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20 Lunch Ideas for 12 Month Olds

If you need lunch ideas for a 12 month old, this post will break down several nutritious and balanced options. Whether baby eats at home, a caregiver’s house or daycare, this post will share how you can modify a 12 month old food schedule.

baby bringing spoon to mouth eating yogurt

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Disclaimer – This post is for informational purposes only and is not for diagnosing or treatment. See your medical provider or Registered Dietitian for individual recommendations. 

While I love to share meal ideas for 1 year olds, this post will specifically focus on lunch ideas for a 12 month old.

Lunch is a great meal to serve to babies. Breakfast can be rushed (depending on parent’s work schedules or rushing other kids to school), and dinner can be hit or miss.

While most parents plan for dinner with their kids (here are 27 baby led weaning dinner ideas), you’ll generally need to do an early dinner with a 1-year-old to allow for the bath and bed routine.

So, if parents aren’t getting home early enough, dinner can be a challenge. This is where we often rely on leftovers from earlier in the week!

But, lunch can be a sweet spot. Lunch can be a consistent, dependable eating occasion, even if it occurs at different times each day – such as before or after nap.

Similarly, if parents work out of the house and babies stay with a caregiver or go to daycare, baby will be in the routine of eating midday.

1 year old feeding white plate
baby eating raspberries, sweetpotatoes and chicken

Food Ideas for 12 Month Old

At this stage, most 12-month olds can eat what you’re eating, and these 12 month baby recipes can help showcase that.

The exceptions to the above are that babies should not have large amounts of added sugars or sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and World Health Organization recommend avoiding added sugars until age 2.

One-year-olds should be relying on foods with different textures, not just purees.

Most babies/toddlers at this age will have the pincer grasp down, and be able to hold many foods on their own (here are some of our favorite finger foods).

Babies should be able to grasp utensils by now too. They don’t necessarily need to use them properly or entirely, but ezpz does a great job with making utensils for babies to learn to self-feed.

10 month old baby sitting in high chair eating

While each child will have a different appetite and motivation to eat, we want to ensure we offer a variety of foods to hone their oral skills, vary their nutrition and avoid taste and flavor fatigue.

With that being said, here are some of my favorite nutrient-dense food ideas for 12 month olds that we offer regularly.

  • fruits
  • vegetables
  • crushed nuts or thinned out nut butters
  • eggs
  • avocado
  • meats and poultry
  • beans, lentils and legumes
  • dairy milk or soy milk
  • My Serenity Kids pouches
  • full-fat greek yogurt
  • cheese
  • tofu, tempeh
  • fruit/veggie pouches (We love NOKA pouches)
  • DIY yogurt pouches
  • edamame
  • seafood
  • whole grains – whole grain bread, pasta, quinoa, barley, oatmeal
  • smoothies
  • tortillas
  • nutritious add-in’s, such as chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds

Baby Nutrition Needs

Here are some things to focus on in these meals and recipes for 12 month old babies and toddlers.

  • Calories – A one year old needs about 1,000 calories throughout the day, which he/she can get from a combination of breastmilk/formula and solid foods. Calories will be split among the macronutrient groups: Carbohydrates, protein and fat.
  • Fat – Babies need all of the macronutrients like adults do, however, fats are exceptionally important for their growing brains, especially healthy omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados, olive oil, seafood, nuts and nut butters, chia seeds, flax seeds and full-fat dairy.
  • Sodium – It is recommended for kids ages 1-3 to stay under 800-1,000 mg of sodium per day.
  • Introducing allergens – By 12 months old, hopefully, you have introduced many or most of the top 8 allergens. Newer research has shown that introducing allergenic foods earlier rather than later can reduce the risk of allergens later in life. If you have a family history of allergies, or a baby with significant eczema, you can talk with your pediatrician about how to handle about allergen introduction.
  • Breastmilk can still be a nutrient-dense source in the diet– If you are still breastfeeding a 12-month-old, know that breastmilk is still a positive and nutrient-dense drink in the diet. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), breastmilk or cow’s milk should be offered as the primary beverage choice between 1-2 years of age. You can choose to offer whole milk, or stick with breastmilk for snacks and meals (can serve it in an ezpz baby cup). If you are still nursing, make sure you are staying hydrated for breastfeeding!

Things to Keep in Mind When Preparing Food For a 1 Year Old

Here are some other things to keep in mind as you prepare food for baby.

  • Avoid hard, crunchy items – Things like whole nuts should be sliced and broken down. Avoid hard candies as they pose a choking hazard and also have no nutritional value. Popcorn and raw, hard veggies, like raw carrots, are also unsafe for 12 month olds.
  • Avoid circular shapes – Grapes, grape tomatoes, and hotdogs still pose huge choking hazards, so make sure to cut them in halves. I couldn’t be as efficient as I am without my grape cutter.
  • Honey – Children under 12 months old should avoid honey due to the risk of infant botulism. However, adding it to baked goods or things like oatmeal in small amounts after 12 months is fine.

Lunch Ideas For 12 Month Olds

As you read over these baby meal ideas, don’t shy away from flavoring baby’s food!

Spices for baby are encouraged, and spices don’t just mean salt – there are so many wonderful options, such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, garlic, curry and more.

Close up of crispy roast parsnip fries on baking dish | Bucket List Tummy

Introduce your baby to your favorite spices and flavors and let their little palates explore a variety of aromas and tastes.

Below we are sharing some easy food recipes for a 12 month old. In the same token, some are just creative meal ideas you can put together.

And if you’ve checked out these ideas for baby led weaning at 9 months, you may be able to advance some of them or add larger portion sizes for these 12 month old menu ideas.

1. Grilled Chicken Tenders

We love serving grilled chicken tenders alongside some broccoli for baby and sweetpotato wedges because that is a family meal that we all enjoy.

You could also do rotisserie chicken, shredded chicken or drumsticks.

overhead with baked lemon chicken tenders with lemon slices on top

2. Beans

From pizza beans to lentil hummus, I love to serve this iron-rich and protein-rich option with whole grain toast with butter, hummus or mashed avocado.

Try any of these delicious bean recipes for toddlers!

canellinni beans in skillet served with bread

3. Healthy pizza for babies

While a sodium-rich pizza from delivery may not be the best option for a baby, you can easily make your own pizza.

This sweeetpotato pizza crust is a great canvas for delicious toppings. You can see my toddler munching on it below.

baby eating sweet potato pizza crust | Bucket List Tummy

4. Veggie omelet

Throw in your favorite veggies, some shredded cheese (for added protein and calcium), and enjoy the slew of nutrition benefits from eggs! An easy lunch to share with your 1 year old.

5. Egg muffins

We love these baby egg muffins with veggies in them! I love to pair them with hummus, yogurt or avocado.

These can be great for easy make-ahead lunch options or if you have to pack a lunch to-go, muffins are very portable.

baby egg muffins on plate

5. Meatballs with a side

Meatballs are great because they are easy to hold and can be decorated with spices, veggies and more. We love these baby led weaning meatballs, since they have protein, fat and Vitamin C.

baby plate with chicken meatballs, peas and pasta

The Vitamin C in the sweetpotatoes even helps with iron absorption!

We also often rely on bison meatballs without the BBQ sauce (great nutrition profile for babies) or chicken meatballs for baby with roasted carrots.

6. Mac and cheese

Of course, you want to serve a healthy mac and cheese to your baby.

Some of my favorite options are sweetpotato mac and cheese, or adding fruits and veggies to a version like this toddler mac and cheese.

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese in white serving dish

7. Chili

Chili can be a great way to include more vegetables and proteins, such as beans, pulses, poultry or shredded or diced meats.

I love pumpkin chicken chili any time of year. When making for my baby, I’ll use low-sodium broth, and let it cool before serving to him.

8. Soups

Like chili, soups can be a fun new lunch option for one year olds. A great way to introduce kale to baby is through this tasty kale meatball soup.

kale and meatball soup in pan with spoon

We also love pumpkin sweetpotato soup in the chilly fall months for an immune boost!

9. Muffins with fruits and veggies

If you’re having trouble getting your 12 month old to eat plain fruits and veggies, you can easily add them to healthy baked goods.

Use this roundup of healthy baby muffins, and pair with some protein, such as a hard boiled egg or full-fat yogurt.

closeup of whole wheat sweet potato zucchini muffins with other muffins behind

10. Seafood

Seafood has a slew of health benefits that are so important for your 12-month-old.

From protein to healthy omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, selenium, B-Vitamins and more, seafood is definitely something to introduce to babies.

Kirkland canned pink salmon

We often rely on canned seafood. You can mix canned salmon with diced cucumber or bell peppers and some mayo or mashed avocado.

Or make a tuna salad with canned tuna. Pieces are small enough for babies to eat with fingers, or a pre-loaded spoon!

11. Pasta

Whether you’re serving a sweetpotato spaghetti dish, whole wheat pasta or making a tuna pasta salad, pasta can be a great food for babies.

Load it up with fiber, veggies, healthy fats and some protein for a complete meal.

sweet potato spaghetti noodles

12. Sandwich

Yes, sandwiches can be offered and served on a 12 month old meal plan, but you want to make it approachable for them.

Skip the jelly with added sugars and offer a triangle peanut butter sandwich with flax seeds and banana slices.

Or, a whole-grain grilled cheese with diced peppers and tomatoes.

13. Stir-Fry

A stir fry is a great lunch for a 12 month old – just be conscious of soy sauce and other high-salt ingredients.

You can serve cooked chicken cubes or beef with colorful veggies, like broccoli, carrots and snap peas. Serve with rice noodles, rice, quinoa or another grain.

Final dish of stir fry egg noodles with chicken and veggies on serving bowl | Bucket List Tummy

14. Quesadillas

Like sandwiches, serving some nutrient-dense foods in a tortilla can be an easy meal for a 12 month old.

If you have tortillas on hand (opt for whole-grain tortillas if you can find them), add in chicken, beans, cheese and/or diced veggies, and head over medium-high heat on both sides.

chicken, black bean, and corn quesadilla

You can add in mashed avocado or serve avocado slices alongside for more healthy fats.

15. Oatmeal

Oatmeal doesn’t just have to be a breakfast food. Serve overnight oats or hot oatmeal for baby at lunch, and top it with some soft fruits and even shredded veggies, like carrots or zucchini.

16. Smoothies

Smoothies can be a great lunch idea for a 12 month old and help strengthen their oral and sucking skills as well.

You can use any of these toddler smoothie recipes, or combine some fruits/veggies, healthy fats and liquid into your own baby smoothie.

Carrot banana smoothie in kids smoothie cups with straw

17. Fritters

Fritters can be an easy-to-hold way to combine nutrients into a fun lunch option for babies. From zucchini salmon fritters to corn fritters, these are fun, miniature ways to introduce babies to more flavor.

18. Quinoa Salad

While quinoa may not be the cleanest food for babies, quinoa is a great food idea for 12 month olds.

It’s a plant-based protein that offers fiber and several micronutrients and can be paired with more superstar ingredients, like beans, lentils, fruit, veggies, proteins and more.

Mango Lime Quinoa Salad is gluten free and a fun spin on pasta salad. Full of light and refreshing veggies, it's a great summer quinoa salad option | Cold Quinoa Salad | Summer Quinoa Salad

This mango quinoa salad is a great option for adults too.

19. Baby pancakes

Pancakes don’t just have to be a breakfast food – especially when they’re made with veggies. These sweetpotato pancakes for baby are a great make-ahead lunch option.

baby pancakes on blue plate with yogurt on top
sweetpotato pancakes for baby

20. Yogurt parfait

Yogurt for babies can be an easy way to get in protein, as well as calcium and Vitamin D.

You may choose to add in calorically dense nuts or nut butters, fruits, flax seeds, chia seeds or low-sugar cereal, like cheerios.

yogurt parfait with fruit

These 12 month old baby recipes just touch the tip of the iceberg!

There are plenty more ideas for what you can eat and enjoy with baby – possibly even some family and cultural recipes that you enjoyed as a baby!

References:

  1. Huffman SL, Harika RK, Eilander A, Osendarp SJ. Essential fats: how do they affect growth and development of infants and young children in developing countries? A literature review. Matern Child Nutr. 2011 Oct;7 Suppl 3(Suppl 3):44-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1740-8709.2011.00356.x. PMID: 21929635; PMCID: PMC6860654.
  2. Riley LK, Rupert J, Boucher O. Nutrition in Toddlers. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Aug 15;98(4):227-233. PMID: 30215978.
  3. 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/
  4. Guidelines: Sugar intake in children and adults. World Health Organization (WHO). https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241549028
  5. Soriano VX, Ciciulla D, Gell G, Wang Y, Peters RL, McWilliam V, Dharmage SC, Koplin JJ. Complementary and Allergenic Food Introduction in Infants: An Umbrella Review. Pediatrics. 2023 Feb 1;151(2):e2022058380. doi: 10.1542/peds.2022-058380. PMID: 36704902.
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