Let’s face it: most toddlers are picky as hell.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made lunch or dinner for my daughter only to have her barely pick at it, push it away, and say “all done!” when she clearly needed to eat more.
I hated doing it, but like many parents, I would give in and just end up giving her what she wanted, whether it was a pouch of applesauce, crackers, or some bread.
I know, I know, parents shouldn’t do that.
And that’s why I set out to find ideas of what to make for lunch for picky toddlers. You know, meals that they would actually eat so that I wouldn’t feel like I was just making food for the trash can (yeah, the dog would end up getting a fair amount of it too).
So, keep reading, and I’ll share my top 10 ideas for lunch for picky toddlers that they will actually eat!
10 Ideas for Lunch for Picky Toddlers
As I started to research this, I found that there’s actually quite a lot of good ideas out there.
Granted, there’s plenty of stuff where I looked at it and said “yeah, still no way in hell that this will be eaten” but there were several ideas that looked great and were thoroughly enjoyed by my picky little one.
Pro tip: Most of these recipes work for dinner too. Keep in mind that these are all the “main” courses – you would still want to supplement these ideas with fruit, vegetables, and any other sides your toddler likes to eat.
1) Slow Cooker Chicken Pasta with Broccoli
A lot of times “kid food” is often something that you wouldn’t necessarily feel like eating as your main course. That’s fine, that’s normal. It’s why there’s a kid’s menu at most restaurants.
That’s why I wanted to kick off this list with something that the whole family can enjoy and feel good about.
Side note: I am a big believer in cooking meals that the entire family can eat, together, instead of cooking separate meals for different people. With that said, sometimes you just have to deal with a picky toddler and *temporarily* break the rules.
Source for recipe and image above: You Brew My Tea
2) Goldfish Encrusted Chicken Nuggets
Okay, so now we’re onto something that really is geared more towards the little ones, although I wouldn’t mind snacking on these.
You take something that is already sort of kid food (chicken nuggets), and make it even more kid-delectable by coating it with mashed Goldfish.
Sounds good to me.
Source for recipe and image above: Freebie Finding Mom
3) Macaroni Egg Salad
Toddlers generally love mac & cheese, and I like to think of this as a slightly healthier version of that (more protein from the egg, there’s celery, it’s not loaded with artificial looking cheese, etc.).
In terms of texture, your picky toddler should be up for eating something like this. If they are extremely picky, consider going lighter on the pepper.
Source for recipe and image above: Dancing through the Rain
4) Apple Chicken Quesadillas
Here’s another healthier spin on a kid-favorite. As an adult, you’ve learned that apples go pretty well with cheese (and wine too, but we’ll put that aside for the moment).
So why not add apples to your cheese quesadillas?
Kids love it, and you will too. I’m not sure how I could ever go back to plain old cheese quesadillas after this.
Source for recipe and image above: Simply Recipes
5) Fish Cakes
When I was a kid, I remember growing up with fish sticks. Weird, processed fish in stick form, breaded and baked…it was good. But I’m not even sure what kind of fish I was eating.
Picky kids don’t like regular fish. It has a weird smell, an icky texture (for a lot of kids), and sometimes a strong flavor.
Consider this a more healthy and natural alternative to the old frozen processed fish sticks.
This recipe was designed specifically with picky kids in mind. It’s made from real fish, and the texture of the prepared fish cakes are consistent and less “fish-like” – which makes it more likely your picky toddler will eat it!
Source for recipe and image above: Your Kids Table
6) Turkey, Avocado, and Hummus Roll Ups
My little picky toddler loves avocado and hummus. It’s smooth, the flavor is mild, and it tastes good.
This recipe adds a little protein by wrapping the whole thing up in turkey, but you could just as easily do it with a flour wrap if your little one doesn’t want to eat turkey.
Perfect for a healthy snack, or if you eat enough of them, it could also work as a meal.
Source for recipe and image above: Organize Yourself Skinny
7) Mini PB&J Finger Foods
PB&J is a staple in most homes. The combination of peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and anything) is difficult for anyone to refuse – adults and toddlers alike.
Your picky eater probably already eats PB&J just fine, but this recipe goes a step further to make the PB&J fun to eat, with shapes and bite-sized pieces.
Source for recipe and image above: Must Have Mom
8) Sweet Potato and Broccoli Medallions
I’m always looking for clever ways to sneak in the healthy food that they don’t like. Broccoli usually tops the list.
This is one of those recipes where, as long as they don’t know what’s in it, they’ll think they’re just eating a tasty snack.
5 simple ingredients in this one: Sweet potato, broccoli, cheese, olive oil, and egg.
Source for recipe and image above: Kidgredients
9) Chicken Parmesan Bites
Another picky toddler spin on an old classic.
Bite-sized chicken parmesan.
Serve it by itself as a quick snack, or add some vegetables and pasta and you’ve got a well-balanced meal.
Source for recipe and image above: A Crafty Spoonful
10) Grilled Cheese Roll Ups
Grilled cheese is another classic kid meal that even the pickiest of eaters will generally still eat.
But if you’re sick of the plain old boring grill cheese sandwich, here’s a fun spin on it.
Source for recipe and image above: Spend with Pennies
Will your toddlers finally eat what you give them?
Let’s be honest — probably not. 🙂
In all seriousness though, these recipes will be at least a great attempt at feeding them meals they will actually eat. Every kid is different, but parenthood is all about trial and error (lots of error) and seeing what works.
And even when they do like something…half of it usually ends up on the floor anyway. In our house, that just means the dog is happy.
What do you find works well for your toddler’s meals? Leave a comment below!