Finding quick, healthy options for your toddler’s lunch can be a minefield.
You know they should be eating a balanced diet with a variety of healthy foods, but what does that actually look like?
Well to break it down each meal should include one of the following:
- Healthy fats. 30-40% of your toddler’s calories should come from healthy fats. Options for this are avocados, nuts, seeds, oils (such as coconut oil) and nut butters.
- Complex carbohydrates. Avoid processed (white) grains and stick to wholemeal. This may be wholemeal pasta, bread, crackers or brown rice and quinoa
- Vegetables. It will still need to be soft for one-year-olds, but introducing them to a variety of veg at this age helps prevent picky eaters later.
- Fruit. Fruit is usually a winner with babies as it’s so sweet. While it makes a great dessert, your toddler won’t care about the order. If you have a kitchen diner a fruit snack at the table can be a great way to keep your little one occupied while you prepare lunch.
- Protein. One portion of protein per meal. For plant-based toddlers, this will come from beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds and soy.
Each meal should have a portion of each. A portion for a 1-year-old is roughly 2 tablespoons.
Don’t stress if your child doesn’t eat this every single meal
They may be a fussy eater and reluctant to try new foods, or just not in the mood for anything green that mealtime.
As long as they are consuming a balanced diet on average it’s fine.
As a time-poor parent, I value lunch prep that is either rapid or can be left cooking without much attention.
A simple lunch idea is to overcook your evening meal the night before, then the whole family has lunch ready-made for the next day.
For when this isn’t possible or practical here are some easy toddler lunch ideas.
Homemade pizza is a great option for a toddler’s lunch. It’s so quick to make and easily customizable to your baby’s taste.
Take a wholemeal tortilla wrap and cover thinly with tomato puree.
Add some veg such as chopped mushrooms, onions, and peppers and place under the grill for about 3 minutes.
Once cooked use a pizza cutter to cut into easy hold triangles.
Wholemeal pasta is packed with nutrients and a great base for a variety of easy meals.
Heat canned tomatoes and tomato puree for a quick pasta sauce. I like to add a handful of frozen mixed veg into the cooking pasta.
Once cooked drain the water and stir in the tomato sauce. Make sure you’ve got your best bib ready for this one, as it can get pretty messy!
An alternative to this is pasta salads. Add sweetcorn and chopped red peppers to the cooked pasta instead to make a bright, baby-friendly salad.
Vegetable soup and a piece of bread is a good emergency lunch.
You can use ordinary soup from a can, but check the level of added salt first.
Alternatively, a small bowl of vegetable soup is easy to make.
Place the chopped vegetables in a saucepan (for example 2 mushrooms, half a leek, a handful of green beans, and a potato).
Boil the contents for around 15 minutes on medium heat until soft.
Drain approximately half of the water and tip the rest of the contents of the pan into a blender.
Blend for 1 minute to create a chunky soup or longer for a smooth soup. Serve immediately
Brown Rice (Or Quinoa)
Rice is so versatile and easy to cook.
Add a portion of brown rice, sweetcorn, and black beans to a pan.
Boil until the rice is fully cooked and drain.
Add chopped peppers and serve for easy rice salad.
Who doesn’t love lunch on toast!
Toast a slice of wholemeal bread and add toppings.
Either peanut butter or avocado provides a generous portion of healthy fats.
Plain buttered toast is also great as a snack between meals as well.
Baked Butternut Squash
This is an easy prep and forget meal option.
Preheat your oven to 220 degrees. Chop the butternut roughly into wedges (usually, I chop in half, and then each half into three lengthways.
Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Bake for 45 mins until soft and fork-tender. Leave to stand for 10 mins until cool.
You can either mash the squash with a fork – or cut it into long chunks for soft finger food.
Add protein by dusting with sesame seeds before serving.
You may be interested in my other articles for One-Year-Olds:
These easy to prepare sides can be added to any meal if your lacking in one of the key nutrient groups
Finger foods are important as they improve fine motor control and encourage self-feeding. Try to include finger foods with each meal.
Fresh fruit and steamed vegetables make great finger foods.
- Pear and apple slices are great for toddlers with plenty of teeth.
- Strawberries and grapes are softer for toddlers with few teeth. Make sure to cut your grapes in half lengthways, or they can pose a choking hazard.
- Steamed Green beans and sliced red peppers are also excellent choices for finger foods.
This is a great way to add some vitamin c to your toddler’s diet.
Plain yogurt can be added as a dip to increase calcium intake.
Black beans are full of flavor and a great source of protein for young children.
Boil for about 10 minutes on medium heat with chopped onions and garlic, then mash for a child-friendly version of refried beans.
Serve as part of a quesadilla filing with tortillas, or as a dip for finger foods.
Store-bought hummus is often packed with salt, but it’s so easy to whip up a baby-friendly one at home.
Real hummus calls for tahini, but if you don’t have that then peanut butter works well too.
I blend a heaped tablespoon of smooth peanut butter with the juice of one lemon.
Add in a can of drained chickpeas, 4 tablespoons of water, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and blend.
Kid-friendly hummus in a few minutes.
Avoid sugary drinks and fruit juice at this age to protect your little one’s teeth.
Sippy cups can also affect dental health so it’s a good idea to be encouraging your toddler to drink from a cup.
Water is sufficient.
One-year-olds should still be on some form of milk at this stage, this may be breast milk, a soy beverage, or if you use cow’s milk be sure to use whole milk.
How did you find my lunch ideas? Let me know which ones you’ll try in the comments below