Sandwiches are quick and easy meals for baby and toddler lunches and make a fabulous baby led weaning lunch. They are also an ideal way to pack in nutrition as most little ones will happily munch on bread.
I’m often asked if bread is OK as bread itself is a source of salt. Bread does contain salt, it has to otherwise the dough won’t rise properly. It’s to do with controlling the effect of the yeast.
Most shop bought loaves contain around 0.35-0.4g salt per slice which is around a third of your baby’s daily limit and a sixth of a toddlers.
However, most babies will have the crusts cut off reducing the salt level to around 0.25g or a quarter of their daily allowance.
Which type of bread is best?
It’s ok to use white, wholemeal or seeded bread, pitta, sourdough etc… just go for whatever is the norm for your family. Bagels, wraps and thins are fine too.
One of my Instagram followers recently told me that at her baby weaning group they were advised to avoid whole grain versions of food. This is a bit of an old wives tale and isn’t correct, unfortunately it’s something I hear a lot. Babies need to be introduced to fibre so that by their second birthday they have around 15g per day (which is half of the adult fibre requirement) and wholemeal bread is a great way of getting this in.
Too much fibre can be a problem, babies get full up (it’s good at making you feel fuller for longer) and refuse to eat other foods, their bowels may not cope with it resulting in tummy aches, diarrhoea or constipation and too much fibre can inhibit the absorption of iron, zinc and other minerals.
This is rare though, I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years and I haven’t seen a case of this for years. There was once a family I looked after in Brighton who took healthy eating to the extreme and their baby suffered but I’ve never seen it again since.
It might interest you to know that from a texture perspective wholemeal bread is easier than white bread for your baby to move around their mouth and eat. White can become sticky (particularly fresh bakery bread) and form a gooey lump which is difficult to chew.
Should I use butter?
You can use butter or margarine and in fact, you should. It supplies concentrated energy which your baby’s growing body will benefit from. Butter tastes nicer but is predominantly saturated fat, the type that’s not great for our hearts in the long term, but a little bit in your child’s diet is fine.
Margarines are made from healthy fats and so are better for your little one’s heart, particularly if you use an olive oil based one.
Margarines have had a lot of bad press when it comes to ‘trans fats’ however in the UK they don’t contain the trans fats that are known to be damaging, but if you live elsewhere this rule doesn’t apply.
Often margarines especially the olive based ones have vitamins and omega 3 added too which are a bonus.
The choice is personal, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your family.
Making sandwiches easy to eat
Your baby might find it easier to eat mini sandwiches. Finger shapes are often more successful eaten than squares especially if your baby is just learning how to pick up food to eat.
A top tip of mine is to roll your sandwich flat once it’s made, using a rolling pin or drinks glass. This helps the sandwich stick together well. Next use a pizza cutter rather than a sharp knife to cut into fingers or mini squares as this will save you a lot of time.
Making food fun
After weaning, young children’s cognitive development enters the ‘magical thinking’ phase. This is when if you can make food look interesting and attach a story to it children will be a lot more engaged in the mealtime and likely to eat. Cookie cutters are great for making fun shapes and having lunch on a rug on the floor as a ‘carpet picnic’ will have a similar appeal.
Adapting how you feed (or food parent) your child to match their developmental stage is the cornerstone of what I teach in my Positive Food Parenting Coaching Programme .
The recommended portion size for a starchy food like bread for a:
7-12 month old is roughly 1 slice of bread with crusts, or 2 slices with the crusts cut off.
1-4 year old is 1 1/2 slices with crusts or 3 slices with the crusts cut off.
Here are my top 20 healthy lunch sandwich ideas
Tuna and mayonnaise
Buy tuna canned in spring water as tuna canned in brine and oil contain extra salt. Mayonnaise is very low in salt and is entirely suitable from 6 months onwards. (A question I’m frequently asked!) Older babies who can manage lumps may like sweetcorn added too.
Tinned salmon and ketchup
Yes it’s fine to use tomato ketchup in small amounts within a recipe. A 5g teaspoon of ketchup contains just 1g sugar and 0.1g salt. I’d avoid giving ketchup on the side though as often babies and young children love it and get to a point of refusing meals without it.
Cream cheese and sweetcorn
Mash the sweetcorn with a potato masher or pulse for a few seconds in a blender before mixing with the cream cheese if your little one is sensitive to lumps.
Pesto and cream cheese
This is delicious and a flavour most little ones love. Often mums ask if pesto is too salty, but a 5g teaspoon of shop bought pesto contains just 0.1g salt.
Almond butter, peanut butter or cashew nut butter and smooshed raspberries
Any nut butter will do in this recipe but look for ones that don’t have added sugar or salt. I like Meridien for this very reason. *(This is my affiliate link).
Just boil an egg, allow it to cool and mash with some mayonnaise with the back of a fork. About half an egg will be enough for a sandwich.
Grated cheese, mayo and spring onion
Cheese does contain salt, it acts as a preservative and so you can’t buy low salt versions. Bear in mind what else your little one is having to eat that day when considering a cheese sandwich for lunch.
Houmous and grated carrot
Shop bought houmous is fine but I do have a fab recipe you could try. The secret is choosing an olive oil that isn’t too strong. The extra virgin olive oils are often overpowering. Blend together 100g chickpeas, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1tbs olive oil, 1tbsp tahini, 1 crushed garlic clove and add water till the consistency is right.
Banana and avocado
Just mash together and spread, it’s surprisingly delicious. Best eaten straight away.
Babies often surprise us with quite mature tastes and curry is one that’s often liked. This recipe is super easy where you use leftover roast chicken, mayonnaise and a teaspoon of mild curry powder and simply whiz together in a blender to make a sandwich spread.
Cream cheese and dried apricots
Soak your apricots for a few hours in hot water before making this sandwich filling, then simply drain and whiz together with the cream cheese (like Philadelphia) in a blender.
Frozen baby prawns are a great first food and defrost really quickly if you pop them in a bowl of cold water. Prawns are high in protein and a great source of vitamin B12 and the mineral selenium. Just mix with mayo and spread on bread. Can be blitzed too with a blender if your little one is still learning to chew.
Crab and mayo
Just mix together and spread. I love crab meat for babies as you can vary the flavour, start with white meat which is milder in flavour and if they like it try the browner meat which has a stronger flavour. The brown meat is rich in omega 3 which is one of the critical nutrients needed during the first 1000 days of life . You can buy it tinned or fresh. Crab sticks, however, are not made from crab, they are white fish and starch, so you won’t get the omega 3 benefits.
Roast beef and horseradish mayo
This was my daughters favourite! Buy thinly sliced roast beef from the shops as it requires less chewing than leftover beef from your roast dinner and so much easier to eat. Beef too is probably the best source of iron, another critical nutrient needed for babies and children. Horseradish can be a bit too hot for tiny tummies but you’d be surprised at how much babies enjoy the flavour, which is why I suggest diluting it by mixing horseradish sauce with mayonnaise.
Roasted butternut squash and cream cheese
This may come as a bit of a surprise in the list but honestly, try it. It’s amazing! Just blitz or mash together roasted butternut squash and cream cheese like Philadelphia, then spread. Delicious!
Beetroot and cream cheese
Another great combo, make sure to buy cooked beetroot that isn’t pickled in vinegar! Fresh beetroot is another way to do this but you will need to boil and cool it first before mashing with the cream cheese.
Tzatziki and cucumber
Tzatziki is a cucumber, garlic, mint and yoghurt dip. Grate extra cucumber into it for a really refreshing sandwich filling.
kidney beans, cream cheese, squeeze of lemon juice. This is a great one for iron, fibre and protein. Rinse a tin of kidney beans in water then blitz in a blender with cream cheese and lemon juice. Yum!
Banana and greek yoghurt
For a sweet sarni there’s nothing better than the taste of banana but on its own, it’s not very nutritious. A dollop of Greek yoghurt provides protein and calcium too and takes this sandwich up a nutritional notch!
Chicken Caesar sandwich
Mix chopped cooked chicken, creme fraiche, a squeeze of lemon juice, a clove of garlic, a teaspoon of grated parmesan (look for one made with pasteurised milk for under 1’s) and a couple of capers (if you have them), in a blender for a couple of seconds and spread on bread.
Toddler lunch box ideas.
If your little one goes to nursery or day care any of these sandwiches are ideal. Add in a piece of fruit or a selection of berries and an extra item like one of my baby muffins or fruit teacake and you’ve got a healthy balanced meal.