toddler eats: lunch!

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i’m excited to have kelsey nixon back to share some of her ideas for creating the perfect lunches for little ones! we get into a lunch-rut more than i’d like to admit at our house with E and S so hopefully you’ll find these ideas and examples as helpful as we did! i especially love that kelsey believes it’s important to keep offering new and different foods to your little ones, even if they remain untouched on their plate, to help expand and grow their toddler palate.  that’s something i haven’t thought much about but makes total sense.

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kelsey says:

As the parent of a toddler, I sometimes find myself pressing the repeat button over and over when it comes to lunches. Toddlers can be terribly picky and opinionated which makes it easy for parents to fall into the rut of making the same thing time after time simply because you know they’ll eat it. I’ve been there – trust me! Even though untouched food on your toddler’s plate can feel frustrating, I do believe that it’s essential to continue to offer up new and exciting foods to help expand your toddler’s growing palate. When it comes to figuring out just what to offer these kiddos, sometimes the best resource is just talking with other parents about what they’re having success with.

One rule of thumb that I like to follow is to try and fill 4 different categories: Fruit, Vegetable, Starch, and Protein. It’s a simple formula to run through so that you know that you’re serving a nice well balanced meal. It doesn’t always happen in our home with every meal, but we make an effort and there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your toddler love and gobble up healthy food and snacks.

Below I’ve pulled together 4 different toddler lunches that offer up some obvious suggestions and a few less obvious suggestions that may spark some interest for you and your toddler.

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If you have one of those rare toddlers (like I do!) that isn’t a big fan of fruit, try offering up freeze dried fruit. They’re crunchy and delicious and easy to eat on the go as well.

We started adding multigrain crackers into the mix when I was looking for good sources of fiber and iron for my son.

The simple apple slice sandwiches are filled with peanut butter and raisins. This is a great example of using ingredients that your toddler loves in a new and different way to keep things exciting.

Finally, edamame is a huge hit with my little guy. They’re easy to eat, bright green, and an excellent source of protein.

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Dried fruit is easy to reach for and satisfies a toddler’s sweet tooth.

I’m always a fan of family dinners that turn into leftovers that are ideal for a toddlers lunch. This pasta salad can easily be adapted for adults and toddlers. We make it for an easy weeknight meal and I always count on the leftovers turning into lunch (for the both of us!) By using a filled pasta like tortellini, you’re able to sneak in some additional protein, dairy, or vegetables to make the salad a bit more hearty. I seem to always have spinach tortellini on hand.

Salami slices are a solid source of protein and my little guy loves that they’re perfectly shaped circles.

Olives and an easy-to-open mini cheese wheel round out this meal nicely. Those olive usually end up on my son’s fingertips before he pops them into his mouth!

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This corn salad is a family favorite recipe that always yields leftovers that my little guy loves. We tone down the spice a little bit by leaving out the chiles or you can simply combine corn, tomatoes and avocado with a squeeze of lime juice for a simpler version.

My guilty pleasure in life is potato chips, which unfortunately my son caught on to at a very young age! Serving him these black bean & quinoa chips reduces my mom guilt and he loves them.

If you’re looking to switch up your quesadilla game, try making a black bean and cheese quesadilla by keeping the tortilla flat in the skillet and slowly melting the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, turn the heat off and transfer the tortilla with a spatula to a cutting board. Carefully roll up the tortilla with the seam on the bottom and cut rounds for an easy way to serve this toddler favorite.

Finally, dried mango chips are great with jicama. Jicama is technically a root vegetable but tastes like a crisp apple. It’s a really versatile ingredient to have on hand and a great way to mix up the same old veggies and fruits that you serve your toddler day in and day out.

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Plums and blueberries look as good as they taste.

Carrot & celery sticks are perfect for dipping into hummus.

I love making these mini pita pizzas by spreading a little greek yogurt or tzatziki sauce on a whole wheat pita and topping it with olives, tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese. I dare you to not eat these yourself – they’re super yummy.

For an unexpected finish to this lunch consider offering your toddler spanakopita. My little guy loves their triangular shape and the delicious spinach and feta filling. They’re crispy and easy to hold and the perfect pairing alongside the pita pizzas. I like making this recipe for my family and freezing any leftovers to include in lunches. Trader Joes also makes a delicious organic frozen option.


Finally, what you serve your toddler’s lunch in can sometimes have just as much of an affect as the foods that you are actually serving. I love these trays that I originally found at Target (similar here) but I’m also a huge fan of these Bento Boxes when we’re doing lunch on the go.

What are the toddler lunches that you have the most success with in your home? Any unique fruits or vegetables that your little ones love? Any success stories on getting picky eaters to try new things?


thank you again for sharing your expertise with us, kelsey! see kelsey’s last post, all about cooking with apples HERE.

All photos by Kylie Whiting.

  1. These are great idea’s…I have a little neice and nephew and they can be picky…and I often forget that there stomachs are a little smaller than mine!!
    http://vodkaandarose.blogspot.co.uk

  2. tilly

    all looks very nice! wouldn’t mind those apple sandwiches for myself! ha!

  3. Love this post! And its not just nice for toddlers I’d love to have lunch snacks as diverse as these!

    Have a lovely day!
    Liefs,

    Yara

  4. chelsea

    wow, alright-these are some serious lunches! I love how your thought outside the box, and I hope to try all of them. Thanks for all the great recipes and ideas- I had never thought of jicama or freeze dried fruits!

    http://www.hollandsreverie.blogspot.com

  5. Les

    Now of she could tell me how to get my kids to actually eat that stuff! My kids would starve first! Ha! Seriously…help please!

  6. hanna

    Lovely post. The food ideas are all great! –Hanna Lei

  7. arielle

    these are some pretty fancy toddler lunches! I am pretty sure even I would be super excited to eat any of these. maybe I’ll spruce up my own lunchtime routine this week. thanks for sharing, taza!

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

  8. Bambi

    Thanks for sharing! I have no toddler yet, so I guess I have to eat the snacks myself :-)

    Love from Italy,

    Bambi

    http://lasagnolove.blogspot.it

  9. Even though this post is full of inspiration for toddlers, I really enjoyed it myself (as a 25 year old woman without kids…). It reminded me how easy it actually is to eat healthy. Well, I just had Nutella for breakfast, but it’s always good with some inspiration :-D

  10. These are so savory and sweet! Awesome ways to add in some nutrition with fun- and all that color! Pinned :)

    Warm Regards,
    Alexandra
    http://www.littlewildheart.com

  11. Tammy

    Love all the ideas. Especially, the cheese and black bean rollups. Toddlers or adults these are all great and healthy snacks :)

    Thank you for sharing.

    xo

  12. marie

    In my country, we usually feed our toddlers simple noodles with soup or porridge. It’s easy to chew/swallow and tasty too! ;) my son loves noodles since he was much younger and still does.

    http://smittenbyangels.blogspot.com

  13. Kate

    All of these meals look delicious! I don’t have a little one yet, but I can definitely see myself eating these – the tortellini salad looks especially good! Thank you for sharing.

    xo
    Kate
    http://alltheprettyfrenchies.com

  14. Valeria

    Such a Great and useful post !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Becca

    It’s like you read my mind! Dealing with this with my 18th month old right now – we’re in a turkey hot dog/quesadilla/pizza rut. I do feel virtuous when I give her peanut butter on whole wheat bread though!

  16. Sinead

    I would totally eat adult-sized versions of all these lunch options – such a yummy mix of food! :-)

  17. Briseidy

    nice ideas! love the peanut butter apple sandwich!

  18. Manda

    I agree that little ones should constantly be introduced to new foods. Our oldest is very picky. She knows she needs to have a “no-thank-you-bite” of every new food/dish. If she doesn’t like it she can eat whatever else was offered that mealtime. We have found there are many foods she initially will turn her nose up at but after having her no-thank-you-bite she’ll nibble or try a little more when we’re not watching. Freeze dried fruit (and vegetables) have been a God-send. Both our girls love macadamia nuts (we chop them for our two-year old) which are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Our picky eater also loves deli meat roll ups (rather than a tortilla or bread) stuffed with cheese (sometimes we can sneak in some chopped spinach/tomato). We’ll also make almond flour crackers at home (we can also sneak in veggies this way). She loves helping make the crackers and devours them once they’re done in the oven (here’s the recipe http://allrecipes.com/recipe/killer-crackers/). We’ve also found that having a fun container for her to pack her lunches in helps. We love the lunch bots: http://www.lunchbots.com/

  19. Marissa

    I’ve always come up with pretty good ideas wpfor my 3 year old who has milk, wear, soy, peanut, & egg allergies. These are some good thing I han’t really thought of before.

  20. Kris

    I WISH my 5 year old would eat some of those foods. She is so incredibly picky that more often than not we end up with not-so-nutritious foods.

  21. Jess.

    Those beautiful meals would make me the happiest 39-year-old toddler in town! Great ideas, and the divided trays are darling. xox

  22. OK, I’d be pretty happy to eat any of those myself, especially the peanut butter apple sandwich!

  23. nadia

    with the increased number of children with life threatening peanut allergies, i am surprised peanut butter is an option. is peanut butter allowed in your school?

  24. Alexa

    I find these posts to be inspirational for my own, 26 year old snacks and lunches, as well! Keep ’em coming! :)

  25. Lara

    Who wrote this? ‘My son’ referenced a lot. It just scans strangely, doesn’t sound like Taza at all?

  26. Jennifer

    Thanks for some great inspiration! Our third, now 15 months, has egg, dairy & peanut allergies and I often struggle with what to give him (especially when he can’t have what his brothers are eating). So I really appreciate some fresh ideas for this (often) brain dead mama!

    As a side note, a lot of the advice about continually offering new foods reminded me of one of the most influential books I’ve read when it comes to feeding my family – “French Kids Eat Everything”. So many great things I got from it- very highly recommended. :)

  27. Ash

    Lara,

    In the beginning of the post, she writes “Kelsey says:” and then the post continues. To finish, Taza writes “thank you again for sharing your expertise with us, kelsey!” Therefore, Kelsey wrote the post.

    Read. Don’t scan.

  28. Kristin

    Ohh, love these! Even though I have no babies in my life yet, these look like something I’d totally make for myself! Lol :D

    http://everythingsalwayssunny.com
    Kristin xx

  29. angela

    I started to follow your blog in 2008. It had beautiful pictures and personality .
    Now just one more and I feel so boring!
    Sorry but I had to say.

  30. Krista

    These are great options! My son is a picky eating so I’m always trying to find new, healthy options for him. So much inspiration here!

    http://www.kristajacobs.blogspot.com

  31. Veronica

    This is strange to me as we always feed our kids the same food we’re having (and this is not specific to my family: as soon as toddlers eat solid food, it’s one meal for everyone). We share our meals and I feel making them something different would take a lot of time and also give them the impression that there’s “kids food” and “adult food”… cultural differences I guess (we are French)!

  32. Florendia

    Great post! I would absolutely eat these (minus the salami cause I’m a vegetarian) and apparently I’m not a toddler haha.

  33. LOVE these ideas. My now 6 year old is funny with some fruits still, so I’ll check out the freeze dried options!!
    Thank you, x