Healthy Packed Lunch Ideas for 2- to 5-Year-Olds

Running out of ideas for your little one’s packed lunches? Is he getting tired of the same sandwiches over and over again? Our Strong4Life registered dietitians have put together 10 tasty (and healthy) combos to help you get out of your packed-lunch rut.

Whether you’re packing for day care or preschool, get inspired to change things up.

Toddler packed lunch with veggie pasta salad, melon and hard-boiled egg

Cold pasta salad is a great option to make with leftover ingredients, or it’s easy to make ahead of time and feast on all week. Choose whole-wheat pasta for the extra fiber that helps keep your little one fuller, longer.

  • Pasta salad:
    • Whole-wheat pasta
    • Italian dressing
    • Cherry tomatoes (cut into quarters)
    • Lightly cooked broccoli (fresh or frozen)
    • Lightly cooked green beans (fresh or frozen)
    • Cheese
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • Melon

Homemade Lunchables for toddlers

Sure, kids love those prepackaged mini-meals, but there’s not much to love about the processed foods that are loaded with sodium and other preservatives. If your child asks for a prepackaged lunch, offer to make her one of her very own.

  • Low-sodium turkey
  • Cheese
  • Whole-wheat crackers
  • Cooked green beans (fresh or frozen)
  • Thin apple slices
  • Nut or seed butter

Chicken and guacamole packed lunch for toddlers

One of our favorite time-saving meal prep tips is to buy a rotisserie chicken and make it work for whatever chicken dish you are whipping up. It also tastes great on its own and can be a great protein staple in your child’s lunch since it’s still yummy as cold leftovers. 

  • Rotisserie chicken pieces
  • A mini guacamole to-go cup (to prevent browning) with whole-wheat pita slices and lightly cooked carrots for dipping
  • Quartered grapes

Nut or seed butter cracker sandwiches packed lunch for toddlers

Who says a sandwich has to be on bread? Change things up a bit with your own nut butter cracker sandwiches (opt for sunflower seed butter if the facility is nut free).

  • Nut or seed butter spread on 6 whole wheat crackers to make 3 cracker sandwiches
  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Goldfish crackers
  • Strawberries and blueberries

Deconstructed taco packed lunch for toddlers

Have some leftovers from taco night? Don’t let them go to waste! All of your taco ingredients taste great cold, and your toddler will have fun putting them together all on his own.

  • Ground turkey or beef with taco seasoning
  • Shredded cheese
  • Tomatoes or salsa
  • Lettuce
  • Mini guacamole to-go cup
  • Watermelon

Tip: Make this meal vegetarian by swapping the ground meat for lentils or beans.

Chicken salad packed lunch for toddlers

If your little one enjoys chicken salad sandwiches, why not try breaking one down for her? Your tot can make her own sandwich with crackers or have fun dipping the crackers and bell peppers into the chicken salad. She might even go wild and make sandwiches with the apple slices. Anything goes with this nutritious combo!

  • Chicken salad
  • 4 whole-wheat crackers
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Thin apple slices

Ham and cheese rollup packed lunch for toddlers

Once again, deli meat can be featured in your child’s packed lunch without having to resort to a sandwich. This lunch covers all of the food groups, and your little one will have fun dipping away!

  • Ham roll-ups:
    • Low-sodium ham
    • String cheese*
  • Hummus
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Half a banana

*For a younger toddler (under age 2), be sure to slice the string cheese vertically to avoid a choking hazard. 

Leftover pasta packed lunch for toddlers

Tortellini tastes great cold, and we find that cold, leftover broccoli actually tastes sweeter the next day. Throw in some meatballs, sauce and fruit, and voilà!

  • Tortellini with marinara and meatballs
  • Fruit cup packed in water or 100% fruit juice (not syrup)
  • Cold cooked broccoli

Tip: Make this dish vegetarian by swapping the meatballs for lentils.

Deconstructed chicken wrap packed lunch for toddlers

A full-on chicken wrap might be a little much for most toddlers and preschoolers, but by breaking it down, you can take ingredients from a lunch you might serve yourself and make it work for your tot. Another great thing about this meal is that you can use leftover rotisserie chicken to make it extra easy to prepare. You could also throw in a little bit of ranch dressing if your little one likes to dip.

  • Shredded rotisserie chicken
  • Cheese
  • Spinach or romaine lettuce
  • Whole-wheat tortilla cut up
  • Cucumber slices
  • Blueberries and raspberries

Chicken and cheese packed lunch for toddlers

This lunch idea is a great reminder that simple is more than OK. Not every meal is going to be Pinterest-worthy—heck, none of them need to be! Just finding the time and energy to pack your child a nutritious meal earns you a gold star in our book.

  • Cubed rotisserie chicken
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Pineapple and blueberries

For a little extra crunch, pair this meal with whole-grain crackers or pretzels.