When I became a mom many moons ago, I remember thinking that having a newborn baby was the most difficult challenge that I would face. Late night feedings, colic, and pushing myself to the brink of insanity while trying to balance being a new wife and new mom. I thought when I got through that stage, that life would be relatively smooth sailing. How much harder could it get, I thought?
I know, you’re already laughing at me, aren’t you? That’s okay, I look back at that young, naive girl and laugh right along with you. Little did I know that my sweet little newborn would grow into the toddler I see before me.
From the time his little feet hit the floor in the morning until he finally crashes at night, he is going full speed. Lunch seems to be the most challenging part of my day. Between the toddler wrangling and the never-ending list of chores before me, lunch tends to cut right into all of that and leaves me feeling like our day is being interrupted. I was desperate for easy toddler lunch ideas and turned to my trusted tribe of mama friends for help.
I sat down last week with them, and we shared and compared some of our favorite healthy meals for our busy toddlers. If you are like me and find lunchtime to be a struggle, I hope you will find this list helpful.
If you are a mom like me, and the thought of heavily processed meals for your little one is a no-go, I highly recommend this easy to make and easy to adapt chicken nugget recipe.
Dice chicken breasts and roll in crushed corn flakes, then season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder. YUM! As a healthy and yummy side dish, I like to cut up grapes and blueberries and serve them with a simple, plain yogurt and honey dipping sauce.
The classic PB&J sandwich, cut with your favorite star cookie cutter. Easy, yummy and cute. Don’t have a star cookie cutter? No problem. Any cookie cutter or fun shape will delight your little one. Plain yogurt topped with fresh berries round out this classic toddler favorite.
Pasta and Peas
Not only is it somewhat fun to say, (try it, “pasta and peas, pasta and peas.” See, told you), but, it’s also super easy to whip together when you’re in a bind. Just use elbow macaroni, frozen peas, butter, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste.
It’s the perfect food for your little one to practice those fine-motor skills with, too. Whether they want to pinch those peas and noodles in between their tiny pointer fingers and thumbs, or if they’re itching to start practicing using utensils. Either way, it is good practice for little hands. You don’t make this pasta dish with a messy sauce, so you can let them go crazy.
Chicken and Rice
This classic comfort food is one of my favorite go-to’s. My little guy loves it just as much as I do. And don’t worry, this dish is much easier than you think. It also has an added benefit; it can be frozen and pulled out for future lunches.
Dice and cook chicken breast. Add brown rice, cream of chicken soup, and salt and pepper for taste. Bake until the top of your rice is nice and golden brown. So, so good.
Many parents of toddlers seem to go back and forth on hotdogs, and I can’t say I blame them. Hot dogs can be a significant choking hazard, so please use this recipe with caution. If your toddler has all of their chompers and you’re staying close by, I say these little guys are a fun and delightful lunch.
Chop your favorite hot dogs into toddler sized pieces, then roll these little guys in crescent rolls, bake and serve.
Mini Chicken Pot Pies
This is another simple recipe using crescent rolls. Grab a mini muffin pan and fill each muffin with some of your crescent roll dough. Add in some cooked chicken, frozen peas, carrots, and corn. Bake until golden brown and enjoy.
Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned sloppy joe?
Brown 1lb of ground beef. Add a cup of ketchup, two tbsp of mustard, one tsp of brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder and salt and pepper. I like to serve this with homemade sweet potato fries. Preheat your oven to 425, cut sweet potatoes into wedges, drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Zoodles and Sauce
Zucchini noodles and your kiddos favorite pasta sauce; it could not get any easier. Whole wheat toast with a bit of butter and garlic powder on the side round out this super simple, super tasty lunch.
Lunchtime French Toast
Or the toddler Monte Cristo, as I like to call it. This one is my little guy’s favorites lunches. Two pieces of french toast stuffed with provolone and ham, then cooked until the cheese is nice and melted. I don’t know what it is, but something about this french toast sandwich screams “serve me with a banana.” And I always do.
Deconstructed Chef Salad
Avocado, sliced boiled eggs, bite-sized cucumbers, chopped ham, and turkey. Who needs dressing when you have this many amazing flavors in one dish? My toddler loves avocado, so this lunch is always a home-run in my house.
Black Bean Quesadillas
Everyone loves a good quesadilla. These black bean quesadillas are super simple and easily adaptable for mommy and toddler.
Use your favorite brand of tortilla filled with Monterey jack cheese, drained and rinsed black beans, chopped tomatoes and frozen corn for your little one.
For Mommy, you can fill it with the same things or add chopped onions and jalapenos for an extra kick. Add a side of brown rice and mild salsa.
This recipe starts with 1 lb of cooked ground turkey, one can of drained and rinsed black beans, and one can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. Next, add one palm full of cumin, one palm full of garlic powder, one palm full of onion powder, one can of crushed tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve this with avocado and sour cream for an extra special presentation. This dish is especially perfect on a cold day.
Toddlers love eggs, and eggs love toddlers. My little guy loves his omelet filled with his favorite goodies like ham, cheese, tomatoes and bell pepper.
Grilled Cheese Roll-up
The tortilla is honestly the most versatile food known to humankind. We love to make grilled cheese roll-ups and serve them with a warm bowl of tomato soup.
Add your favorite shredded cheese to a room temperature tortilla, roll it up like a burrito and cook until the cheese is gooey.
Toddlers love getting involved with cooking and playing with their food. From start to finish, this fun yet straightforward dish is not only tasty for your little one but a great hands-on experience as well.
Start with crescent dough cut into round, even portions. Add a spoonful of your favorite pasta sauce and top however you like. Our favorite toppings are diced pineapple and cubed ham.
We’d love to hear from you! Let us know how these easy lunch ideas worked out for you and your little one. If you have any toddler-friendly recipes to share, please go ahead and share them in the comments section below.