Healthy lunch ideas for your toddler

Have a toddler who only wants chicken nuggets and would rather starve than to eat his peas? You’re not alone!

Lunchtime with a toddler can be tricky for many reasons. Baby might be in daycare, which means you aren’t there to monitor his food intake, which can cause stress about whether he is getting enough to eat. At home, Baby may resist being asked to stop playing in the middle of the day to sit down for a meal.

Whatever is causing the trouble in your household, lunch doesn’t have to be an unhealthy meal, nor does it need to be a battle. Here are some healthy versions of toddler staples that will leave you and Baby both feeling happy and satisfied.

  • Grilled cheese: This one sounds like a treat, but it doesn’t have to be a poor nutritional choice. If you fix Baby’s grilled cheese with whole-grain bread, low-fat cheese, and (if he will let you) some sliced avocado, you’ll end up with a delicious lunch option packed with fiber, dairy, and healthy fat. Serve with some fruit on the side to round out the meal and sneak in another food group at the same time!
  • Pizza: Yes, you read that right! Pizza is a food that gets a seriously bad rap, but it has some health benefits. The tomato sauce acts as an antioxidant, and also contains Vitamin C and fiber. Opt for whole-grain crust and low-fat cheese, then top it with vegetables, like peppers or broccoli, to sneak in some added nutrition.
  • Deconstructed sandwich: If Baby hasn’t quite got the hang of eating something in sandwich form just yet, a deconstructed sandwich is a great lunch choice.  Cut up some deli meat (look for low-sodium), cheese, and tomatoes on a plate. Skip the chips and serve with a side of vegetables, like carrots and celery, and a bit of hummus. He will be more inclined to try the veggies if there’s a fun incentive, like dipping.
  • Vegetable quesadillas: Here’s another great way to get some nutrients into Baby’s diet in a way that still tastes yummy. Two whole-grain tortillas sprinkled with some reduced-fat cheese in the middle, with added peppers and onions provides fiber, protein, calcium, and a wide range of vitamins. Cook the quesadilla and cut into triangles with a side of mild salsa and black beans. Nutritious and delicious!
  • Pasta salad: This dish is usually served with tri-colored pasta, which is a nice selling point for toddlers, and the pasta can also be found in fun shapes. Include julienne vegetables like carrots and zucchini, which may be small enough to sneak past a veggie-averse tot. Toss the mixture with olive oil or low-fat dressing and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. This one can be served hot or cold, so remember to make extra for leftovers.

Tips

When choosing bread for Baby’s lunch, whole-grain is the better nutritional choice. For the same reason, it’s great to look for cold cuts and soups that are low-sodium, as too much sodium in a toddler’s diet can negatively affect his blood pressure and heart health later in life. Keep trying different recipes, and soon lunch will be a meal Baby loves to munch!

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