Cooking with Kids! Family Nutrition Wellness

How to pack the perfect toddler lunch

img_3661Feeding toddlers can be an exercise in futility.  Starting preschool we have had to streamline our lunch process.  Since we are in afternoon preschool, we pack lunch together after breakfast time so it’s ready to go for later.  I love doing it at breakfast since we are already in the kitchen, and that way we can enjoy the rest of the morning playing until it’s time to leave for school.

There is a lot of research that shows kids will eat what they “need” provided you give them a constant array of options to meet their nutritional needs.  That means if you give your kiddos options for protein, dairy, grains, veggies and fruits at most meals, over the course of the week they will meet all their nutritional needs.  Some days they may chow down protein like they have gone Paleo.  Some days they will sustain life on fruit alone.  Other days will look like they are carbo-loading and well…ok…they have to have some encouragement on the veggies most days.

Here is a simple ‘recipe’ for packing the perfect toddler lunch:

  1. Protein!  Active little ones need protein to support them throughout the day.  Here are some of our favorite protein sources: turkey and cheese quesadillas, hard-boiled eggs, plain sliced deli meat, peanut butter, bean and cheese quesadillas, turkey and cream cheese roll ups.
  2. Dairy (this can also serve as protein source): string cheese, cubed cheese, yogurt
  3. Fruit.  Any thing goes here – our favorites lately are apples because everything is better when it’s in season!!
  4. Veggies:  carrots, cucumber slices, broccoli (also fun to include a little dip for them – we like hummus in our house)
  5. Healthy grains:  this usually is wrapped up with the protein source either as a whole wheat bread or tortilla, but days when we do hard-boiled eggs or turkey and cheese roll-ups I’ll put in a serving of whole grain crackers or pita bread.

We have an awesome bento box from Pottery Barn Kids that we use daily.  It makes it really easy to put everything right in there so when he opens it up all the options are right in front of him.  I usually pack a little more than he will eat at lunch and whatever is left becomes his after school snack!  (This is also my sneaky way of getting him to eat the things he didn’t want at lunch since some days he will eat fruit and crackers for lunch…so after school he is left with protein, dairy and veggies and at that point he’s starving so he gobbles them up!)

What are your favorite lunch box ‘meals’?!  Share them with us on social media using the hashtag #dejunkthelunchbox and tag @rockinmamalife.


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