great one!).
- Quinoa Cakes- These are another great option because you can meal prep them. We eat them for dinner a lot, so the leftovers make a great lunch. You can find my quinoa cake recipes here and here.
- Soups and Stews- It’s a little warm for these right now, but in the Fall and Winter we love soups and stews. I usually make soup or stew for dinner at least once a week when the weather is cooler, and we always have leftovers for lunch. Thicker soups are better for young kiddos (think: less mess). Connor loves black bean soup, potato soup (great because you can add veggies to this!), and Moroccan stew).
Hope this little guide is helpful if you are stuck in a lunch rut with your little ones! I also wanted to just quickly mention a few store-bought products I love to keep around for when we are really in a bind:
Vans Waffles- I cut these into strips and Connor dips them into yogurt or applesauce
Aldi or Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Bites- Spinach and Kale, Broccoli, or Sweet Potato are our favorites
Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese- any variety, but they also make one with golden peas if you’re looking to sneak in some extra veggies
Garden Lites Veggies Made Great Muffins- veggie cakes and fritattas