Kid’s Lunch Ideas
As parents, we are acutely aware of the need for our children to have healthful diets. Other than deciding whether to breastfeed or formula feed, it’s generally pretty simple to feed babies. Once they’re old enough for solids, however, things get a little trickier. Some toddlers eat a reasonably varied diet, but many children seem to live on air. It can be incredibly frustrating to try keeping up with constantly changing likes and dislikes. Still, there’s a certain level of comforting control over what they eat while they are at home.
Once children enter preschool, everything changes. Favorite foods may be snubbed at the same time that the kids start demanding previously disliked choices. There’s really no guarantee that your lovingly prepared meals will be eaten, but there ARE things you can do to tip the balance in your favor.
Peer influence can be a major factor in your child’s eating habits. Most children will conform to one degree or another, so serving extremely unusual foods may not be successful. Foods that seem
familiar to the other preschool students may be eaten more readily than something perceived as “weird”. For example, very few of the kids will notice if students from religious Jewish or Muslim families can bring sliced up beef or chicken hot dogs instead of pork. Likewise, a child raised in a vegetarian household can bring a tofu or gluten based hot dog.
Easy and Fast to Eat
Preschool snack and lunch breaks are relatively short, so send food that can be eaten quickly. Many kids find it easier to drink when feeling rushed, so consider making a homemade smoothie with powdered milk or nut butter (if permitted) to add an extra hit of protein. You can find reusable pouch style containers or straw style sippy cups to safely pack them. If you plan to freeze them, make sure to leave headspace for the smoothie to safely expand.
If your preschool aged child prefers food that he can chew, consider the texture of what you send. Pack unsweetened applesauce, 100% fruit leather or sliced apples instead of whole apples to make it easier for your kids to finish eating before they run out of time. Other foods that are difficult to eat in a hurry include raw carrots, chewy bagels and foods that require assembly, such as mini pizzas.
A food that is irresistible when served piping hot at the dinner table may not appeal if leftovers are served at room temperature. Likewise, sliced cheese and puddings will not be appetizing if they get warm and mushy through the day. Spending money on durable insulated containers and ice packs permit you to pack homemade food safely and will last your children through preschool until college, if they’re not lost.
As childhood allergies become more serious, banning peanuts and tree nuts in the preschool setting is becoming more common. For children with limited diets, losing staple foods can be distressing to both the child and his parents. Fortunately, there are now many options that may be acceptable substitutes. Sunflower seed butter and soy “nut” butter are two of the more easily located choices. Refried beans and hummus are two other protein rich spreads that many children enjoy.
Pack a Treat
Including treats in your children’s preschool lunchbox is another way to keep their attention. You may find that he eats the package of fruit “snacks” or chocolate kiss first, but if the portion is limited, he will then move on to the rest of the meal. Homemade popcorn, soft pretzels or muffins are always fun, too. Preparing the food at home lets you control what goes into them.
There is no reason that you can’t send food to preschool and be confident that he actually eats it. Choosing the right foods and appropriate storage makes all the difference in the world!