A couple of weeks ago, I posted 10 Tips to get your Toddler to Eat Healthy Foods and those have helped tremendously in getting Grace (my 3 year old) to eat and enjoy a variety of healthy foods.
By nature, she’s a breakfast lover…eggs & bacon, fruit & plain yogurt, oatmeal are all winners. Not to mention the less healthy bowl of rice krispies which would probably be her first choice everyday. Lol
Dinner is pretty straightforward too. I make dinner and expect her to eat it. I am willing to make some accommodations for her, like giving her more sweet potatoes than chicken since I know she can be finicky about poultry, or scooping up more of the veggies she likes than the ones she doesn’t when I’m serving her a bowl of stir-fry.
I also think it’s fair for her to not like certain things at all, so I let her pick onions or “mushy” zucchini out of her bowl of soup as long as she eats the rest.
Keeping communication open has helped us to have a productive conversation about food rather than a battle of the wills or fight for control.
When Andy worked at an assisted living home for the elderly, he was told during training that the residents were powerless about so much of their lives that it was important to let them make decisions when they could.
That message stuck with me and I’ve applied it to parenting.
Grace’s entire day is dictated by the things I determine, so I think it’s good to give her as many choices as I can when it’s appropriate to do so.
All that being said, breakfast and dinner are pretty straightforward, but sometimes lunch feels like a giant black hole.
Am I the only one who thinks so?
I even get stressed about what to pack Andy for lunch.
Heck, my own lunch seems daunting most days. Salad AGAIN?!
I’ve mentioned before that Grace adores peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some days that is my go-to meal for her, but if she had a bowl of cereal or some other grain-heavy breakfast, I like to make lunch a time to pack in extra veggies, fruit and protein.
For the past few weeks I’ve tried to remember to snap a photo of her lunch before she chows down, so here is a short selection of sandwich-free lunch ideas that are a hit at our house :)
This particular lunch was leftovers from dinner the night before. It’s nice when that is an option :) Adding some butter and cinnamon to the sweet potatoes makes them feel a little like dessert :)
Grace is a die-hard feta cheese lover. For whatever reason, I feel better about feta cheese than many other cheeses, so this is a good way to get some protein and calcium into her :)
Eggs aren’t just for breakfast! It takes only a couple of minutes to scramble up an egg or two for her and the eggs plus the almond butter made this a really filling lunch!
I know hummus is a “love it or hate it” kind of thing, but I think if you introduce it early, you have a decent chance at your kids loving it :) It’s a great non-dairy dip for veggies or, if they are like Grace, they will just eat it with a spoon!
Since she was little, Grace has enjoyed beans. Black beans are her favorite by far, so I usually stick with those. Skewering 4-5 beans on a toothpick to create “bean kabobs” would be a good way to introduce your toddler to beans and help them be willing to try them. You could even alternate the beans with small cheese chunks or even grapes :)
More feta (shocker) with fresh berries which are fun to eat off the ends of their little fingers! Carrots and more black beans round out the dish.
Kiwi is a superfood and a big hit at our house! Both girls gobble it right up without even a thought for the seeds. The bright green color of kiwi makes it appealing and you could offer it with a toothpick for fun eating :) These black beans are sprinkled with garlic powder (not salt) to make them a little zippy! My girls LOVE garlic, so maybe yours would too!
I get so tired of hearing, “I’m still hungry!” after lunch time so I try to offer a good amount of food and make sure that each plate contains good fat to fill up on. Avocados are a great source of healthy fat and their soft texture makes them ideal for beginning eaters. A little garlic powder spices things up and make it almost like a simple guacamole :)
Nuts are also a great source of fat and they come in such a wide variety, you’re sure to find at least 1 or 2 types that your little one will enjoy. Grace likes almonds and walnuts best so far. She loves peanuts, but those are technically a legume, so I try to steer her toward true nuts :) Whipping up a batch of homemade hummus is a cinch in the blender or food processor. Budget Bytes has a great basic recipe that is so much better and cheaper than what you can buy at the store.
So that’s it! Just a few ideas to spark your own creativity. Let me know if there are other healthy lunch items that your kids enjoy…I’m always looking for new ideas and ways to get creative with both of my girls’ lunches!