Growing up in the 80s and 90s means that I ate a lot of junk in my childhood and adolescence. (Not blaming you Mama. That is how it was all over the world.) There was very little check and balance on what was being served in school cafeterias and even less on what kids were bringing in their lunch boxes from home. As a result of this, I have been in this vicious cycle of making terrible food choices all my adult life. It took me more than 30 years to realize what this was doing to my body and change my perspective on food in general. When I had my daughter, like all “sane” mothers, I too took an oath to protect her from the rubbish being labeled and sold as food for as long as I could. This meant taking an early start and working very hard to develop her palate, to the point that she has now tasted almost everything under the sun that she is allowed to eat at this age. The fact that she loves eating has made my mission a lot easier and now we have a well-established routine of three balanced meals, interspersed with fruits and vegetables as snacks. I am not bragging here, rather I am making a point that if we introduce a variety of foods early on in a child’s life, they are bound to enjoy eating more and meal times won’t so much resemble a boxing match. This also lays the foundation for good eating habits their entire life and ensures proper physical and mental development.

I consider lunch the most important meal of my daughter’s day. It gives her energy for the rest of the day and I have noticed that this is also the best time to introduce her to a new taste. I always try to feed her a nutrient rich lunch, keeping in mind what she ate for breakfast that morning. Lunch is when she eats the major portion of her iron and protein requirement. And if she eats well during the day, I usually don’t fuss too much over dinner. These are some of the lunch recipes that I have been making for my daughter for almost a year now and are still very popular in our home.

Vegetable Rice:

  • Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Onion – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
  • Mixed vegetables – 3 tablespoons
  • Rice – 6 tablespoons (soaked for 20 minutes and drained)
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Peppercorns – 5 to 6
  • Water – 300 mL

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions to it. Cook for a few minutes and when the onions have softened and are slightly pink in color, add the vegetables, salt and peppercorns. Move the vegetables around in the pan for a few minutes or until their colors have brightened and they feel soft. Now add 300 mL of water and when it comes to a rolling boil, add the soaked rice. Cook for around 12 to 15 minutes, checking regularly after 10 minutes. Serve with chicken and potato patties, fish fillet or grilled chicken.

Vegetable Rice with fish fillet

Chicken and potato patties:

  • Potato – 1 medium sized, boiled and mashed
  • Chicken – 300 gm, boiled and shredded/chopped
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon or to taste
  • Pepper – ¼ teaspoon
  • Oil for frying

Method:

Mix all the ingredients together, adjust the quantity of salt and pepper and shape into patties. Shallow fry in a pan and serve with vegetable rice.

This recipe yields 6 to 7 patties. Because potatoes do not freeze well, keep the patties in the fridge and consume within 3 days.

Vegetable rice with chicken and potato patty

Fish Fillet:

  • Fish fillet – 500 gm
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
  • Ginger and garlic paste – 1 teaspoon

Method:

Marinate fresh fillets with salt, pepper, lemon juice and ginger and garlic paste and leave in the fridge for a few hours. You can shallow fry these, bake them in the oven or cook them in the air-fryer, in a foil parcel for 15 minutes. Serve with vegetable rice or chips for a fun lunch.

You can freeze fresh fish fillets, defrost and serve as required. Do not re-freeze frozen fillets that have been thawed. Keep in the fridge and consume within 3 days.

Fish fillet with chips

Grilled Chicken:

  • Chicken legs or thighs – 500 gm
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons
  • Ginger/Garlic paste – 1 teaspoon
  • Yogurt – 1 cup

Method:

Marinate the chicken pieces with all the above ingredients and leave in the fridge for a few hours. You can bake these in the oven, but they turn out really great when cooked in the air-fryer for 20 minutes, flipping half way through. Serve with vegetable rice.

Do not re-freeze frozen chicken that has been thawed. Keep in the fridge and consume within 3 days.

Vegetable rice with grilled chicken

  Rice with split green lentils:

  • Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Onion – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
  • Rice – 6 tablespoons (soaked for 20 minutes and drained)
  • Split green lentil – 3 tablespoons (soaked for 20 minutes and drained)
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Peppercorns – 5 to 6
  • Water – 400 mL
  • Butter – ½ teaspoon

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions to it. Cook for a few minutes and when the onions have softened and are slightly pink in color, add the peppercorns, salt and water. Add the soaked lentils to the water once it comes to a rolling boil. Let it cook for 10 minutes and then add the rice. Add more water if necessary. Cook for around 12 to 15 minutes on medium heat, checking regularly after 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add ½ teaspoon of butter for enhanced taste and fragrance. Serve with yogurt.

Rice with split green lentils

Rice with mince meat:

  • Oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Onion – 1 tablespoon, finely chopped
  • Rice – 6 tablespoons (soaked for 20 minutes and drained)
  • Minced meat (Chicken or mutton) – 2 tablespoons
  • Salt – ¼ teaspoon
  • Peppercorns – 5 to 6
  • Red chili powder – a pinch
  • Water – 300 mL

Method:

Heat the oil in a pan and add the chopped onions to it. Cook for a few minutes and when the onions have started to change their color to a slight brown, put in the minced meat. Fry the mince for a good 5 to 7 minutes to ensure that it is fully cooked and then add salt, peppercorns and red chili powder. Add water to the pan and when it comes to a rolling boil, put in the soaked rice. Cook for around 12 to 15 minutes on medium heat, checking regularly after 10 minutes. Serve with yogurt.

Rice with mince meat

I would just like to add that the amount of water mentioned for cooking all the rice recipes above is suitable for the consistency that my daughter enjoys. If your child is younger than mine or enjoys softer textures, feel free to add more water. Also, I am not the sort of mother who cooks ridiculously small meals for her kid every single day so the quantities mentioned in all my recipes are enough for 3 days of lunch. I keep the rice in the fridge in an air-tight container made of glass and heat them up as required. I hope this helps you if you are in a rut with what to feed your toddler and do share some ideas on what you feed your kid. Thanks for reading.

Cheers!

 

 

Toddler Lunch Ideas

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6 thoughts on “Toddler Lunch Ideas

    1. Awwww thank you for saying that. I am definitely not a super mom, you are simply too biased 😀 Thanks for reading and the lovely comments.

  1. I completely agree with what you said about making horrible food choices. During the 80s and 90s no one ever mentioned healthy eating. I had no idea that it existed. We are so used to eating oily, masala filled stuff that healthy food is a no no.. like for me. But when I began eating healthy with Azlan around, I was glad that he ate healthy too. Vegetables that kids dont usually eat.
    Thanks for posting the recipes. Ye to apney liye bhi kaam ki hai :p

    1. I know what you mean Hibah. I usually end up eating what I have made for BabyZ that day. Thanks for reading. 😀

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