Lunch Ideas For Preschoolers
As a mom of preschoolers, I was kind of stumped when it came to lunch ideas for my oldest who started preschool last year. He is my super picky eater, and to be honest, every meal is kind of a fight anyways. So the idea of figuring out something that would stay edible by the time lunch rolled around perplexed me. However, I was able to get creative! I am sure I’m not alone when it comes to this topic, so I thought I would share some of my ideas with my fellow preschool mommas out there that might not have a clue (just like me!).
One of the hardest parts for me to figure out was to get around all of the rules, but at the same time, provide a healthy lunch that was going to provide nutrition for my littles sponge brains. Its important for children to get food that will FEED their brains, not just their tummies.
So think real foods, not the processed stuff that is easy to grab and shove into a lunch box. Foods that aren’t filled with dyes, preservatives, and sugars.
Foods that are filled with nutrients, and healthy fats to help those little brains grow, and learn all of the new things that are presented to them. Yet at the same time, stay affordable for our budgets. This may seem tricky, and daunting. But here are some great ways to achieve prepping a healthy, easy lunch for even the pickiest of eaters all year long.
The most important thing to keep in mind is a balanced meal, which means protein, healthy grains, and fruit and/or vegetable.
PROTEIN! Protein is a necessary part of a child’s diet because it helps build muscle, promotes cell growth, provides calories, boosts immune system, promotes healthy metabolism, and helps transport oxygen through the blood.
Think meats, beans, cheese, nuts, and yogurt. Lucky for us there are now so many different products out there that are prepackaged, but still fall into the “natural” or “organic”category. Since I try to stay away from the the artificial filler that are added to foods, there are now meat options available to buy without hormones, and antibiotics.
For my child who refuses to eat the lunch meat, I have found that there are also meat options out there that are good clean products, such as jerky meats, pepperonis, or other summer sausage types of meats that oddly enough he likes eat.
So I will throw in a beef jerky stick, with some cubed cheese, and some whole grain crackers, and call it his lunch. One favorite for what feels like most kids is a PB&J. However, a lot of schools or classrooms are making a “Nut Free” policy due to the number of children who have nut allergies. If your child is used to having peanut butter with their snack or lunch, think about switching to Sun Butter, or the other nut free spreads. Its a great alternative since it has the same sticky texture, plus the taste is mild, so they most likely won’t even notice the difference.
A fun trick I like to do is to freeze a yogurt pouch, which acts as a ice pack and will be ready to eat by the time lunch rolls around. Shop your local market, and read those labels to check out the ingredients.
GRAINS! Carbohydrates are important because they are the bodies preferred source of energy. And boy, do our children burn through energy! But if you are like me, choosing the right type of grains to put in their bodies is important!
Think WHOLE grains – wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, rye, spelt, and sorghum. Products, like crackers and bread, with these whole grain ingredients are your best options for providing your littles with a good source of carbohydrates.
Research has found that consuming whole grains are important because they can lower risk of obesity, and reduce risks of heart disease, stoke, cancer, and diabetes due to that fact that they contain phytochemical and antioxidants, along with containing B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and fiber.
If you wanted to go a step further in providing these nutrients to your family, sprouted grains are the way to go. Sprouted grains means that the nutrients within the grain have been able to release before the the grain is made into flour, therefore, are more readily available for absorption in the body. If your child, or your family is gluten free, there are so many great cracker and bread options out there so you don’t feel like you are missing out. Look for products with that are naturally gluten free, such as corn, quinoa, nut flours, and oats are just some of the examples.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES – The one food group that most parents have the hardest time with, but yet we all try to fight with our kids to eat them anyways because we know how healthy they are.
Fruits and vegetable are filled with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants that help boost immunes systems, and protect against diseases.
Both of my kids have absolutely no problems eating fruit. They love the sweetness, and neither mind the textures. If your kids are like mine, the best option is to try to provide a variety of fruits in one container. This way they are getting different types of nutrients in one sitting. However, if your child refuses, thankfully for us there are now fruit and veggie sauce pouch options that are tasty, and make it even easier to pack into a lunch box. I have found a way to sneak in vegetables without them even knowing it. My secret weapon….a smoothie! Granted not that easy to do for a packed school lunch. But its definitely a win for breakfast before I send them off to school. I have hidden basically everything into a smoothie – leafy greens of all kinds, broccoli, wheat grass, avocado, cauliflower. It is a great way to know they are still getting those nutrients, without the fight.
I am hoping one day I won’t have to be so sneaky….but that probably wont happen.
Looking around online, you can get super creative with presentations ideas, but if you are a mom like me, you just need life to be as easy as possible. Following the balanced diet rules for lunches for my kids make it easy for me to throw something together. Also, if I am able to provide them with as many nutrients as possible, I know I am helping their little bodies to fight away all of the germs, bacteria, and viruses that they come into contact with, which will help during those pesky cold and flu seasons. Feeding their body with nutrient rich foods helps boost their immune systems and help their growing bodies get strong.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be they food” – Hippocrates