When you start your baby on solids, after the initial acclimation period (for you both!), it becomes a pretty seamless process. Most babies start on cereals or purees, so your meal choices are basically made for you—and your babe can’t exactly complain too much about your cooking! Pick your flavor, grab a spoon, bowl and bib (SO KEY), and you are good to go. Even if your baby isn’t a big fan of a certain fruit or veggie, chances are they’ll come around after a few tries. Plus babies with food-covered faces are just about the cutest thing ever.
But then, friends, your sweet babe becomes a toddler. And feeding a toddler is no easy feat. First of all, toddlers have OPINIONS. Even if they can’t accurately communicate those opinions, they definitely have them, and they are committed to them. Also, toddlers are a lot more mobile!
So to get a toddler to sit and eat a healthy, balanced lunch, you’ve got to come with your A-game. Foods that will hold their interest for longer than three minutes, and that they won’t immediately reject by hurling them off their tray. And between hybrid learning, Zoom school, and playing, living, and working out of your home, these meals ALSO have to be easy. Sounds impossible, right? Wrong. Try some of these toddler lunch ideas and take one thing off your plate (and put it on theirs).
A failsafe classic: Mac and cheese!
If there is a kid who doesn’t love mac and cheese, we have yet to meet them. This lunch idea is like your ace in the hole—it cannot fail. “But ITN, toddlers can’t just live on cheese and carbs!” Well, technically you are right, although most kids will give you a run for your money trying to disprove that particular rule. But who says mac and cheese has to be all dairy and carbs?! This is 2020, baby. Parents are not thinking outside the box—we’re disguising it. You know your toddler will eat mac and cheese, and you want it to be a healthier version, right? So hide a bunch of good veg right in the gooey cheese, like this Mac and Three Cheese with hidden organic carrots and butternut squash from Little Spoon’s new line of toddler & kid’s meals, Plates. Your kid will gobble it down, you’ll feel better about giving them mac and cheese for two out of three meals a day, and everyone wins.
Not your basic sandwich
Sandwiches are, in our humble opinion, the perfect food. They are filling, portable, and customizable. You can have a sandwich for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! And they are another classic toddler lunch food. But, there’s a caveat when you’re making your toddler a sandwich for lunch. Your babe has these tiny hands and very little coordination You can’t hand them a regular-sized sandwich built for big hands! So turn your toddler’s PB&J, turkey and cheese, cream cheese and jam, or whatever their vibe is at the moment into an easy-to-eat pinwheel sammie. It’s no harder to make than a regular sandwich, and your little one will dig the swirly snack on their plate—just start with an open faced sandwich and roll it into a spiral before slicing. Serve them with a side of fresh fruit and something crispy for a nice balance.
Deconstructed tacos—because your toddler will deconstruct the taco anyway.
Taco Tuesday? Try taco, everyday. We’ll level with you—if you’ve ever handed your toddler an actual taco, hard or soft shell, you’ve learned a very valuable (and messy) lesson. Toddlers don’t do so well with foods that are foods inside of foods. So take everything out and give it to them a la carte! You can do any kind of seasoned protein like ground turkey, tofu or flaky baked fish. Add a side of black beans, diced tomatoes and avocado, and tortillas cut into little wedges or tortilla chips, and bam! A fun and delicious lunch that’s all finger foods, and one that gives your toddler some control over what they eat and how they eat it. Better yet, let Little Spoon do the heavy lifting for you. Pop their Turkey Taco Bowl into the microwave for a minute and you’ve got a clean, nutrient-packed meal on the table your little will devour.
Don’t overlook the versatility of meatballs.
We know what you might be thinking—how many ways can you jazz up a meatball? We’re expanding your horizons. Now the obvious choice would be spaghetti and meatballs, and we’re not against that at all. Toddlers love spaghetti and meatballs! It’s a perfectly good lunch idea, but we know you don’t want to spend extra time in the kitchen. Keep it simple and just heat up a serving of Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs from Little Spoon’s Plates menu. The best part? They pack hidden veggies into their signature marinara sauce, so your little one is getting their veg without even knowing it! Or grab some frozen meatballs and try them a few different ways in a few different days. Go Mediterranean with turkey meatballs served with hummus, pita bread, and cucumbers for your pint-size foodie. Add some teriyaki sauce, a side of diced pineapple, edamame, and some rice for an island vibe. The options are endless.
Get fancy with kid-friendly charcuterie.
Growing up, we called these “snacky meals”. Charcuterie is basically a fancy lunch of snacks, and we’re here for it! Toddlers can be fickle little people, so if you don’t want to have the food fight (like when they ask for a food and you serve them that food and then they decide they no longer like that food), make them an offer they can’t refuse—an entire lunch composed of snacks. Berries, crackers, cheese, raisins, crudités, salami or turkey, dips, whatever their little heart desires. Arrange everything in one of those adorable bento boxes or on a cafeteria-style plate, and just let your toddler go nuts. Once they learn how to pronounce charcuterie, we promise it’ll become their most-requested lunch.