I never realized how much time of my life would revolve around planning and preparing food (and my children are only one and three!). Food should never be a struggle with children, but often is, so simplifying and keeping it fun has helped our home from experiencing too many meltdowns. Preparing a healthy, filling lunch can be daunting and feel time consuming so I've put together some quick ideas to help save you time and energy.
Protein/Fruit or Vegetable/Grain
Stick with this combo and you'll be covered for making sure your child has a lunch that will support them for the entire day. Whole foods sustain for longer. The more variety you pack the more developed your child's palette will become. Avoid individual pre wrapped items such as granola bars, fruit cups, yogurt tubes, etc. They are often sugar heavy and create a lot of waste.
Tofu or your choice of animal protein (side of soy/tamari sauce for dipping)
Beans (black, garbanzo, pinto, refried)
Avocado- Just cut in half and leave for your child to scoop out
Sliced protein- rolled up or on a sandwich
Unsweetened yogurt- Be sure to check that there is no added sugar!
Nut butters- Be sure to check if your school is peanut or tree nut free. Almond butter is a great substitute for peanut butter.
Nuts- cashews, pistachios, roasted almonds
Cheese- sliced or grated, most children eat it all.
Example Fruit/Vegetable: (dipping sauce always increases the chances they will be eaten which is why hummus or some sort of cream cheese or ranch is great to add too!)
Baked sweet potato
Olives- Black olives are fun to put on your fingers
Frozen peas and carrots- can thaw overnight in the container and be ready to eat the next day.
Raisins/Cranberries- Fun toppers for plain yogurt
Apple slices (pairs well with almond butter) or applesauce- be sure to check for NO sugar added.
Oranges or the cuties- perfect size for lunch boxes.
Half a banana
Example Grains: These are typically left over from the previous night's dinner.
Pasta- Lots of brands are making pastas out of other sources for added protein, such as Banza makes theirs from chickpeas or Barilla makes theirs from red lentils.
Bread/Crackers- include spreads like cream cheese or hummus for your child to add
Tortillas- use hummus, cream cheese, or almond butter to make a rollup
Noodles- udon or soba taste great cold
Snacks are easy because they can be any of the above mentioned foods just put in the "snack" container. We like to make pumpkin muffins for a fun healthy treat. Popcorn also is a fun alternative to crackers.
We use a bento box style container so that we can offer a little of all the things our children like to eat. Include a small spreading knife so your child can be the one to spread the cream cheese or hummus onto the crackers. I also encourage you to include your child in the lunch making process whenever you can. Many nights this does not happen in our house but when it does, my children are always excited to scoop the yogurt into the container or count out the olives into the Tupperware.
What Typical Lunches May Look Like
Tofu cubes marinated in soy sauce with a side of rice. Carrots and cucumbers and seed crackers with hummus to dip. Snack is apple slices with almond butter and a muffin.
Baked sweet potato and black beans with rice or quinoa. Cheese stick or slices. Blueberries and granola. Snack is plain yogurt topped with raisins.
Quesadilla with pico de gallo or sour cream. Peas and carrots. Half a banana. Snacks are cashews and apricots.
Krista Speigner is a mother of two youngsters. She has taught in a Montessori classroom or worked in a Montessori school for over 10 years.