Do you struggle to come up with meal ideas for your toddler’s lunch everyday? You’re not alone! When my little guy started going to daycare, he was just starting to transition to what I like to call “real food”…not the pureed cuisine he’d been eating since he was 6 months old. This was the real stuff, like mac and cheese and shredded chicken. At first, I would make sure Jack had all the required amounts of food (2 ounces of vegetables and so forth), not thinking too much if the foods went together or even thinking of it as an entire meal.
When it came time to make his food for daycare, I would throw some turkey, green beans, and mandarin oranges together and voila. Sure it covered most of his food groups and wasn’t a horrible pairing, but it lacked imagination. Now, Jack is a big eater, so I don’t have to worry about him turning away a meal just yet. Despite all that, I knew I could do better and be creative so that Jack will actually like eating the healthy stuff once he’s old enough to have an opinion.
The best part about these lunch ideas is that all you have to do is pull them from the refrigerator and serve. Some daycares don’t have the ability to heat up food, so these recipes are a win-win for everyone!
1. Roasted Turkey Sandwich
Spread cranberry sauce on a slice (or two) of an whole wheat English muffin. Take an ounce of roasted turkey and place it on top and you’re done. Cut the sandwich into smaller pieces if your toddler is still working on chewing to avoid any choking risks.
Serve with: Sweet potato “fries”
2. Nutty Strawberries & Cream Delight
Spread whipped cream cheese over a lightly toasted whole wheat English muffin and place slices of strawberries (you can easily change this to steamed apples) on top. In a blender, grind an ounce of walnuts until the consistency is very fine and sprinkle it on top of the sandwich.
NOTE: If your toddler is allergic to nuts (or you’re not sure), omit that step! It’s just another way for me to serve Jack protein and healthy fats.
Serve with: Milk.
3. Chicken Veggie Lettuce Wrap
Place ½ ounce of roasted chicken (shredded) and steamed veggies (carrots, corn and anything else your toddler eats) and wrap it up in a piece of lettuce. It will be crunchy and full of deliciousness inside.
Serve with: Apple sauce
4. Chicken Pasta
Use some of that leftover roasted chicken and add it to an ounce of well-cooked whole grain pasta. Toss in some mozzarella (or you kid’s favorite cheese) with some mashed tomatoes and cooked carrots.
Serve with: Fruit salad (pears, apples, strawberries)
5. BBQ Lunch with all the fixings
In our house, the pulled pork tastes just as good cold as it does hot! So what I do is place shredded pork in a container and serve it with potato salad and green beans with candied lemons. It’s simple but delicious!