8 Helpful Strategies for Toddler Lunches

Cooking for a toddler can sometimes be overwhelming, and as parents we often have unrealistic expectations of what we need to be providing (thanks to Pinterest). Each family will have a different approach of what works for them. Today, I thought I would invite you into my home and share how Emma (my toddler) and I do things, as lunch is usually our only meal one-on-one, so I really try to enjoy this time with her.


Toddler Lunch Strategies that Work in My House

The Golden Rule

I follow Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility of feeding; the parents are responsible for what, when and where. The child is responsible for if and how much. My daughter’s appetite can change drastically meal-to-meal! By following this division of responsibility rule, I help teach her to listen to her body as well as keep the stress down at meal time.


The Environment

We always eat at the table (or island) together.

Even when out and about, we find somewhere to stop and eat, whether it’s outside for a picnic, at a bench in the mall, or at a plain-old table, we make a point of stopping and eating to help teach being present at meal time. Parents teach by example!

There are no screens at meal times.

However, we will often play music. This is a wonderful time for us to slow down and connect. This also includes me! I keep my phone away from the table.


The Food

  • We eat mostly the same meal at lunch with different portions. Again, I lead by example.
  • I offer meals when she is hungry. I do this because she eats better. With our schedule, this is often 2-3 hours after her morning snack.
  • I still focus on providing balance. At lunch, I provide a grain, protein, vegetables, and sometime dairy. I am not as concerned with portions for my daughter: its up to her how much she eats. Though, I do always provide at least one food I know she likes.
  • I don’t often provide fruit at lunch. I personally do this for a few reasons:
    • My daughter will only eat the fruit if she sees it, then ask for more constantly.
    • I want my daughter to listen to her body and respect her appetite for sweets, and she can almost always make room for fruit.
    • If she has told me she is done with her meal (and has had a few bites of everything) and asks for it on her own, I will provide it, but this is rare.
    • I do provide fruit at breakfast and snacks, but I find if she gets too much she develops some unpleasant side effects, and I hate seeing her in pain.
  • I don’t expect her to eat everything.


What I Provided this Week

Monday: Cheese and crackers with raw mixed vegetables. I did offer tzatziki as dip as she asked for it during our meal.

Tuesday: Beef and cheese quesadilla with sautéed peppers and onions, served with plain yogurt and salsa to dip in. I rounded it out with a cucumber and radish salad.

Wednesday: Grilled cheese sandwich and cucumber sticks.

Thursday: Almond butter (or sunflower seed butter) sandwich with red peppers and an orange.

Friday: Egg and veggie (peppers, mushrooms, spinach, onion) scramble with hash browns.

Saturday: Leftovers! Chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, carrots and Brussels sprouts.

Sunday: Hummus, mixed nuts, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes.


As you can see, my meals are not “Pinterest perfect.” They maybe simple, but they’re balanced, and work perfectly for our family.


By Kelsey Hagen – Registered Nutritionist/Dietitian

Revive Wellness is a team of skilled and passionate Nutritionists specialized in nutrition and wellness coaching for the Edmonton area.

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