This post may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy for more details.

Here are some quick lunch ideas for 1 to 3 year olds that are easy to eat and packed with nutrition! Enjoy at home or pack for school.

a four image collage with different easy lunch ideas for toddlers.
Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!

Food Ideas for 1 to 3 Year Olds

This is a fun time for food adventuring. Your toddler is becoming a more proficient eater and is able to handle a wide variety of foods and textures.

However, you may be concerned that your child isn’t eating as much as they once did when they were a baby. But don’t be alarmed. Their growth rate drops significantly during this time and so a decrease in food intake is normal.

On the other hand, it’s possible your child may be hungrier than before. This too, is normal. Remember every child is different. 

If your baby is growing, following their unique growth curve, and happy, then they are eating the amount of food that’s RIGHT for them, even if it’s less or more than the recommendations or what you think they need to be eating.

All this to say, use the meal ideas I’m providing to gain inspiration and have fun making them your own by taking into consideration your child’s appetite, chewing abilities, food preferences, and allergies.

I highly encourage you to continue focusing on offering a variety of flavors and textures, even if your toddler is starting to display fussy eating behaviors.

toddler pushing bowl away

Is your toddler becoming picky?

Arm yourself with these strategies that will transform your mealtimes!

You may also be interested in:

Packing Lunch for Daycare or Preschool

All of these meals I’m sharing can be enjoyed at home or at school!

I remember when I first started packing lunches for my one year old, I felt really confused and overwhelmed. I hope these tips are helpful!

  • Give yourself grace! Don’t put so much pressure to pack pack the most nutritious, delicious, and adorable lunch boxes right from the start. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row. Just start right where you are. As you feel more confident and ready, continue making SMALL tweaks along the way. 
  • Choose a lunch box that is suitable for your child’s age, appetite, and food preferences.
  • Don’t pack new foods as they can be really intimidating for your child. Not to mention, you want to see if your toddler is able to eat them without any trouble.
  • All of these ideas are easy to pack and don’t  require reheating. You can add a lot of variety to these by switching up fruits, vegetables, protein, etc.
  • Freeze foods like sandwiches, muffins, fruit, squeezable yogurt tubes, applesauce containers, etc. to keep the food cold. Test at home first to make sure they thaw by lunchtime. 
  • Make sure there’s always some type of protein and or fat along with colorful fruits/veggies for lasting energy. I’m hopeless when it comes to food art, but using cookie cutters to make veggies fun and exciting as you see here? That I can do! 
  • Toddlers are notorious for their erratic appetites. Therefore, consider your child’s intake over the course of a week, not a single day. You are more likely to see balance and this will make feeding a lot less stressful for you.

How much to pack

It depends on your child! Notice eating trends. If you’re finding that more food returns home than is actually eaten, then try packing less.

While my son seems to prefer seeing abundance, your child might get really overwhelmed by seeing a lot of food. In that case, seeing smaller portions may actually encourage them to eat more.

Also, consider their eating habits. If they normally eat 1/2 of a sandwich at home, don’t pack a full-size one. If they don’t like to see too many choices, then keep things simple. 

Ask the teacher if they could repack what your child doesn’t eat. This will allow you to see what foods are a no most of the time so you can plan accordingly. Now this doesn’t mean you should stop serving these foods but you can serve smaller portions or serve them in different ways. 

Related: Lunchbox Ideas for Toddlers

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Toddlers

Banana Peanut Butter Sandwich

Hummus grilled cheese cut into cubes and strips with zucchini and carrots cut into rabbit and star shapes.

Invite fun and variety to the classic peanut butter sandwich! You can add cheese or even veggies!

Cut into strips or bite-sized pieces depending on your child’s preference.

If your child doesn’t like sandwiches, try serving it deconstructed.

Here’s a master list of sandwich ideas for toddlers! You don’t want to miss this one!

Roll Ups

peanut butter carrot banana roll ups, shredded zucchini, broccoli, and yogurt.

Here’s a fun twist on sandwiches. Add whatever fillings you wish and roll up the bread or tortilla!

Give these recipes a try:

Pictured: Peanut butter banana (with carrots and zucchini) roll up + steam roasted broccoli + grated zucchini + Greek yogurt

Baked Patties

A whole patty with another cut into bite sized pieces served with cucumber and ricotta.

You will love how easy it is to whip up these patties! They are packed with nutrition and freezes beautifully. Simply thaw in the fridge overnight and you can serve cold or reheat briefly.

Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs with raspberries, and butternut squash.

Serve with fruits and/or vegetables. Adding whole grains, bread, pancakes, or waffles will be great too.

Pictured: Scrambled eggs with quinoa and spinach, butternut squash, raspberries

Vegetable Omelette

Vegetable omelette strips, freeze dried strawberries, and orange and purple sweet potatoes.

Again, another super easy and versatile recipe! Serve alongside some type of carbohydrate and fruit to round out the meal.

Pictured: Orange and purple sweet potatoes and freeze dried strawberries

Two pizza egg slices with carrots and apples.

Also try these pizza eggs!

And these sheet pan eggs! It’s seriously the best way to meal prep more than a dozen eggs.

Pesto or Hummus Pasta

pasta tossed in pesto with cubed chicken and raspberries in stainless steel lunchbox.

Toss cooked pasta with pesto or hummus. Feel free to add whatever vegetable(s) and/or protein of choice, like chicken, beans, tofu, etc.

Here are some other dips/sauces that pair well with pasta!

Or you can try these pasta recipes that can be enjoyed without reheating.

Muffins

A whole muffin, apple slices, cubed cheese, and butternut squash.

Muffins are the perfect finger food for toddlers and are well-loved. Try any of these options!

You will love how easy they are to make with simple, wholesome ingredients. They don’t contain any added sugar, which you want to avoid until age 2.

Again, serve alongside fruit/vegetable and protein, such as shredded or cubed chicken, eggs, yogurt, beans, tofu, cheese, etc.

Note: Cubed cheese may pose a choking risk so if your baby is closer to one, offer thin slices, thin slices cut into small pieces, or shredded. Once your child becomes more proficient with chewing and swallowing, you can offer cubed cheese.

Quesadillas

pizza quesadilla cut into a large triangle and bite sized pieces, diced avocado, and star and bear shaped red bell pepper.

You seriously can’t go wrong with a classic cheese quesadilla. But don’t stop there!

Here’s a veggie-forward version of the kid-favorite! Spread pizza sauce and filling made with broccoli, spinach, and white beans onto a soft tortilla.

Then using kitchen shears, cut into smaller pieces to make it easier for your child to eat.

You can make this ahead of time and reheat briefly in the toaster oven or enjoy cold. If you like cold pizza, you’ll find it delicious!

Pancakes or Waffles

Spinach pancake sandwich with hard boiled egg, raspberries, butternut squash, hummus, and fun shaped zucchini and carrot pieces in a green lunchbox.

The beauty of this iconic breakfast staple is that they freeze well! Simply thaw in the fridge overnight and serve as is or spread yogurt, cream cheese, nut/seed butter, etc. and turn into sandwiches.

Pancakes

Waffles

Chicken Nuggets

Three nuggets with ketchup, avocado, strawberries, and a tiny piece of carrot.

These baked veggie chicken nuggets are delicious on their own. But since most kids love to dip, you can serve with their favorite condiment.

If you want to boost nutrition, try some of these veggie-loaded dips!

And don’t forget to continue offering foods your toddler doesn’t like (yet!). Currently, my toddler has been refusing carrots (which she loved just a week ago), so I included a small piece for exposure.

Snack Tray

A green 9 cup freezer tray with an assortment of foods.

If you haven’t tried this, it’s a game changer, especially if your child has been struggling during mealtimes. Any muffin tin or freezer tray will work.

Simply fill with finger foods and dips and let the magic unfold! The beauty of this meal is that you can assemble with whatever foods you have in your pantry or fridge.

Pictured: Spinach muffins, tomatoes, cheerios, cheese, steak, bell peppers, bread, yogurt, pears.

May be interested in: The Ultimate Snack Tray Ideas

Yogurt

Yogurt buffet served in a stainless steel bowl and tray.

Breakfast for lunch is always a good idea! And yogurt goes with almost everything. Set up a yogurt bar with whatever foods you have on hand. This meal is especially great for the end of the week when you’re low on food or have zero energy.

If packing for school, add an individual yogurt cup.

Deconstructed Meals

cubed steak, naan cut into triangles, pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, sliced cucumber, and cooked rell bell pepper strips.

This meal is similar to the snack tray idea shared above except it has a theme.. Pictured is deconstructed pizza.

Simply place the components of the main entree separately, allowing your child to choose and assemble however they want.

This type of meal works really well for babies too!

bite sized chicken, naan cut into triangles, broccoli, carrots, and hummus on the side.

Here’s another example – deconstructed chicken hummus sandwich

French Toast

cubed vegetable French toast, ground beef, watermleon, and one piece of broccoli.

If you’ve never had savory French toast before, now is the time!

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever leftover vegetables you have on hand, and in 5 minutes, you now have the perfect finger food for your child.

Pictured: served with watermelon + ground beef + broccoli (serve a very small portion of foods your toddler is learning to enjoy. Here are more picky eating tips)

Banana French toast in strip and small pieces along with carrot and avocado.

And if you’re looking for a sweet version, try this 10 minute banana french toast!

Smoothies

Green smoothie with a sandwich half, curried cauliflower, and one spinach leaf.

Smoothies are such an easy way to pack in a lot of nutrition! Making your own is also cheaper than buying single-serve pouches or yogurt tubes.

And if you want to pack for daycare or preschool, they can also double as as an ice pack!

I absolutely love this reusable pouch. Simply fill it up, freeze, and it will be ready for tomorrow’s lunch!

Serve alongside any of the meal ideas you see here!

Pictured: Spinach sweet potato smoothie + curried avocado sandwich + roasted cauliflower (with turmeric) + 1 piece of spinach for exposure

Dinner Leftovers

A four image collage showing dinner leftovers.

If you aren’t already doing so, start serving dinner leftovers or other foods, that are normally eaten warm, cold or at room temperature. You may be surprised to find that they taste just fine without being reheated.

With repeated exposure at home, your child won’t have trouble eating them at school. Yay to more options!

Pictured:

And here’s a master list of EASY dinner ideas!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 Comments

  1. Hi Min, if packing hot food using an insulated container, is it still safe to eat hours later given that it as been sitting out? Reading through your food safety post and just wondering if bacteria will grow and cause sickness? Thank you.

  2. love this post! already bookmarked for ideas for my son (5 yo).

    i was wondering if you might have some creative advice… my 1 year old is going to a new classroom soon and they don’t allow tupperwares or reuseable containers. everything has to be disposable. this limits me to what kind of foods i can bring, not to mention she’s only partially self-feeding now. she can’t quite handle pouches yet either.

    good thing is that i only have to bring breakfasts (because she doesn’t like cereals and muffins, which is what the school provides; she eats the school lunches fine). do you have any suggestions? (the only things i can think of are like muffins or energy balls type of finger foods, but 1) she already doesn’t eat the muffins at school… and 2) energy balls may be too hard for her still since she’s only got 6 teeth) just trying to see if someone else can see outside the box =P

    thank you so much!!!

    1. That’s a tough one! Hmm..Does she like sandwiches or pancakes? Check out my egg veggie pancakes – recipe is here on my blog. Not sure if you have my first ecookbook, but it’s filled with nutritious finger-friendly foods, like beet pancakes, veggie sticks, pumpkin bread, oat bars, strawberry chickpea cookies, etc. But yea..perhaps mashed avocado chickpea sandwich, baked oatmeal bars, fruits with some type of protein like eggs, tofu, etc. Hope this helps!