Preparing a wholesome and healthy lunch packed with beneficial nutrients is an important part of raising your toddler. 

These early years are when they grow faster than at any other time in their life. The food that they eat during these formative years will have a huge impact on how they develop as individuals later in life. 

An effective way to do that is by preparing easy-to-make toddler lunches packed with healthy food that will keep them energized throughout the day. You don’t have to spend hours cooking elaborate meals or desserts; there are plenty of simple tricks that can make it all easier. 

Today I’m sharing with you my 5 simple steps to prepare a toddler-friendly healthy lunch box. I also have a TON of school lunch ideas for your toddler + a 1-week meal plan for your toddler’s lunch box (no reheating required)! 

Let’s dive in! 

5 Steps To Prepare A Toddler-Friendly Lunch Box 

I promise you that throwing together your toddler’s lunch box every day doesn’t have to be complicated! I’ve created this simple little step-by-step guide using food groups to help you pack a healthy lunch for your toddler in just a few minutes. 

#1: For the main “meal” we want to include something with a grain and a protein. For example, a nut butter + jammy sando. 

#2: You’ll want to include two small sides consisting of a fruit + veggie. So let’s say we throw in a tangerine and some baby carrots. 

#3: Add a “fun” food or sweet treat you know they really like – graham crackers, goldfish, chocolate candy, etc. 

#4: Don’t forget to pack a drink. This can be water, a juice box, a carton of milk, etc. 

#5: Don’t forget to pack a healthy snack for your toddler’s lunch box! A great well-balanced snack should include a protein or fat with a fruit or veggie. (I have a whole list of ideas below, don’t worry!) 

Related: 20 Easy & Healthy Snacks to Feed Your Growing Toddler

And that’s it!

child eating healthy snacks for toddlers lunch box

5 simple steps to packing your toddler’s lunch! My little step-by-step approach ensures that your toddler is eating a well-balanced meal. One that is going to fuel them for the rest of their day and provide all they need nutritionally. 

Related: The Toddler Food Pyramid: How To Feed Your Child A Healthy Diet

Need help picking out the perfect lunch box for your toddler? Check out my post with the top 20 daycare and preschool-friendly lunch boxes. Spoiler alert! The Bentgo is my absolute favorite and perfect for your tiny eater.

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Your Toddler (1-5-year-olds)

Coming up with new meal ideas, so you don’t feel like you’re serving your child the same thing over and over again is one of the biggest struggles when feeding your child. So to help you out I have created a little list of ideas for each lunch box component I mentioned in my step-by-step guide above: 

The Main Component – “Protein + Grain” 

Here are some healthy toddler lunch ideas for the main component of your toddler’s lunch box: 

  • Shredded chicken and brown rice
  • Ground beef (or turkey) and a tortilla 
  • Pasta and meatballs 
  • Nut butter and jammy sandwich 
  • Hummus and pita triangles 
  • Taco meat and rice
  • Beans and rice
  • chicken and black bean stuffed sweet potatoes
  • avocado sandwich
  • egg salad sandwich
  • chicken salad sandwich
  • tuna salad sandwich
  • Ground chicken and quinoa
  • Yogurt parfait 
  • cheese quesadilla
  • Black bean (or chicken) quesadilla 
  • Deli turkey and cheese sandos or roll ups 
  • English muffin pizza
  • Leftover from dinner the night before! 

Popular healthy protein options for toddlers include – lean meats, beans, hard-boiled eggs, and nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter, etc.)

Try to pack whole grains for the grain component more often than refined grains. Whole grains include whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, whole wheat tortilla, etc.

Side of Fruit 

When packing a side of fruit for your toddler’s lunch box you want to make sure that the fruit will stay fresh until lunchtime – I’d stay away from banana slices – and that your toddler can eat the fruit exactly how it is offered in the lunch box. 

Some great fruit options for your toddler’s lunch box include: 

  • Tangerine (you can peel and segment ahead of time if needed) 
  • Grapes (cut them in half lengthwise to minimize the risk of choking) 
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries (you also may want to cut these in half to minimize the risk of choking) 
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Watermelon 
  • Apple slices – to keep them from turning brown try adding just a bit of lemon juice to the bag or container

Pro Tip: Use these fun little food picks if you have a picky eater on your hands. This can help pique their interest in the food you’ve packed. 

Side of Veggie

Veggies can be tricky for some toddlers. I still recommend including a veggie in each lunch even if you’re hesitant that they may eat it. They may surprise you! Also repeated exposure to a particular food can help with picky eating. 

Some of my go-to veggies for your toddler’s lunch box are: 

  • Snap peas
  • Celery sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes (cut in half lengthwise to minimize the risk of choking) 
  • Broccoli
  • Bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Baby carrots

Also, don’t forget to add a dip for your child’s veggies! This can also sometimes help them take that bite. Ranch, Greek yogurt, and hummus are great options.

Related: 5 Tips for Your Child Who Refuses to Eat Fruits and Vegetables

fun treat snacks are a healthy snacks for toddlers lunch box

The “Fun” Food or Sweet Treat 

I really encourage you to offer a food item your child LOVES! It gives them a little comfort in eating food away from their home environment and gets them excited about eating their lunch. 

Some “fun” foods your child may love: 

  • Cheez-its 
  • Tortilla chips
  • Graham crackers
  • Goldfish
  • Chocolate candy 
  • Fruit snacks 
  • Protein bar 
  • Raisins
  • Teddy Grahams 
  • Cookie

What About Dairy? 

You may have noticed I don’t mention adding dairy food or drink to the meal! Some kiddos are dairy intolerant or have an allergy, so it’s not a must-have in your toddler’s meal.

Dairy can be a great source of protein, healthy fats, calcium, and vitamin D, so if you’d like to include dairy in your toddler’s lunch here are some ideas: 

  • Milk 
  • Cottage cheese
  • String cheese
  • Shredded cheese
  • Feta cheese
  • Yogurt 
  • Yogurt melts
  • Ranch 

If your child is unable to keep their lunch cold during the day before lunchtime it may be best to leave the dairy out anyways! 

5 best healthy snacks for toddlers lunch box

20 Healthy Snacks For Your Toddler’s Lunch Box

It’s a good idea to add a healthy, well-balanced snack to your toddler’s lunch box. A nutritious snack is super helpful when it comes to holding off your child’s hunger in between meals, but also filling in the gaps in their nutrition. 

A well-balanced snack should be composed of: 

  • A fruit or veggie
  • A protein or fat 

Here are 20 of my top healthy snacks for your toddler’s lunch box: 

  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Bananas and nut butter
  • Berries and cottage cheese
  • Oranges and yogurt 
  • Grapes and string cheese
  • Thats It Fruit Bars and string cheese
  • Kiwi and yogurt 
  • Melon and cheese cubes
  • Pears and cheese
  • Half a hummus sando 
  • Snap peas and hummus
  • Cucumbers and cream cheese
  • Cherry tomatoes and ranch dip 
  • Carrot sticks and hummus
  • Edamame and cheese
  • Apple chips and milk
  • Applesauce and cheese cubes
  • Pretzels, string cheese, and berries 
  • Smoothie melts 
  • Cubbed chicken and apples 

When choosing store-bought snacks to add to your child’s lunch try to choose snacks that are made with simple, clean ingredients. If you can read everything on the label then you’re good. Larabars and Solely food products are some of my family’s go-to’s. 

Related: 20 Easy & Healthy Snacks to Feed Your Growing Toddler

Healthy Drink Options for Your Toddlers Lunch Box

When packing school lunches don’t forget to offer a drink with their lunch.

I always recommend sending your child to school with a reusable water bottle filled with water. The child-sized Hydroflask is a great option – our family favorite.

Other healthy drink choices for your toddler’s lunch box include:

  • milk (make sure you place it near the ice packs)
  • fortified milk alternatives
  • 100% fruit juice

Try to avoid packing any sugar-sweetened beverages for your child – sports drinks, soda, flavored water, etc. Sugar-sweetened beverages don’t meet any of your child’s daily nutrition needs and contain a high amount of calories.

meal plan including healthy snacks for toddlers lunch box

1-Week Toddler Lunch Box Meal Plan (No Reheat!)

To help get you started with building your easy, healthy toddler lunch boxes this next week I have this 1-week toddler lunch box meal plan for you! This is a no-reheat lunch box, so perfect for cold healthy lunches! 

Monday: 

  • Nut butter and jammy sando 
  • Celery sticks
  • Tangerine 
  • Fun treat! 

Tuesday: 

  • Hummus and cucumber roll up 
  • Baby carrots 
  • Blueberries 
  • Optional: ranch dip (or greek yogurt + dill) 
  • Fun treat! 

Wednesday: 

  • Yogurt parfait (yogurt, granola, and fresh fruit) 
  • Bell pepper slices and hummus dip 
  • Optional: pita triangles 
  • Fun treat! 

Thursday: 

  • Turkey and cheese sando or roll up 
  • Baby carrots 
  • Strawberries 
  • Optional: ranch dip (or Greek yogurt + dill) 
  • Fun treat! 

Friday: 

  • Protein box (hard-boiled egg, whole grain crackers, nut butter, cheese stick) 
  • Apple slices or tangerine 
  • Celery sticks 
  • Fun treat! 

Related: The Best Organic Vitamins For Your Toddler – According To A Nutritionist (2022)

In A Nutshell 

So now you have a little list of ideas for what to have in your toddler’s lunch boxes. Don’t forget to use my little, simple formula – (protein + grain) + fruit + veggie + fun treat + optional dip – to throw together a quick and easy healthy lunch.

If you are interested in receiving even MORE meal ideas you can sign up for my weekly meal ideas email list. I’ll pop into your inbox every Friday morning with a fresh list of meal ideas for the upcoming week + a FREE monthly meal plan template! You can sign up here!

Here’s to raising tiny foodies! 

Kayece

Disclaimer: This blog post is provided for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical or healthcare advice. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose, treat, heal, cure or prevent any illness or medical condition. Kayece Flood is providing services only in the capacity as a nutritionist, not as a licensed medical or healthcare professional. Working with Raising Tiny Foodies is not a guarantee of any results. Raising Tiny Foodies owns all copyrights to the materials presented here unless otherwise noted. 

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