Packing Kids' Lunches
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Packing Kids' Lunches
As we struggle to add variety to lunches, I struggle about
lunchmeat. Any lunchmeat eating medical types or
microbiologists out there?
The nitrates/nitrites is one concern, but also -- how long is it
good for? And is it better to get it from the deli counter vs.
the packaged stuff in terms of shelf life/not growing any
bacteria? Why do OBGYN offices give out pamphlets recommending
pregnant women to heat up lunchmeat before eating it? Is that
something we should be doing with our kids' lunchmeat?
I have one microbiologist friend who says just use it up quick.
But, what's quick? We try to use it up by the end of the week,
but I wonder about its integrity at that point.
I'm laughing as I write this, because it's kind of funny and
gross to me -- but it's so handy for lunches! Any thoughts?
Mom with lunchmeat issues!
As a mom and a professional chef, lunchmeat grosses me out. It seems like a
breeding ground for bacteria, it has a weird texture and often comes with a strange
slime....yucky. Plus it is very expensive, high in sodium.....sometimes I'll grab some
when I am desperate but recently I've just been buying a small turkey breast (or half,
or piece of a breast) and roasting it with salt and pepper. We can use this with
sandwiches for the week. If there is a bone attached that can turn into soup. It is
slightly more work but not much, and so much cheaper and healthier and tastier. Just
P.S. My son does love salami, though, so we do that sometimes. Seems to last forever.
You can buy fresh lunch meats without nitrates at Berkeley Bowl, Magnani's, and
Safeway delis. Look for fresh roasted turkey for example. And, it will keep longest if
you unwrap it immediately upon getting home, and re-wrap it tightly in cellophane
plastic. Make sure each time you open it up for serving, you re-wrap it tightly in
plastic. This will preserve it longer. I would stay away from the sorts you find in the
supermarket on the shelf, even if it has a zip lock closure. These are generally the
ones filled with all kinds of preservatives. I also don't like that the lunchmeats tend to
be cured with sugar or honey, making them unappealingly sweet.
I send my vegetarian kindergartner rice and bean burritos at least 3 times a week for
his lunch. They're the Trader Joe's brand. I microwave them before school and he eats
them at room temp. He also enjoys grilled cheese sandwiches at room temp.
Try Tofurkey or Yves veggie lunch ''meats'' - they taste good and
have none of the problems associated with meat. They have:
last longer out of the fridge,
We often pack sliced fruit (apple, pear) in a reusable zipped bag
in our son's lunch for preschool, but it often gets mangled and
''yucky'' by the time he eats lunch. I'd love to continue to pack
healthy snacks (veggies, fruits) and am looking for ideas - both
what to pack and how. Thanks.
I buy little stainless steel containers to pack the fruits in.
I've found them in Ichiban-Kan (the Japanese $1 type of store)
in El Cerrito for about $1.50. They are just the right size
for snacks with a plastic lid, easy for kids to open by
themselves. I've also bought enameled containers of similar
size from Daiso (another Janpanese $1.50 store) in Union City.
Or if you want to spend $19.99, you can find similar stainless
steel containers at the Natural Grocery Store in El Cerrito.
Pyrex glass bowls with lids also come in the small snack
sizes. I usually go to the Corning store in the Great Mall or
Vacaville outlets, so you can buy them individually rather than
in a box set. Though those lids are a bit tighter for the
preschooler to manage on their own (at least mine is not able
to open one herself). But the Pyrex is great for food that
needs reheating. She does get help from the teachers and
parents at her school for lids and heating her food.
We have a bento box type lunch box from Laptop Lunches (do a
websearch and you'll find it immediately. They are great! They
keep the food separate in containers that are reusable and don't
squish the food. One container has a lid for particularly juicy
things, the others are open for easy access, but are protected by
the lunch box lid. I LOVE this lunch box. Their website also
has all sorts of great healthy lunch ideas.
Laptop Lunches Lover
Hard boiled egg, celery w/ peanut butter, trail mix,
certain ''protein'' bars have less sugar, more good stuff, pieces
of chicken, pieces of flavored tofu.
I've stopped packing pear and apple slices for this reason -
they get all brown by lunchtime. Any other fruit works. Today I
sent cut up strawberries and blueberries, some grapes, and some
sliced melon. He also likes bananas and cherry tomatoes. I send
them in mini Tupperwares or old deli containers, not baggies,
so they don't get mashed.
Hope that helps
Either get small apples that your child can eat out of hand, or
put cut fruit in a hard container (tupperware, thermos.)
Try packing your healthy food items in containers instead of resealable bags. If the
texture is the problem then the containers should help in keeping the texture the
same. Use some containers like tupperware, rubbermaid or something along those
lines. Hope that helps.
Nanny in the know
Lose the ''reusable zipped bag''(!) and get a reusable hard plastic
B-O-X (Rubbermaid-esque) to transport the delicate sliced fruit,
etc. to school. Washable, reusable, pack-tight-able; what's not
to like? (f.y.i: I found some brands might leak juices a bit -
until I used a small piece of saranwrap on top, before snapping
--Keep 'em eating fresh!
Put the food in reusable tupperware instead. That will reduce the smush factor. For
apples, sprinkle some lemon juice on them to reduce the brown factor.
Instead of putting things in plastic bags, I use a Japanese
lunchbox. These are compartmentalized containers with a snap-on
top. Some of them have compartments for spoons and forks too. You
can get an inexpensive one at Ichiban Kan on San Pablo Ave in El
Cerrito, in the Jay Vee Shopping Center, corner of San Pablo Ave
and Moeser. They're made for kids so have cutesy designs. They
sometimes have them at Hello Kitty stores or Sanrio stores in San
Try packing the snacks in a hard, tupperware type container or try a ''Laptop Lunch''
box (www.laptoplunches.com). They sell them at the Natural Grocery stores in Berkeley
and El Cerrito. They're pricier than other lunch boxes, but we've found them to be
worth the extra cost.
lovin' the laptop lunch
one word....tupperware...ok I really use the cheap option they
sell at Safeway. One consideration is how easy it is for the
kid to open. Pears are hard....they mush up eaaslity. You can
pack a banana and cut a small slice at the top so they can start
it easily. Or cut a slit down the middle and cut into sections
if htey're ok wiht eatign the brown ends.
Other more hearty, but still healthy options: edemame, all fruit
fruit leather, apple sauce, mango pieces, canned fruit, etc.
I also pack bento-style lunches like many of the other
commenters. I post pictures of my preschool son's lunches here:
Packing his lunches this way has made all the difference in what
he can and will eat at lunchtime.
Although I have managed to feed my child adequately for the past 5
years, I feel intimidated by the idea of having to pack lunch and
snacks for kindergarten. Many of the suggestions in the archives
include dairy foods and nut butters, which we don't eat. I would be
so grateful to anyone who could share their vegan lunch ideas.
I feed my kid a vegetarian diet, but you can modify some of my
suggestions below with veggie cheese. I bought a little
thermos to keep food warm -- otherwise I'd be out of ideas!
Veggie/tofu hotdogs (no bun), with ketchup for dipping
Quesadillas with vegetarian refried beans and shredded cheese
Tofu cubes stir-fried in olive oil and teriyaki sauce
Vegetarian nuggets (Morningstar, Boca, or Quorn), with ketchup
Veggie ''meat'' sandwiches
Cheese and crackers
Good snacks are baby carrots, any fruit, Veggie Booty,
pretzels, chips/crackers, raisins...
I look forward to seeing other suggestion too! I always run
out of ideas and we do more PB&J than I would like! The
thermos is a lifesaver, though. Just plop the warm dogs,
nuggets, or quesadilla (cut into smaller pieces) inside -- it's
not just for soup!
Lunch packin' mom
leftover fried rice?
My son has dairy, egg and nut allergies, so I pack his lunch for
preschool instead of wondering about what they provide. Here are
a few of my staples:
Trader Joe's sesame seed butter and jelly
wheat or rice pasta with Earth's Best margarine (no dairy) and
turkey or ham sandwiches w/margarine
Amy's soy cheese pizza slices
carrots/snap peas with a container of hummus for dipping
noodle soup w/vegtables (i usually make some for dinner and send
rice and beans
Nothing here is ingenious, but I hope it helps!
mom of allergy kid
Hi. Although my vegan son isn't in kindergarten yet, I have some ideas
that may help. Here they are:
* tofurkey sandwich
* pasta salad
* pizza slice (we use the Trader Joe's dough and sauce)
* bagel & soy cream cheese
* pita bread & hummus
* eggless salad sandwich (Whole Foods)
How do I pack cold things (cold milk, cold juice, blue ice) and
hot things (hot food in a thermos) for a kindergartener's lunch
at the same time? Can they go in the same (soft, insulated)
lunch box? If not, how best should I do this? If yes, do you
know where I can get such a lunch box? My daughter is bored
with sandwiches and I want to do hot food (which I have not
done.) However, I don't want her to have to carry too many
I send my child off to school regularly with a cold drink and a
hot meal. It took a while for me to figure this one out.
Here's what I do. First of all, I bought a thermos at the Crate
and Barrel outlet on 4th street. They are a good size for a
lunch box, and are stainless steel rather than glass. (when I
bought him a glass one it came home the first day shattered
inside). They cost about $11. If you find one somewhere else,
great...I just recommend it over a plastic one (doesn't keep
things hot) or a glass one (breakable). I leave the lunch box
with cold foods in the fridge overnight. In the morning I heat
up wha! tever is going in the thermos and put it in then. His
lunch box is insulated, so the juice stays pretty cool, and he
says the hot stuff is plenty hot. Good luck!
Awhile back I bought lunchboxes that have two compartments: one
for hot and one for cold. The top has a compartment insulated
fr cold drinks. This unzips to expose the lunchbox where one
could put in warm food. They were at Costco but I have also
seen them at Target. They are not big and bulky and would work
well for a younger child.
See also: Lunch box to hold hot and cold foods
Could you please share with me how you're packing milk in a
lunchbox? I've been using the little Rubbermaid juice box;
however, we started two new ones this school year and they both
leak. This is getting messy and so I'm looking for
alternatives. Also, I'm getting worried about unsafe plastic
and chemical leaking. I haven't done enough research to
understand this entirely, but is the little plastic juice box
safe? Does anyone know? I'm looking into the Klean Kanteen
(stainless steel) bottle. Has anyone used this for milk? Does
it work OK? My kid is 9 years old and this is all for her
Thank you very much for your advice.
You can try to use a stainless steel thermos. They do make
small sizes. I got one in Japantown. I am sure other places
carry it. Otherwise you can get ultrapasturized milk in small
juice like containers that do not need refrigeration and Trader
Joe's carries it as do other grocery stores although Trader
Joes is cheaper. I used to drink ultrapasturized milk when I
was in Europe. It is pretty standard there although it is just
catching on here.
Luckily, my child's school has milk at school, but if I had to
pack milk I would use a real thermos with metal inside, not
plastic, if you don't like plastic. Or, although they are
disposable, Horizon makes those little ''juice boxes'' of milk that
are UHT treated so they don't need to be refrigerated.
I buy small milk boxes, like juice boxes, at Trader Joe's.
They are aseptic containers and the milk is fine. You can also
get aseptic milk boxes at other stores, like Andronico's. But
I've never found them at Safeway.
I've come up with packing cold milk in a water bottle (Nalgene
or other) and adding milk-ice cubes (milk frozen in ice cube
trays). The cubes melt by lunchtime, and the kid gets cold milk.
We pack milk for our son in a metal sigg bottle. We clean it
with boiling water. We make sure the bottle is cool/cold when we
put milk in and we put an ice pack in his lunch box. It's worked
great. No leaking or leeching.
You might try the new milk cartons (Horizon, Clover) that can be
kept at room temperature or chilled overnight to be reasonably
cool at lunchtime. They are sealed, completely safe and
delicious. You can find them at Whole Foods or other health food
stores, and Trader Joe's makes them too. They come in 8 oz
cartons and are new so they are frequently on sale.
As far as containers go, Nalgene is controversial I heard. (It's
also not good to reuse plastic water containers). I tried
bottles I found at Rainbow Grocery etc that don't have
Bisphenol-A but found they weren't as strong. For more info,
here's a Sierra Club article link.
I haven't seen the Kleen Kanteen, (but they are pricey at 35-50 a
bottle! and cannot be used for hot beverages). The plastic tops
are made of #5PP, which is recommended and doesn't leach. You
might want to use this with an icepack, but is that a lot for her
to carry each day? Perhaps a good smallish glass or steel-lined
thermos would work better, cost less and be even safer (keep the
milk fresh and cold).
We use the Sigg bottle and I clean it with water and white
vinegar to get the smell out. I have also put the Sigg bottle
in the dishwasher. I believe the main problem with plastic is
the off-gassing that occurs when they are exposed to the
tremendous heat of the dishwasher. We still use some plastic
and I end up hand washing. A major pain but I do believe the
plastics are a concern.
I give my son milk in his lunch for preschool. I put it in a
klean canteen (12 oz) with a screw lid that I bought at the
berkeley ecology center. It works great for milk. At his
preschool though, they keep the lunches in the fridge so I don't
have to worry about the milk going bad. (They go to the park
for lunch one day a week and those days I give him a milk box
I didn't see the original question, but I didn't see what I do in
the answers. I pack my kids' milk in a regular Playtex straw cup
in a thermal lunchbox with an ice pack. I use the ice packs left
from my breast pump. They're thin and rectangular and just
perfect for a lunch box. We do car trips this way, too. My kids
are milk-aholics, and we bring those totes meant for baby food
and, instead, pack two straw cups and two ice packs. The milk
stays cool for quite some time. (We don't leave the totes in the
car; we bring them along in stores, restaurants and friends'
houses, so the ice packs don't melt too quickly.)
Hi Someone mentioned that Kleen Kanteen are very expensive -25-
50 they have them at the Ecology Center on San Pablo for the
small sippy size $9.50 and $2 for the lid or sippy lids- shop
there and support green businesses- and Sierra club too. - I
have also heard that sigg bottles are coated aluminum with
teflon- both not so healthy- go stainless steel--
I use a metal Thermos container with a plastic straw. It works pretty well. It's the
thing I've found that my son will actually use. And I have to be quite careful -- he's
got a sensitive nose and sense of taste, and any hint of spoiled milk odor will make
him refuse to drink out of it; so we rinse immediately after school, and wash with
baking soda often.
It helps to freeze the bottle for about half an hour before pouring in the milk (keeps
the milk colder). And it definitely doesn't leak.
May we please have your advice on how to pack milk in lunchbox
for 3rd graders and up? We want our daughter to drink non-fat
(plain and organic) milk at lunch and so far we've been using a
little Rubbermaid container -- the kind with a push-up thing to
drink from. Our daughter is starting 3rd grade next year and
this little container seems a little babyish for such a grown
up girl. If you have suggestions on what other containers we
can use, we'd appreciate it very much
I don't think that cup thing sounds babyish at all. In fact, I have an adult co-
worker who drinks juice out of the same thing, I think. It is a waste of money
and packaging, but Horizon makes little ''juice boxes'' of organic milk, I don't
know if they have low-fat though. They are UHT processed so they don't have
to be refrigerated
Thermos makes a wonderful thermos for lunchbox drinks. You can
buy them at Target and they come in great designs and colors.
The selection is best in July and August when they bring
in ''school stuff.'' It is made completely of stainless steel.
The top pops up and you have a straw to drink from.
My 12 year old daughter still uses hers and drinks milk
everyday at lunch. I chill it overnight in the refrigerator
and put one ice cube in it in the morning. The milk will stay
cold for at least 4 to 6 hours. Here is a link:
We use the clear rubbermaid containers whith the flip up spout
(no straw). Kids at our elementary school (at all grades) use
similar containers. I recommend that you go to a big store
(like a Target) and shop with your daughter for one that meets
your needs. Our needs are a container that won't spill milk in
the lunch box.
I've read all postings regarding how to pack a school lunchbox.
They were very helpful but I still need help. Could someone
please share with me about how to pack milk in a school
lunchbox? My kindergarten daughter does not like soy milk or
the ''Fresh'' milk (in a box just like the juice box; we found it
at Andronico's). We don't want to get her started on the
chocolate or strawberry flavored milk because of the sugar
content. We can't find the little box of milk that used to be
available in the frig at Safeway. We thought about packing the
milk in a container, but have not been able to find a good
container. We tried a plastic bottle (the kind new moms can use
to store breast milk), but our daughter cannot open the bottle
if we screw it tightly (to prevent the milk from spilling).
Does anyone have any idea? Please help. Thank you very much.
Can she buy milk at school in the little cartons? It usually
costs the same as if you were buying it at the super market.
My son is also very particular about his milk, so I completely
sympathize. I found a 20 oz bottle at Walgreens with a screw-top
lid and a fold-down straw. It also has a freezer insert - a
detachable cylinder that attaches to the inside of the lid when
the bottle is in use, then goes in the freezer the rest of the
time. In the morning, the frozen cylinder is removed from the
freezer and attached to the lid. I fill the bottle with 20 oz of
milk, screw on the lid, and voila! It stays cold in an insulated
lunchbox for hours that way, without spilling, and always
accessible because of the fold-down straw.
My older child takes milk (has since preschool) to school every
day in a thermos, with a cold/ice pack next to the milk. We have
been doing this now for six years and it seems to work (she says
that the milk remains cold and she has never been sick from it).
My other child (toddler)gets milk in a special container (her
lunchbox, it turns out, is too small for a full thermos) that we
bought at Target. It is like a small sports bottle (with a pull
up top) that has an insert that is frozen (can be removed and
kept in the freezer until used). This also seems to be working
I have two suggestions for lunchtime milk storage:
If you want 100% leak proof, the containers that come with
the Lansinoh Milk Mate breast milk storage system are
amazing. They have a little plastic piece that fits in the lid
creating a perfect seal. The lid only needs to be screwed on
to normal tightness. The whole set comes with 10 bottles
and a storage rack for $28, Im not sure if its possible to buy
I have also had pretty good success with Rubbermaid's
plastic Crocodile Juice Box with pop up straw. However, on
more than one occasion it has leaked substantially (in
these cases it was found upside down and most likely sat
upon). They're available in the Tupperware section of Target
and cost around $4 for two. (They really look more like
elephants than crocodiles).
Hope this helps
I have been using an insulated sippy cup with valve and putting
it in a soft lunch box with a zipper that has a sleeve for an
ice pack. Her milk is still cold when i pick her up from
preschool at 4:30 in the afternoon.
I never found a solution to this problem --even with
refridgerated bags and ice packs, the milk didn't stay
'refridgerator cold' and neither of my kids would drink it.
They even complained about the milk in the cafeteria being
warm (since the food workers set out flats of cartons before
the lunch hour starts). What worked for us was the substitution
of alternative calcium-rich foods: mozzarella cheese sticks,
Baby Belle wedges, leftover cheese pizza, yoghurt, even pudding
(the cooked kind, not instant). Yes, some of these have sugar,
but my kids eat pretty healthy overall and as long as there
aren't multiple sweets in a lunch box I haven't seen it as a
problem. They're in middle school now, and one is skinny, the
other completely average in weight (though I am overweight)
And if they want a drink, they get a frozen water bottle
(sometimes 50% juice) to drink. When they were little, these
were refillable sippy juice boxes, now they are sports bottles!
I have bought a refillable plastic container from safeway or
longs, that is kind of squarish, like a juice box, and has a flip
top that my children can easily open and close. The night before
I pour in about 2-3 inches of milk and place the container in the
freezer. The next morning I fill the rest of the container with
milk and it generally is still cold at lunchtime.
Hi Amy. At Longs Drugs near Safeway on Pleasant Valley and
Broadway (and probably at Target, K-Mart, etc.) they have these
plastic bottles with built-in straws. They seal for a no-leak
lunch, and your child does NOT have to unscrew anything, just
pop up the straw and then push it back down to seal it. They
come in two sizes, 8oz and 14oz approx. I just wash them in my
dishwasher after rinsing or soaking them a bit.
To keep your milk cold, they also sell at Longs little blue ice
freezer packs that are just sized for a lunch box.
Rubbermaid sells these beverage containers that have this hard
plastic built-in straw that you fold up to drink. They don't
leak, and would be easy for your child to use instead of
something that screws on and off. I think I've seen them at
Target as well as at Albertsons.
We use a First Years sippy cup with a flip-up spout cover that
effectively prevents lunchbag leaks but is easy enough for our
son to open himself. If your daughter thinks she is too old for
a sippy cup, try the ''sport bottle'' version:
I bought ours at Target.
How old is your daughter? Would a sippy cup be okay? If not,
Rubbermaid makes a vairety of packable drink containers. I use
Gerber sports bottles for my boys (3 1/2) and freeze their
drinks overnight so that they are still cold by lunch- which
would be particularly important with milk.
We usually send our (pre-school) daughter's milk in an insulated
cup with a top that has a built-in plastic straw that folds down
into a cover so it can be completely sealed. It's hard to
describe, but if you search on the web for ''Playtex Insulator
Sport,'' you can see it. I bought a four-pack of the cups at
Costco about three weeks ago for about $12.
I know this because I wanted to serve milk at my kids' birthday
parties...Andronico's sells the little milk cartons!
Lunches - My daughter hates sandwiches - We do yogurt or she likes a
container of marinara sauce to dip string cheese into or I wrap a high
grade of bologna from the butcher around a piece of string cheese and a
pickle sliver with some mustard and toothpick it. Sometimes I send
crackers or baguette sliced thin and a small container of spreadable
One thing that my 7-year-old likes for lunch is "roll-ups," which consist of
pieces of thinly sliced ham or turkey (or salami if he can nag me into it)
rolled around a small stick of cheese and held together with a toothpick. I
pack 2 or 3 "roll-ups" in a little plastic container and then give him some
carbs in the form of crackers or a granola bar. I trust him not to goof off
with the toothpicks, but that might be an issue for some.
Another member asked for ideas on bag lunches that don't involve
sandwiches. I've found that do-it-yourself "lunchables" are a big hit with
my 11-year-old. This usually invoves 1 or two kinds of crackers, 1 or two
kinds of pre-sliced cheese, and 1 or two kinds of pre-sliced and cut
luncheon meats. You can make up a bunch of these in advance, and put them
in lots of plastic baggies, or you can also get special tupperware-type
containers with little compartments that work well for this. I've found
Japanese ones to be especially good (ours are actually from Japan, but you
can probably get them in Japantown; ask for Bento boxes). To this main
dish I usually add a piece of fruit, some small desert-type item (like a
fruit roll-up), and a box juice or small plastic container of juice.
Another lunch idea if your child is old enough to handle it, and has access
to very hot water: Cup-a-Noodles or similar items. Sometimes you can get
a cup of hot or "boiling" water from the school lunch counter to make this
One of my kids doesn't like sandwiches in his lunch either. I give him:
- pizza: order extra next time and freeze leftover slices in baggies
- a baggie full of dry cereal
- packaged sushi from the grocery store
- bread sticks and string cheese
- try different kinds of bread too like hamburger & hotdog buns, baguettes,
cinnamon bread, cheese bread, etc.
My 8 year-old has been mostly in a school program where lunch
was provided at a small fee. Occasionally, I would pack him a
sandwich with turkey ham and spinach. But now I have to do this
on a regular basis and want to add variety to his lunch. I need
suggestions about what type of food I can pack him other than
sandwiches, and distinct from morning snacks. Is any meat
(chicken, beef, etc.) cooked and kept in the fridge overnight
safe to stay out the next day(in a lunch box, i.e. an insulated
bag, etc.) from morning till lunch time (probably for 3 to 4
hours)? I am assuming vegetables would be okay. But, I just
need to know what parents, who have to pack lunches every day,
do in summer or during school year. Thank you.
New to Packing Lunch Regularly
I pack a wide variety of things for my son (who refuses to eat the same thing every
day). These include both cold and warm things (warm things are in a thermos or a
japanese ''lunch jar'' with two separate containers inside, expensive but worth it for me
since I do this all year long -- google ''Ms. Bento'').
Cold things include hardboiled eggs, sushi (with an ice pack), tofu slices, turkey in a
pita, bean burrito
Warm things include leftovers that he liked, soup, tortellini with red sauce, potstickers,
little spinach cakes, stirfry with rice.
In every lunch, I try to include a source of protein, some carbohydrate (e.g. pasta,
bread, muffin, rice), a vegetable, and a fruit.
In about 5 years of packing such lunches, I have never had trouble from packing meat.
I have been packing my daughter's lunch every day since she
started preschool about 3 years ago. I find it one of the most
irritating tasks of my daily life, but here is what I pack: I
always give her a fruit, a vegetable, a starch and a protein.
I put it in her insulated lunchbox with a frozen cold pack (I
use a small gel pack). For fruits I use just about any fruit.
For veggies she likes carrots, cucumbers, cooked spinach,
cooked green beans, grape tomatoes, cooked broccoli and so on.
I give her a small container of hummus to go with her
carrots/cucumbers. For starch and protein, I usually give her
dinner leftovers because she does not like sandwiches. Rice and
grilled chicken, tofu and rice, rice with black beans and
cheese, pasta with sauce, pasta with grated cheese, turkey
sausage with couscous -- any combination or whatever I made for
dinner. I give her a yogurt squeezer for a snack, or maybe a
rice cake with margarine or dried fruit or a cheese stick. She
gets milk in a klean kanteen (not insulated) or occasionally a
juice box. She is in a nut-free classroom, so I don't send
peanut butter or nuts, but I will when I can. Sometimes she
eats everything I give her, sometimes she eats absolutely
nothing. It doesn't matter to me . . . it's there
for her if she wants and is hungry enough! She is out of the
home from 8 to 6, so lots of time she'll snack on our drive
home or while she's waiting for dinner. I find that the cold
pack keeps things cold enough. I'm sure other parents are much
more cautious with meats, but it has worked fine for us for
over 3 years. Good luck with your lunch adventure! There are
lots of great websites with lunch ideas, one BPN mom posted her
great bento box site last week.
Slave to the Lunchbox
Hi...I wanted to put out a word of caution when packing lunch
meat in the summer -- Bees love protein and are drawn to it!
During summer months, I try to keep lunch free of animal based
protein (nut butters, too.) I give LOTS of good snacks -- fresh
fruit, dried fruit and nuts (bees don't seem to be as attracted
to whole nuts compared to nut butters,) veggies/crackers and
hummus or other dip...Then when we get home, I give the chicken,
turkey, etc. Make sure there's protein in your breakfast,
too...also, pack a moist paper towel or two sealed in a zip top
bag -- this way your kids can wipe off any fruit juice that may
have squeezed on to their hands and face.
Love to picnic!
Preschoolers & Kindergarteners
My four year old is not a big eater--never has been. Lunch is by far his smallest
meal. Sometimes it is only three bites from a sandwich and an apple wedge. He is
just much more interested in play and the world, then food and it doesn't take much
to fill him up. The problem I am dealing with now is that he is taking lunch to
preschool 3 days a week and it usually comes back uneaten--two bites from a
sandwich and maybe a handful of raisins. Last year he only had lunch one day at
school and he barely touched it then. I've let him make his lunch, I've included him
in the food selection, I've given him lots of options and packed his favorite foods in
a cool lunch box, but he still barely eats a thing. I don't think the (fruit and carb)
mid-morning snack at school helps as it fills him, but I can't forbid him from
partaking in it. Socially he is doing well at the lunch table, he just doesn't eat. I am
accepting that this is just the way he is. But, I am concerned now because on two of
the days he stays longer and when I pick him up I can tell that he has low blood
sugar. He then craves sweets and whines and melts down when we get home.
Bringing food with me in the car at pick-up sometimes helps this. I feel guilty
because of all the food he is wasting. I get sad throwing the food out everyday and
gasp at the money we are wasting. We throw out a lot of food for his other meals
too. I don't think my portions are too big compared to what other kids his age are
eating, but maybe? I feel a bit hopeless and uninspired when it comes to making the
food because he won't touch it. I am almost tempted to send him with a couple of
crackers and a banana. His teachers just say that he is just more interested in play
then food. My question is--do I just accept this and pack very minimal lunches?
What kinds of quantities of food do parents pack for lunch for their minimal eaters?
I'd love to know how much you are sending with them. Also, will he always be a
small eater? Did your small eater suddenly blossom into a big eater at any time in
childhood? I imagine sending him off to high school with a slice of apple and a few
--Tired of wasting
My 6yo son has always been both a light eater and a sloooow one,
including in preschool. He's still eating when the other kids
are done and then he wants to go out and play with them. I just
keep his lunches really small - a couple slices of fruit, half a
sandwich, and then some raisins or other snacky thing that he
eats in the morning. It took me a while to figure out that that
was enough for him, especially since my other (smaller!) child
eats like a T-Rex. A snack after school definitely helps with
the low blood sugar issue (mine turns into a monster when he's
hungry and doesn't realize it, too). I think some kids just
don't need much in any one sitting.
Packing Lunches is Hard Work
I think you have answered your own question--offer him smaller portions at home,
send less food to preschool, and bring a snack or have him eat his leftover lunch when
you pick him up. If he's a healthy weight and is able to play with lots of energy then
surely he's getting enough to eat, even if he doesn't eat as much as you think he
should. Really, you're the one wasting the food, not him, if you keep giving him more
than you know he will eat (and I mean this kindly). And I'm sure he'll eat more when
he's a teenager--the appetites of teenaged boys are legendary, just as small children
are known for existing on tiny portions.
Less gruel, please!
I used to consider packing plastic food in the lunch box because
so little was eaten...
Actual suggestions 1) your idea about packing a ''snack'' rather
than a full fledged lunch is a good one or 2) have your child eat
the rest of lunch on the way home and/or 3) bring the rest of
lunch with you when you pick up your child to eat on the way
home, 4) feed your child a good, nutritious breakfast.
Many preschoolers just don't eat much -- they grow quickly again
right around kindergarten, and eat more before that growth spurt.
If the teachers aren't concerned, I wouldn't worry about it. My
child seems to have mostly outgrown the pickiness, without any
direct action on our part.
mom of a former picky eater
My son was (is) similar to yours. I would try not to worry so
much. Kids have different daily rhythyms for their appetites
but as long as there is always food available when he wants it
he will get what he needs. One good sign is that it probably
means he really likes his preschool activities (they are more
interesting than food). Two things I do: yes, I pack really
small lunches, maybe 30% more than I think he is likely to eat,
in case he has a bigger-appetite day. Second, I open the
uneaten lunch in the car on the way home, and he is often
starving at that time and devouers the whole thing. Sometimes I
make eating the lunch food a condition of having other snacks,
so it doesn't get wasted. Sometimes it does mean that dinner is
delayed a bit (since he has just eaten at 5 pm) but I figure
that calories are calories whether they get consumed at 12 or 5.
Oh, and now that he is in kindergarten his eating habits seem
to be slightly more normal, maybe because of the peer pressure
aspect, I don't know. So there is hope for change over time.
My daughter (pre-k) doesn't seem to eat at lunchtime regularly,
either. What she doesn't eat at lunch, she usually eats in the
car on the way home. That sometimes causes her to then eat a
smaller dinner, but I really don't get too worried about it.
At breakfast, I make sure to get as much protein into her as
possible (eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt) to tide her over in case
today is going to be a light lunch day. And for lunch, I just
pack her my regular combo of fruit, veggie, protein and carb
(usually complex, though not always) ...I love edemame as it is a
two-fer (veggie and protein) that is 'fun' for her (she loves to
peel them open.)
And, finally, I don't really think too much about how much she
eats. I've tracked her food intake very now and again (as I do
for her elder sister) and over the course of two weeks, the
intake seems to be about right on...things seem to average out
over a 72-hour period...
Finally, finally...do you know how much snack is being served?
My child's preschool lets the children take it at any time during
the morning or afternoon, but has a definite amount that they can
take (e.g., 2 slices of apples and one spoonful of nuts).
My daughter is actually an eater but had the same trouble at
school so I was very concerned when she would just eat her fruit
or not eat any of her lunch. My solution, especially when I saw
her melting down, was to feed her something from her lunch as
soon as I put her in the car. Sometimes she would eat the whole
thing or at least her sandwich and fruit or cheese stick. The
other thing I did was change our eating habits at home. She went
from feeding herself a bit then running around playing and coming
back for bites of food when hounded to do so. We changed to
having her sit till she was done, not feeding her again after
dinner (if she asked we would say ''I am sorry you are hungry but
am confident you can make it to breakfast.'' or snack or what ever
meal we were working on; also telling her we would leave a place
if she couldn't sit eat, then play; only had to follow through
once) and having her ask to be excused which just reminded her
that she was deciding to finish eating. I don't know how your
child's preschool works but all the kids at my daughter's sit
together and eat. My daughter gets involved in what others are
eating and then jets as soon as one of the other kids finish up
to play. I asked the teachers to keep an eye on her and remind
her to eat several times during lunch and if she got up before
she had any food to ask her to sit back down. More work for them
but that's what I'm paying them for plus a hungry child is harder
to care for and won't learn. Another child in her class who eats
like a bird sits forever. He's a super slow eater but is
reminded a lot by the teachers to eat so he generally eats well
when there even though it is much less than most. I would also
ask your preschool to give your kid less snack, just limit it so
he doesn't fill up. Also pack high protein whole grain items in
your kid's lunch; cheese, nuts, quinoa, garbanzos, dips (great
for getting them to concentrate on their food and have fun) like
cream cheese, whole yogurts, hummus etc. so he doesn't fill up on
sugary things like fruit that will allow him to crash soon after
eating. Good luck!
Two 5yo kids I care for went to the same montessori and
experienced this. They allow kids to self-regulate, but I ask
you: If you were 5, would you choose food or more play?
I'm over 30 and forget or don't make time to eat and then suffer
low blood sugar and the effects (grumpiness, no energy, getting
spaced out, inability to think clearly, depression, inability to
handle stress, become a raving lunatic). I can attest that it's
hard enough to keep on top of it as an adult, let alone when you
are 5 and you are allowed to play in lieu of taking meals. When
it's food time, the focus should be sitting to eat, without the
option to play. When I realize I have low blood sugar, if I just
give myself a good meal, I'm pepped up and completely normal
within 30 minutes. It's a drastic difference.
In the boy, everytime I picked him up, he too had only eaten a
couple bites. He was a mess and I had to start bringing honey and
give him a spoonful right away to get his sugars up so that he'd
bounce back and be normal, because he was so whacked out that he
would still usually refuse food at 4:30. Thankfully, honey is
medicine so I felt okay about it:
http://itotd.com/articles/218/honey-as-medicine/ In the boy, he
was eventually expelled for biting another kid, which occurred
due to his low blood sugar psychosis. It was preventable had the
adults been caring for him properly.
In the girl (different family), she was coming home at 1pm in the
hot summer, dehydrated and unfed (they also don't push water at
the school). Her mother told me it would take 2 hours to get her
daughter back to normal. She had to recover from the poor care at
preschool daily. But if the mom would just come at noon (even
though she had to pay til 1), she could get her daughter fed and
hydrated and then she was just fine.
It is my opinion (and many local mamas agree with me) that these
schools letting young kids self-regulate this particular aspect
are being highly negligent. It makes me really upset that parents
pay a lot of money and receive negligence in return (and then
pick up a whacked out child). To put a finer point on it, blood
sugar yo-yo-ing is a diabetic precursor. Experiencing regular low
blood sugar bouts is hard on the body and not at all acceptable.
It appears your preschool is operating under the same M.O. Please
talk to the director about the eating thing. Feel free to pass my
story on. I don't want more kids to suffer.
Yep, I have one just like that. Would barely eat lunch at school then fall apart as
soon as I picked her up because she was so low on food. After awhile I figured out
it wasn't just school. My daughter had a hard time eating with a big group. I think
snack was easier at preschool because the children came to the table a few at a
time whereas at lunch everyone came together. I noticed at potlucks she would
reject everything, even food she loves at home, then fall apart as soon as we left the
party. There was just too much going on socially for her to focus on food. Now she
is in fourth grade and for the first time she consistently eats her lunch at school.
So, no, you probably won't be sending your son off to high school with a miniscule
In the mean time I figured out to send food that would make it through the whole
day even if she nibbled at it a bit in school. I sent small containers of crackers,
nuts, dried fruit, sea weed, etc. Whatever she didn't eat at school was then available
in the car on the ride home. this definitely worked better than sandwiches which
are pretty unappetizing by 5:00 pm.
Even at home my daughter was not a big eater. I followed the advice of continuing
to offer a variety of foods, even when she rejects them multiple times. Somedays
something would just click and food she would never touch before was suddenly
her favorite. So hang in there. As your son grows so will his appetite. Until then
have healthy food available when he needs it most and try not to worry.
My daughter is starting Kindergarten in the fall and I was wondering if there was any
advice about lunches, what to pack and how to pack well. My daughter's Preschool has
provided lunches and snacks so I am very nervous about this year. What works well and
what does not? What are some favorites that are easy for working parents? Any advice
would be greatly appreciated!
Here's my ''fridge list'' -
One of these:
cinnamon bread w/butter
pasta or mac-n-cheese in thermos
chicken nuggets in thermos
cereal in a bowl/milk in a thermos
One/two pieces of fruit/veggies - my son likes celery w/peanut butter in
a little container for dipping.
Boxed raisins, cranberries
Cheese sticks or cubes
Kids Clif Bar - or other protein bar
Chips and guacamole
dry cereal - Mighty Bites & Heart to Heart are yummy and loaded w/good
Box of milk or juice
LL Bean makes a great lunch box w an inside pocket built just for ice
packs to keep everything cold. Make as much as you can (if not all) at
night. You'll be so happy you did every morning. I try and do it while
Signed -Three years of pre-school lunches
Oh, I know how you feel about preparing lunches. I wasn't sure either
when my daughter started preschool. I decided to set the tone from the
get-go, so that she knew what she could expect and I never really
deviated much from it in the past 2+ years.
I give her a sandwich with either lunch meats or cheese. Lately she has
ventured out a bit and has asked for peanut butter & jelly, which is
still a good source of protein. I always give her fresh fruit like a
banana or a little tupperware container with either grapes, strawberries
or raspberries. There is also always either a cup of apple sauce or
yogurt in her lunch box.
They get either milk or water at school, but I always give her a
container with juice.
As my life got busier (2nd child, part-time job, bigger house, demanding
hubby - hehehe), I didn't always have time to fill all these little
containers with fruit and yogurt/applesauce. I found that Trader Joe's
or Whole Foods provide great solutions.
They have these items pre-packaged and they are very reasonably priced.
They even have little juice packages that I occasionally throw in.
They're great for my busy mornings when I need to be ready half an hour
One other thing that was very helpful to me was the fact that my
daughter's school doesn't discard half-eaten items. For example, my
daughter doesn't eat the crusts of her bread, so I always get those
back. I know if she only ate half of her banana or yogurt, because they
will return it. If her lunch box is empty (which it has been only once
since she started going to school), then I know that she truly ate it
all. It's just a good way to keep tabs on what she is actually eating.
I surely hope this helps.
This is a tiny little point, but ... it may be worth making. I am always trying to find
ways to help my daughter see herself as an unpicky eater (which she is, generally). When
she was in preschool she started getting picky about eating sandwich crusts, so instead of
fighting it I started cutting her sandwiches with cookie cutters. That gave the benefit of
making the sandwich inherently more interesting to her, and the crusts weren't an issue - it
wasn't that I was ''cutting the crusts off'' - I was just making the shape. As a result,
she forgot that she had an objection to crusts, and now when she gets a sandwich with crusts
she just eats them. Maybe she grew out of it - she's 6 now - but I suspect that not having
to notice and reject the crusts every day in preschool helped. It's a tiny thing, as I say,
but it kind of made me see other ways I can help her stay flexible in her attitudes, and I
feel like that's a great outcome. Plus she thinks she has a great mom because she gets
shaped sandwiches - cheap marketing for me!
My daughter started long-day kindergarten (8:15-2:25) this
month, and brings her lunchbox with 2 snacks and lunch to
school. Problem is, she eats next to none of it at school. I
pack things that she would dependably eat at home and at her
preschool, but she brings almost all of it home. When I've
asked her why she hasn't eaten, she shrugs and says she doesn't
know. According to the teacher, a lot of the kids are not
eating much at lunchtime (they are not allowed to play for the
first part of the break, so it's not as if they are playing
instead of eating). When she gets home she is completely fried
and wants to eat her lunch. She really needs to start eating
if her attention span is going to be worth anything. I've
tried smoothies spiked with protein powder, booty, even fruit
mini muffins we made together, and it still comes home.
Someone please reassure me that this will pass soon!
1. Make sure your daughter can open her lunch box and all the
containers by herself.
2. Let her make her own lunch (under your supervision, give her two or
three choices from each food group, and she does the assembly and
3. If available, let her buy a school lunch a couple days per week.
It's a matter of starting a routine, but you are not there to reinforce
it nor to remind her. So I would use a combination of internal and
external reinforcements. First of all, I would ask her the night before
what meal she wants for the next day (commitment). Second, ask her if
there is any reason why she wouldn't eat it anyay. Fish around for
possibilities - do you feel shy/are you embarrassed about the food or
eating it in front of others? Do you hate the feeling of sticky hands?
Your daughter might finally think about it - at least she'll know that
you really care. Third, and most importantly, tell her that she will
earn a point for every day she eats her school lunch herself and ask her
to bring leftovers home - to never throw anything in the trash. If she
follows this truly, this will give you a clue about the portions she
needs and also she shouldn't be hungry when she gets home. After 10
points, she'll get a little prize/toy.
This should work. If it doesn't, which I doubt, tell her (after
3 failures) that from now on each time she doesn't eat the food she
committed to, she'll lose a point and after losing 3 points, she'll
temporarily have a favorite toy or movie on time out which she can earn
back with 10 points along with the little prize. Sounds a bit rigid, but
it works well for any ''change in desired behavior'' issue. We
established a good morning routine with that.
Yes, at this stage it is reasonable to expect that this phase of not
eating at school will pass. It is, however, important for you to keep
paying attention just to make sure that it is only a phase. It is
generally helpful to document these kinds of situations for future
Generally, asking a young child why he or she is behaving a certain way
yields a response such as ''I don't know.'' It may be helpful to (in a
very matter of fact way) find time to play 'school' with your daughter
and see what happens when you get around to snack/lunch time. Then, if
possible, some time when she has a friend over, start a little game of
'school' and see if anything different happens at snack/lunch with the
Kindergarten is a significantly more sophisticated social environment
than is preschool. An educated guess might be that your daughter is
seriously focused on sorting out social/peer dynamics. Because
snack/lunch times are the times when the children's separateness from
each other is most emphasized (unlike with toys, each child brings
her/his own food from home and sharing is not encouraged), each child's
sense of identity as it is seen by the group is most vulnerable at those
There are many possible thought processes in which your daughter may be
engaged around her snack/lunch time experience. As long as you continue
to pay attention with a relaxed and open attitude, your daughter will
know that she can come to you if she ever feels overwhelmed by the
social demands of school.
I wonder if your child goes to the same school as mine? We also have a
long kindegarten day (8:20 to 2:35). My daughter, while not a big eater
anyway, has barely touched her lunch since starting kindegarten. At
preschool she did eat lunch. She says she just is not hungry. Then I
reasized why. The kindegartner's schedule at our school is such that the
kids eat lunch at 10:45!
So she eats two bowls of oatmeal at 8:00 and then she is expected to eat
lunch a little more than two hours later. It makes no sence to me. Then
they have ''snack'' at 1:30. It seems that if they switched the lunch
and snack times (i.e. a later
lunch) that more kids would be eating. The only thing I can think to do
other than talking with the powers that be at the shcool, is to pack her
more substantial snacks. But now, the teacher is recruiting each parent
to bring snaks for all kids for 2 weeks out of the school year, which
means she will get whatever snack said parent brings AND not eat her
lunch. At this point for me, the best thing to do is to talk with the
teacher, and go from there. Check you child's schedule and you may find
she is not eating b/c of the early lunch schedule. At least you will
know why. Good luck!
Up until now, my son has been attending a preschool where they
serve delicious and nutritious lunches at an unbelievably low
price - so I haven't had to make him lunch every day. Well,
soon he'll be starting at a summer camp and then kindergarten
in the fall and I'm looking down the barrel at having to make
him a lunch every day. Anyone out there have some great, easy
and nutritious ideas for lunches? And when I say easy, I don't
mean, ''well, when you have some leftover salmon from the night
before, just mix it with some of this and some of that and
presto, a delicious salmon salad''. I am ''food-challenged'' and
am capable of not much more than a PB&J! Any helpful tips
would be appreciated as well. Do you usually pack it the night
before (if so, does it still taste fresh the next day?)? We're
usually running out the door in the morning, so this would be a
great time-saver. Also, where's the best place to buy a lunch
box (I haven't just seen them in my normal shopping around).
My son has one now, but it doesn't have a thermos, which I
imagine is essential for soups, etc. By the way, is it
possible to put milk in a thermos and expect that it stay cold
until lunch (so I don't have to send him with a juice box every
day)? Thanks for your help!
mom suffering from lunch anxiety
we pack a lunch for my son for his nanny share. we pack his
favorite fruit - a banana, some orange or apple. small
containers or baggies with cheese, ham, crackers, raisins, (I'll
also pack nuts when he's older), a bit of pasta or mac and
cheese (this might require warming though), juice and water.
what we lack in fancy preparation we try to make up for with
variety. by the way - theres nothing wrong with PB&J
also food challenged
I pack lunches the night before, to save rushing in the
morning. Target has an extensive line of lunchboxes. I've
found thermoses to be rather hit or miss because they don't seem
to conserve temperature, hot or cold, terribly well until
lunchtime. I always pack fruit with my daughter's lunch.
Simplest lunches: beans and rice (low sodium canned beans
provide protein and fiber), bread and cheese and fruit. She
will always eat anything fried but it is not terribly
Definitely do it the night before (or even earlier). My kids
liked an assortment of little things in little cups (or baggies
if you don't want the clean-up) - raisins, cut-up fruits and
vegies and cheese, canned chick peas, etc. And PB&J is fine too
(if it's not out-lawed due to allergic students).
In a steel vacume bottle, with a small lunch-box size ice-pack, a
drink (and other foods) should keep cool for several hours.
However, I never put milk in packed lunches, since I worry aobut
getting the thermos clean enough. If you don't want to do juice
(we dilute it a lot), how about an herbal iced tea? I use Trader
Joe's Mint-Melange tea bags (it's mint and lemon grass) to make a
pitcher full to keep on hand. It's also good combined with
orange juice. If you really want to send milk, you can find it
in juice-box type containers. (Expensive, though). Freeze it
overnight, and it should be fine by lunch-time.
And I really believe that leftovers don't have to be warm! My
daughter has been eating leftover (cold) mac and cheese for years
with no complaints.
re milk; I have found that I can freeze about 4 oz milk or juice
or water in my son's travel cup overnight; then in the morning I
add another 2-4 oz of the same liquid. It usually stays cold til
One thing to add that I did not see in the archives or in the
responses: A kindergartener is capable of making his/her own
lunch and learning from good or bad lunch choices. My daughter
is 4.5 and has been making her own lunch for the past few months
(with less and less supervision needed). She knows to make a
fruit choice, a vegetable choice, a dairy choice (yogurt,
cheese, or a squirt bottle of milk), a sandwich, bagel or wrap
(pbj, hummus, cream cheese, turkey), and a snack (nuts, egg, dry
cereal or crackers). She feels a great sense of accomplishment
and I know she is eating a lunch that she likes and is made with
ingredients I approve of.
--stress free lunch
My daughter is starting kindergaten this fall and needs to have
a snack and lunch available everday. I know to give her fruits
and vegtables but is there any suggestions on other foods that
may fill her up. She is a VERY picky eater. The only kind of
sandwich she likes is Peanut butter and Jelly. Can any one
please recommend any other HEALTHY snack/lunch I can try. Maybe
a store? Most foods she likes have to be warmed up and I don't
think they can microwave the childrens lunches. Please any
advice/suggestions will be helpful.
mom of a picky eater
You're in luck - I just found myself in the same predicament
with my pre-schooler and forced myself to sit down and make a
good, solid list of ideas so he doesn't end up eating PB&J
everyday - like last year!!
Bread w/butter (cin/raisin, cranberry, zuchini?)
Ham or turkey w/string cheese (in tupperware - no bread)
Mac-n-cheese - heated at home in the AM and placed in a thermos,
it stays warm enough.
Bean/cheese burritos - same heating instruction
Fig bars - or other breakfast bars
Tortilla chips w/guacamole
Smoothie - loaded w/good stuff
Raisins, cranberries, trail mix
Since you say your child is ''picky'', these suggestions might not
work (you don't give examples of what you've already tried), but
here are a few main-course (protien) ideas: hard-boiled egg;
cheese stick or cheese ''shapes''; rolled up turkey and/or cheese
slices (Trader Joes has a large variety of pre-sliced real
cheeses); an assortment of cut-up things with (fancy?) toothpicks
for fun eating; chick-peas straight from the can (optional -
sprinkle with seasoning); cold tofu cubes (optional - soy sauce
for dipping); almost anything that you usually warm up can really
be eaten cold, too. And there's really no requirement to have a
different lunch every day. I know I often have the exact same
breakfast on most days, and don't mind a bit! You can plan more
variety at dinner.
Boy, I know what you mean. How about PB and banana sandwich? I
give my daughter hummus and TLC crackers, or hummus sandwiches,
which she really likes. There are lots of hummus flavors. I
recently started giving my daughter shredded carrots with a
little cole slaw salad dressing, which she'll eat. I do much of
my shopping at EC or Berkeley Natural, which has interesting
healthy snack foods.
I have this same issue with my daughter who has just started 1st
grade -- what to pack for lunch and snack! I did tons of
research and have continued to do it. I want healthy and
nutritious food for my daughter as often as possible (every
day!!), but it wouldn't be good if she doesn't ! eat it. I'm no
expert, but I'll summarize below what I know (from my own
experience, from friends, from research, etc.) Hopefully you
will find some of it helpful. :)
1. Get a Thermos food jar. You can find the basic black/silver
Thermos food jar at Target (sometimes they can be all out
though). Thermos has come up with ''Funtainers'' which are the
Thermos food jars with fun designs for kids. I was able to get
a nice pink one with stars for my daughter during the summer.
There appears to be a new pink flower design out, but I don't
know where to find it yet. You can fill the Thermos food jar in
the morning with Mac & Cheese, noodles, chili, pasta salad,
fried rice, soup (if she can handle it). All with some kinds of
veggies, of course.
2. Other non-sandwich, non-Thermos lunches that I've made:
parmesan chicken (basically home made chicken nuggets), mini
pizza (made with English muffin and home made turkey sausages),
cheese and sausage on Tortilla, BBQ chicken drumstick, whole
wheat pita bread with hummus (hummus in a separate container),
chicken salad in pita bread (Whole Food makes ''Sonoma Chicken
Salad'' that is really good). I would have done tuna salad in
pita bread too but I'm worried about the mercury level in tuna
and so I don't use it.
3. You can easily make your own Turkey sausages with ground
turkey and spices -- less fat and lower salt that way. If you
don't want to, you can get the healthy turkey sausages from most
stores. I like the Diesel apple/cranberry turkey from El
Cerrito Natural Food for my daughter. You can also get the no
nitrate/nitrite ham/turkey/chicken from Whole Food or El Cerrito
4. I have been told that roll-ups can be good with kids
(turkey/ham/chicken/cheese roll up in tortilla or regular
bread). You might want to try it. I have not tried it with my
5. Snacks -- fruits and veggies (have you tried soy beans?
Just boil them in the morning and pack them -- very easy).
Other good stuff -- yogurt, stick cheese, rice bars (my daughter
likes Envirokidz), granola bars (if your daughter can eat them;
mine has loose teeth and can't chew them well), pretzel,
crackers (Whole Food has a variety of low fat kinds), nuts and
dried fruits, and all kinds of dip. You can do cereal --
the ''Barbara'' brand has nut-o's, multigrain, wheat puff (quite
good, nutrition-fortified too), etc. I pack cereal as snack all
the time. Just put it in a little plastic Rubbermaid
container. You can also mix them and put in a few animal
crackers. There are also those bars with fruit in them. You can
find the healthy (or should I say healthier) ones at Whole
Food. My daughter does not like them much. There is a new Clif
bar for kids that just ca! me out. I found it at El Cerrito
Natural Food. My daughter eats some but it is not her
favorite. (One mom told me that her kid loves it.)
6. I started baking muffins this past month to use as afternoon
snacks. So far, this has been working out. I gather recipes
for healthy muffins (whole wheat, with fruits or veggies, low in
fat, low in salt, use honey instead of sugar, etc.). I bake
them over the weekend and freeze them. I take one out of the
freezer the night before, let it thaw in the frig and reheat it
in the morning. Once it cools, I pack it in a little plastic
container for the afternoon snack (can also be breakfast). One
time, I put in a few chocolate chips in each muffin. That makes
my daughter like the muffin more. (These healthy muffins are
really not bad. Really!)
7. Oh, almost forgot -- hard-boiled egg! This works for some
people. It hasn't worked on my daughter yet. Maybe I'll try
again this year.
I buy fruits and veggies from the local farmer market (and use
the vegetable wash if the produce is not organic). I go to
Whole Food once a week or every other week and I go to El
Cerrito Natural Food all the time. These two stores are more
health conscious in my opinion. Trader Joe now carries a lot of
organic items as well.
So far, that's what I did for Kindergarten and summer camp. I
need to expand the list for 1st grade and am looking forward to
reading the responses to your question. Thank you for asking it!
Your daughter sounds like a cross between my two picky children. I
have struggled to find something for my son's lunches as he only likes
PB&J or fresh, warm food. We finally found a thermos that works--is
small enough to carry just one serving of pasta. I got it at the
store in Berkeley at Gilman and San Pablo. My other child only likes
things plain, though she is willing to eat them cold or at room temp.
her, I often send just plain noodles--if you used the thermos you could
send the noodles warm with some butter or any other topping your
daughter likes. I've also sent bagels with butter and nuts.&nb! sp; Whole
carries a lot of ''healthy'' crunchy snacks that mimic the ones in the
grocery store. One of our favorites is the cheese puffs. Popcorn is
another option for a healthy snack. Andronico's and Whole Foods both
carry small individual containers of chocolate milk, which add some
protein if you are sending noodles. Hope this helps!
Two Picky Eaters
my daughter also greatly prefers warm foods. 1-2 times a week I
bake in toaster oven(or microwave but crust is better baked) an
Amy's pot pie (broc & cheese or veg) to be ready when we have to
leave then wrap the whole thing in foil and put back in its box-
it's moderately warm by lunchtime and she usually eats it.
edamame/ soybeans (come frozen, just boil or seam, can add a bit
of salt, they are good at room temp and filling)
pasta (can warm before too so it's not freezing)
rice with pesto
almond butter instead of pb sometimes
bagel w/ cream cheese or hummus
tortilla rolled up with cheese, rice slice, hummus or turkey if
eat meat, etc.
wildwood baked tofu- pineapple terriyaki flavor
tamales or burritos
yogurt, go-gurt tubed yogurt, yogurt drinks (though even organic
can add lots of sugar,)
We shop primarily at health food stores and Monterey Market
__ROSS had special thermoses last month that are ''Vacuum Sealed''
this has kept my tea very HOT for 8 hours! if you can't find a
discounted one though you might not want to put it in the
lunchbox because they're normally $20-$30 which would be pretty
hard if it didn't make it home.
My 4 1/2 year old daughter started with a new day care facility
this week. Since they do not provide lunch, we are required to
pack her a lunch each day. It is only Wednesday, and I am
running low on ideas. So far I have done cheese, crackers and
turkey breast, a turkey wrap using tortillas, and will be fixing
a salmon patty sandwich for tomorrow. I've included fruit, jello
and carrot sticks.
In addition to PB&J sandwiches, I would love some nutritious
ideas that don't require reheating? My daughter is not a fussy
eater, so we are open to many things. I can add an ice pack to
keep foods cold and have a thermos for liquid hot foods.
I look forward to receiving your ideas.
I'm sure you will get lots of good suggestions from other
people, I just wanted to make one point about kids' meals they
often are quite happy eating the same few items multiple times
in a week. I tried for years to think of interesting things to
send for my kids' lunches -- trying to think of something
different every day, because *I* would want to eat something
different every day. But they really didn't care, they liked
PB&J two or three times a week, bagel & cream cheese the other
days, some fruit, some crackers & a juicebox. So don't stress
about it, they'll get a variety of foods at the meals they eat
Babies & Toddlers
My 28 month old daughter just started at a pre-school this month
that requires the kids to bring a lunch from home. My problem is
that my daughter has not really mastered the utensil thing, and
she is used to a lot of attention (including spoon feeding in the
case of most vegetables or messy stuff like yogurt) to get her
eat. So, I'd love some ideas for finger foods that won't require
as much adult supervision to get into her. The pre-school is
small enough that they will heat things up for the kids if need
be and do a little bit in the way of feeding assistance.
All that I can come up with are sandwiches (PBJ or lunchmeat) or
little bean and cheese burritos or quesadillas. Other ideas for
nutritious finger foods would be greatly appreciated !! Thanks
I had three kids go through pre-school (even as young as 18
months) where I had to pack lunches for them. Here are some
suggestions for really easy, healthy foods they can pick up or
use easily with a spoon or fork. Keep in mind that during the
next few months, you're 28 months old will be mastering the
skills of eating, so things should get a little easier in the
- all fruit, cut up in squares (like watermelon, strawberries,
cantaloupe, grapes, mangos, bananas)
- cubes of cheese (mozzarella, mild cheddar, gouda), served
with whole wheat crackers)
- hard-boiled eggs, sliced
- tuna sandwiches, egg salad sandwiches
- pasta salad (corkscrew pasta with bite size pieces of ripe
tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, olives, carrots, bell peppers,
drizzled with olive oil and pinch of s & p)
- soups (chicken noodle, minastrone, - served with bread)
- corn bread, cheese toast,
- bite size pieces of vegetables (string beans, corn on the
- cassaroles (mac & cheese, spaghetti)
Hope this helps!
Some ideas from my two kids, 3 and 7, and other families:
Make a ''trail mix'' and toss in whatever cereal, dried fruit,
crackers, bars or newtons, nuts(if she eats them) she likes in a bag.
Get a compartmentalized container to make a ''bento'' box of little
finger food (depending on what she likes:anything from sausages
to potstickers to stalks of cooked broccoli or carrots even penne
2 and 3 yr olds love dip. Guacamole can just be a mashed avocado
with a squirt of lime. Carrots and ranch seem popular. My older
son subsisted on straight hummus for a whole year until I got him
convinced to eat whole wheat pita with it. I don't have the time
but it's easy to make pita chips by tossing them with olive oil
and baking. If your like me, you buy 'em.
Cheese slices or sticks, hard boiled eggs, pieces of chicken.
Try making PB and J as a roll-up or ''aram'' with a tortilla. Good
with hummus too. If yr child only eats the white food diet, send
mac and cheese. Mix the week up by rotating yogurts with
different flavors of applesauce. I buy those bags of tiny apples.
They're great to grab. Some people send packs of cheese or PB
crackers. Dinner left-overs are good hearty lunches. On a
particular stressful week, my kids got waffles and loved it.
I don't always do it but it seems the best way to deal with lunch
is to cook up/make some stuff on some quiet moment on Sunday. I
sometimes cook up extra noodles, vegies, etc then. I know people
with multiple kids who do it religiously.
Check in specifically with the school as to what else they may
serve for a snack. It widely varies: some serve fruit crackers
and water. Some cook up quesadillas and serve a protein rich
snack. Then you can anticipate what to compensate with.
Good lunch ideas can be found in a cookbook called ''Good Food For
Kids''. It has a whole section of lunch box recipes and ideas.
Don't forget it's probably time for her to learn how to use
utensils anyway and preschool is the perfect place! They clean
the mess for you and the kids teach each other by example. You'd
be surprised what those teachers can accomplish with our ''babies''
in decades experience of caring for kids.
have a good lunch!
My two-year-old will be starting preschool next month and we'll
have to start packing her brown bag lunches. Unfortunately, she
doesn't like sandwiches. We usually feed her hot food like pasta
and soups, but this won't work at preschool. Any suggestions for
easy-to-pack lunches? She likes variety.
Your daughter just hasn't had the right sandwich for HER.
Keep offering various sandwiches.
*Give sandwich ingredients in the form of finger foods with
*Maybe the bread tastes yucky (change brands or lightly toast
*Maybe her sandwiches are too wet or dry
*Maybe she doesn't like the typical ingredients selected (hates
mayo or mustard?)
*Try mini-sandwiches that fit in her hand
*Use cookie cutters for interesting shapes. Airplane shape works
well because the wings/tail fit so nicely in their small mouths.
She may be intrigued simply by the unusual shape (just include
other stuff too in case she rejects it).
*Eat sandwiches around her so she wants to do as you do.
At home and out, my daughter, now 9, has always enjoyed a huge
variety of foods. But packed lunches are a different matter.
No matter what variety we provided or what spin we put on
different foods, most lunches came home uneaten UNTIL...we
discovered the hot lunch thermos! We bought one of those small
thermoses for soup and casseroles--and pack pasta in it every
day. We cook up a package of pasta on Sunday evening and
reheat it, in the microwave, in the morning to pack it in the
thermos. Helps to prewarm the thermos with some hot water.
Works like a charm and she eats it up daily. Worked for 5
years now! Good luck!
Things we often put in my almost 2 yr olds lunch:
Cheese sticks (like string cheese), cut up fruit, mac n cheese
with veggies and tofu added, all sorts of leftovers, almond
butter and jam on soft wheat bread, yogurt or applesauce, veggies.
You could try to start packing leftovers now and eating out at
the park so that she can get used to eating her food cold.
I think the best lunch for toddler-preschool is lots of small
cut-up items. An assortment of cut-up fruits, vegies, cheese,
meats (if you use them), tiny crackers, etc. can be sent in a few
small containers. It keeps well, doesn't need heating, can be
partially eaten without contaminating the rest, and allows for
choice and variety.
My little girl, who is 14 months old, has just moved next door
at her daycare to the Toddler side and I've heard that some
parents pack fresh lunches every day. My girl is still getting
those baby foods and lunchables in plastic cups and/or jars.
Please give me your best suggestions and recommendations on
good, easy and healthy lunches to pack-up for a little girl? Of
course the easier and healthier it is; the better it is.
Oh, you've got to stop wasting your money on that jar food! Plus,
your little one will enjoy the variety that ''real'' food offers.
We pack for our 15 month old the following: Yo-Baby or Soy-baby
yogurt, soft veggies (cooked), pasta, hot dogs (soy dogs)--cut
them up into tiny, bite-sized pieces--cut up fruit, apple sauce,
rice cakes, cheese, leftovers from last night's dinner, and
anything else we can think of.
Mama of a Fat Baby
I would first get several small Tupperware containers and fill
them with things like:
* cut up fruit or berries (it's so easy to feed tots in the
* sliced cucumbers
* little sandwiches of the sort she likes
* Mac and Cheese
* Yogurt or sliced hard-boiled egg (kept in the fridge)
She could eat some of these as snacks throughout the day and
others as lunch.
My kids still enjoy this ''tapas'' style dining. Plus they liked
all the little containers.
For my 14-month-old, I usually pack a vegetable or fruit, a
prepackaged applesauce or yogurt, and a ''main course.'' I find
it easiest to use frozen veggies (Trader Joe's has organic ones)
and just microwave and chop up (same with frozen berries) or
fresh fruit. Trader Joe's and Whole Foods also have lunch-size
applesauces and I use Yo-Baby yogurt. For the main course I
usually just chop up whatever we've eaten for dinner. My son
especially likes burritos, pot pies, pancakes, scrambled eggs,
and pasta with cheese. Sometimes I make mac and cheese or I buy
the organic pasta rings with soyballs. Hope this helps!
My daughter is 15 months, and I transitioned her off baby foods
around 14 months old. Some healthful (and easy) foods you can
pack in your daughter's lunch are yogurt (yo baby yogurt is
excellent), whole milk pudding cups, cut up fruit, whole wheat
bread, diced leftovers from dinner, graham crackers, and mashed
up bananas. Of course, you would want to make sure at home that
your daughter can tolerate\likes the foods before sending her
off to daycare with them. Good luck feeding your toddler. It
is a fun age because the toddlers are developing their palates
and appreciating food tastes more.
I also stressed about packing lunch for my now 17 month old.
Some of the lunches the other parents pack always look so
exciting and nutritious! After doing it for several months, I
have gotten into kind of a routine of what works, and though it
is not that exciting, it is nutritious, and low stress. Here is
what I include every day:
(1) either pasta or rice. I change the pasta shapes so it seems
(2) vegetable: either broccoli, peas, or sometimes asparagus.
Right now, these are the only fresh vegetables my child will
eat. Sometimes I have tried to pack other fresh vegetables,
thinking I should add variety, but they don't get eaten, so the
bottom line is it seems I'm more concerned about variety than my
child is! Sometimes I don't bother with the fresh vegetable,
and just send a jar of babyfood (like squash, spinach, or
whatever) to mix with the pasta or rice.
(3) 1/2 slice of bread with one slice of tofu cheese (the kind
that looks like american cheese).
(4) cut up pieces of pears or apple or other fruit
Then I also include some or all of the following:
* applesauce, sometimes mixed with rice cereal or oatmeal (this
is like a little vitamin pill, especially if you get the kind of
applesauce that has Vitamin C added).
* plain whole milk yogurt, sometimes mixed with silken tofu
and/or a teaspoon of jelly or jam
One thing that really helps me is that the caregivers tell me
approximately how much of everything gets eaten (e.g. all, some,
or none!). This way I know if my quantities are close! I
should say some of the ''exciting'' things I see the other kids
having include: waffle, french toast, scrambled eggs, fresh
strawberries, meat, potatoes.... it doesn't seem like it would
be that much trouble to get organized to do this, but the bottom
line is that what I send gets eaten and seems pretty balanced to
At 14 months my son still sometimes ate infant cereal for lunch -
- what can I say, he liked it. But he also ate pretty much all
the same things that anyone would have for lunch, although we
didn't give him peanut butter yet, by then or shortly
afterwards -- including all kinds of salads and sandwiches.
Some ideas for you:
- Dinner leftovers make a great lunch, especially if the daycare
can warm it in the microwave for her. A bowl of pasta or rice
and veggies, or even pizza, is healthier than lunchables.
- An easy alternative to assembling a sandwich is a whole grain
dinner roll or a muffin, yogurt or cheese, and cut-up fruit and
- Bananas don't need to be cut up.
- Neither do blueberries, although they can be messy!
- You can buy carrots pre-grated and use those until she can
handle baby carrots without choking. Mix in a few raisins and
call it salad.
- Those little single-serve cups of applesauce or diced fruit are
fine (just make sure there's no sugar added), and work better
for a small child than a whole apple.
- Cheese can be bought in sticks (like string cheese) or deli
slices, or cut up into small pieces ahead of time and stored in
baggies to be added to her lunch.
- Many toddlers love uncooked (in fact, still frozen) peas --
again, no cutting required.
- Think outside the box for spreads that could be turned into
a ''sandwich''; perhaps your daughter would like hummus, canned
pumpkin, apple butter, or yogurt on bread.
my daughter (2 years old) just started to go to a preschool
where they do not heat the lunches. I think she is getting
tired of cheese/cracker and pasta salad lunches and we are
not very creative with other cold lunches (she does not
like cold veggies). Any ideas for somewhat wholesome
Thank you, Catharina
You didn't mention any food restrictions so I hope that
these ideas help...tortilla roll-ups are great. I use
cream cheese, turkey, avocado, cheese, tomato, shredded
zucchini etc... (anything that I have in the fridge works
well) Other ideas would be cold chicken breast, three bean
salad (buy pre-made for time saving), tuna, chicken or egg
salad (assuming there is refrigetation available).
I am always inspired when I look at what the other kids are
eating at school. You might ask the teachers or check out
the selection yourself if you are ever around at luch time.
Other ideas for protein include: tuna fish salad, tuna
sandwich, cold chiken, peanut butter on apples, cottage
cheese, baked tofu slices with dip, yogurt, cheese sticks,
sliced hard-boiled egg and the old PB&J.
I'm looking for suggestions for quick and easy
vegetarian lunches for my two year old to take to childcare.
We do eat fish and eggs and a bit of cheese. She has a great
appetite and loves many different kinds of foods BUT I've
grown tired of making the same old thing each week which
includes tofu and veggies, pasta and veggies, sometimes
polenta and veggies and tuna fish sandwiches. (lunch is
always supplemented with fruit, crackers etc) Any new ideas
or variations on a theme would be much appreciated. Thanks!
I cut up pieces of baked tofu for my 5 year old son. They come
in flavors like Teriyaki, Savory, 5 Spice, etc. He's a fussy
eater, though not vegetarian. He likes tofu. Cheese and crackers
with slices of apple works for us, or crackers and peanut butter.
Yogurt too. Good luck...it's tough finding food for kids
sometimes. They'll like something for a while and then suddenly
they don't like it anymore. Go figure.!!!
Here are some vegetarian lunch ideas. For a sandwich, you can
make a bean/cream cheese/tofu spread. I usually use garbanzos.
The ratios are 2-1-1. Also, good old pb&j. You can always do
baked beans with tofu dogs (I use canned baked beans from Eden
to save time), rice balls or "cold pizza" (tomato focaccia bread
with something on top like a pizza). Those are just a few ideas.
There are some great books out there for vegetarian toddlers; two
I have are "Super Baby Food" (has a lot about baby food but also
lots of toddler recipes) and "Feeding the Whole Family". Hope
these were helpful suggestions.
I've been thinking about the lunch issue myself, with a
4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old just starting pre-school.
(And I've recently learned that children lose 50% of their
sense of taste by the time they are 6!) I'm sharing some of
the foods we've tried (some vegetarian, some not, but almost
all organic). I'd love to hear other ideas to add to the list.
Cheese sandwich (in cookie cutter shapes)
Cheese sandwich (on whole grain hamburger bun)
Crackers with cream cheese
Confetti tabouli (with finely minced vegetables)
Mini bagel with cream cheese
Tuna fish sandwich
Almond butter and jelly
Yogurt with real fruit mixed in
Hot food (more like warm; in a thermos)
Cream of tomato soup with brown rice
Macaroni and cheese
Chicken noodle soup
Teriyaki chicken wings
Aidell's mini hot dogs
Taquitos with sour cream
Sweet and sour chicken
Fruits,nuts and veggies
Mini carrots with ranch dressing
Oranges cut in star shapes
Mandarin orange slices
Three bean salad
I make my 3 year olds lunch every morning, I feed her meat
but probably like once a week or so. These are some of the
things I feed her, I will be interested in seeing others ideas
to add variety
1. Vegetarian corn dogs (available Berk. Bowl or Whole Foods)
2. Cheese and tomato sandwich
3. P B & J sandwich
4. PB and honey sandwich
5. Corn on the cob
6. hard boiled eggs
7. cut up vegie "hot dogs"
8. yogurt, yogurt, yogurt
9. cut up microwaved sweet potatoes.
11. quick cooking rice, Mahatma or Rice a Roni
12. whatever you had for dinner the night before
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