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The life of a mom with toddlers can be hectic, and sometimes feels like we are constantly running behind schedule! From the constant toy clean-up to the meals that require special prep to ensure the foods are safe, tasty, and healthy, and everything in between. A mother’s work is never done!
Many “life-hacks” can save you time throughout your day. Prepping your toddler’s lunch meals for the week is one of these such hacks. You can do in about the same time it takes you to prep their lunch once! Here are some tips for practical meal prep of your toddler’s lunches to make your week easier.
The Bento Box is one of the most effective tools for creating school lunches full of flavor, color, and nutrients. This is a way to keep your toddler happily eating healthy foods! With multiple spill-proof sections, they are easy lunchboxes to use. It allows you to offer them a variety of foods to ensure they are getting a balanced meal.
The compartments are different sizes making some perfect for sides, sweets and others ideal for their main course. This also enables your toddler’s teacher or babysitter to simply open the lunch box. They will be grateful they do not have to open multiple different containers. Depending on what is included in the meal and how long it is until they eat it, an ice pack might be needed.
Whatever your child does not finish can be left in the compartment. This is a great idea because it will enable you to be able to see just how much they ate during lunch. With multiple varieties in layout and exterior pattern, it is easy to find a Bento Box that your toddler will love!
Toddlers can be pretty picky eaters. What they insist on having one day, they may not touch the next! However, most toddlers do have a few choice foods that are a huge hit every time. When you are thinking of the main course for your toddler’s lunch, try to stick with one of their choice foods.
Meals such as roll up sandwiches can be made for the week on Sunday and freeze four of them leaving one out for Monday’s lunch. Each evening simply take one out of the freezer and put it in the fridge for the following day.
Finger foods such as grilled chicken nuggets, homemade pizza rolls, cheese quesadillas, homemade meatballs cut up and mini quiches are all excellent items to include in your toddler’s lunch. (Plus sneaking veggies they don’t particularly like into the pizza rolls and quiche is pretty easy!) While your toddler may be using utensils pretty well already, we all know they still love picking foods up with their hands!
Fruit and Veggies
When it comes to prepping the sides to go with your toddler’s lunch, know in advance you will most likely be doing some chopping! Certain foods such as grapes and cherry tomatoes need to be cut in half ahead of time to prevent them from being a choking hazard. Most toddlers love many types of fruit. Not only is fruit naturally sweet and full of antioxidants, it is also bright and colorful – perfect to grab your toddler’s attention!
While you will not want to cut your fresh fruit too far in advance. You should be able to cut a couple days’ worth at a time without any problems. When you are deciding what vegetables to send, it is best to stay away from hard ones unless they will eat them pre-cooked.
Sending softer fresh veggies such as cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms may be a good idea. If your toddler will eat cooked soft veggies at room temperature go ahead and cook what you want them to have for the next few days. Then portion it out so it is ready for their lunchbox.
Other Sides, Dips and Grains
Cheddar cheese cubes or other simple ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs are good choices for things to munch on. Other ideas like cottage cheese, hummus or plain yogurt can be nice additions. They can dip veggies in the hummus or fruit in the yogurt, a great way to add some extra fun.
The last type of side you want to be sure to include is some form of whole grains. If you are sending some type of pasta or rice you can portion out the whole week’s worth. Brown rice, whole grain pastas or pita bread can be great choices to add a variety of healthy foods for good measure.
Even though your toddler is getting natural sugar from their fruit, they love a nice dessert just like we do! You can try to stay away from treats with lots of added sugar. Your child’s caretaker will thank you! Bake some high protein banana chocolate chip muffins using Kodiak Pancake Mix. They can be a healthy yet tasty dessert your toddler is sure to love! You could even bake these together over the weekend. It could be a fun way for them to help prep their own lunches. It is an easy recipe I make all the time and my kids love them!
Some other options for desserts would be pumpkin cookies, baked cinnamon apples, or homemade fruit roll ups. Keep small single serving containers of Coolwhip in your freezer and include one in the lunchbox to dip their fruit in. By the time they have lunch, it will not be frozen. They will love the combination of the sweet whipped cream with their fruit! Regardless of what you send for your toddler’s dessert, you know they are sure to love that sweet treat at the end of their meal.
Finally, keep in mind that often a toddler’s eating habits vary depending on where they are. What your toddler gobbles up at daycare they may pick at when you give it to them at home and vice versa. Figuring out what foods they eat well when they are not with you is a trial and error way of learning. Including some new foods in their lunch box can be a good way to see if they will try something new that they might not at home.
Take note if your child comes home with a half full lunchbox at the end of the day for a few days in a row. The items they ate versus which items were left, can help guide your future lunch prep. If there seems to be a certain food left each time, you now know maybe that one they will eat at home but not at daycare, for some reason. Bento boxes allow you to give kids plenty of options. So there is sure to be something they want when it comes time for daycare lunch!
The best part is to know that you are ensuring your child has a balanced meal. Then there is the added bonus of saving yourself time during the week!