I’m a big fan of finger foods for toddlers. Her lunch every day consists of a plate full of simple items that I can grab from the cupboards or fridge in a matter of minutes. It saves a lot of time, energy and stress to make these simple plates of food. Around this time last year, I posted a list of foods Miss O was eating at the time. She was not yet 2 years old at the time. A year later, she is still eating some of those foods. Here’s an update list of what my little almost-3 year old is now munching on! These quick and simple toddler meal ideas will make lunchtime into smooth sailing.
Pending there are no allergies in your house, nuts are a fantastic food to give your toddlers. If allergies are present, seeds are another great option. Miss O’s nuts of choice are cashews and pistachios – these are softer nuts which are easy to chew. Pecans and walnuts would also be a great choice. Almonds are probably a bit too hard for a toddler unless you buy them chopped.
Seeds are a great choice because they can be included in your own trail mix to be eaten outside of the home in nut-free environments. Pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas) and sunflower seeds are wonderfully crunchy and easy to eat.
There is always some form of cracker on Miss O’s lunch plate. I have all different types. Right now it’s dill pickle Crispers. Some days it’s sweet potato Wheat Thins, others it’s Earth’s Best Crunchin’ Crackers (shaped like Elmo & Big Bird heads!). I also usually include something sweet like graham crackers or Teddy Grahams. Her new favourite thing is breadsticks – fat ones, skinny ones, she doesn’t care! Mini Ritz peanut butter sandwiches are also a favourite.
Fruit & Veggies
Grapes. Miss O has grapes with her lunch almost every single day. They are quick and easy to grab from the fridge and toss onto her plate. Other excellent and easy fruit are blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Another great way to add more fruit options for lunch is to cut it all up ahead of time. After the kids go to bed pull out an apple, some strawberries, a mango, a pear, an orange or some watermelon. Cut a few of them up and store them in baggies in the fridge. Then you have them all at the ready for the next few days of lunches.
Miss O doesn’t eat a lot of raw veggies – I’m not sure she’s quite ready for them yet. One thing she does love though is cucumbers. My family has always cut off the skin which is great for toddlers. If there is any sort of salad left over from the night before, she will also eat that. Eat Smart Sweet Kale salad is a huge hit. She will eat her weight in that stuff. It’s got a sweet poppyseed dressing on it and it is chock full of awesome ingredients including brussel sprouts (which I go through and tear into smaller pieces), kale, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds and more. I also suggest removing any tough kale stems you find. I make sure everything is bite-size before I put the dressing on.
Our local grocery store bakes bread fresh every day. They have the best cheesy bread ever. It’s soft and so delicious. Check out your local bakeries or just the bread section in your grocery store to see what kinds of options they have. Bread is also the perfect vehicle for toppings such as peanut butter, jam, Nutella, almond butter and more. Your kid wants grilled cheese but you don’t feel like pulling out a frying pan? Just toast a piece of bread, then put some cheese on it and pop it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Voila! “Grilled” cheese. Another option for bread is sweeter options like banana or zucchini bread. You can sneak so many healthy things into those if you bake it at home and the kids will be none the wiser!
Miss O isn’t a big fan of just cheese. Sometimes she will eat grated cheddar if she’s really in the mood; however, she will always eat melted cheese. I usually melt it on crackers or toast. Putting it in the microwave to melt it also makes sure the crackers are nice and soft which is great for younger toddlers. If you kid likes cheese as-is, just give them a few slices. Or try a new cheese! Mozzarella, marble, the options are endless. Laughing Cow is also a great one for kids – it’s soft like cream cheese but not as strong of a flavour and it’s ideal for dipping things like pretzel sticks into.
Although there is a fair amount of sugar in dried fruit, kids love it. We love dried cherries, cranberries and raisins to name a few. There are tons of options out there – visit your local bulk food store! Banana chips may be okay for older toddlers, the same with dried apple slices. Mango, pineapple and other dried tropical fruits are nice and chewy. If you want to change it up a little, try yogurt-covered dried fruit! I have even found greek yogurt-covered raisins in my travels. They didn’t last long in this house! My husband will gobble up yogurt-covered raisins before anyone else gets the chance.
Make It Fun!
I actually convinced Miss O to eat plain old cheddar cheese, un-melted the other day by simply cutting it out with a flower-shaped cookie cutter. What kid doesn’t want a fun meal on their plate? Jazz it up by making a face out of the food. Use small cookie cutters to cut shapes from cheese, cucumbers, bread, just about anything soft! Pampered Chef sells a Fruit & Cheese Cutter with a few different shapes. There’s a piece to make a heart, a flower, a circle and a square. It’s a handy tool to keep in the kitchen! Making the plate look fun encourages your child to try new things. It also helps a cranky child be convinced to eat their lunch.
Do you serve your toddler a lunch full of simple, munchable items? What do you include? I’m always looking for new ideas!
Andrea can always be found with a new craft in front of her, a form of technology on her right and a coffee on her left. This is how she survives suburbia with her two crazy toddlers in tow.