Toddler Lunches

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About 2 years ago, I wrote about what my kids ate for breakfast, lunch & supper in a week. Now that I no longer need to adapt meals for an 18 month-old who can’t chew well, I thought I’d do a little update.

I also learned to not try to reinvent the wheel each week with our lunch menu.

It used to be, every week, as I’d meal plan, I’d sit with a blank slate and try to be creative with my kids’ lunches. After reading A Simplified Life last summer, I realized that this was completely unnecessary.

Now, I assign a lunch meal to each day of the week so that it’s one less decision that I have to make each week. I thought that when we needed a change of pace, I would change it up. That was in September, and no one’s bored yet. And my kids still eat what I put on their plate each day, so we’re going with it.

Toddler Lunch Building Blocks :: maximizingdaysblog.com

When it is time to decide what to put on their plates, I find it’s easiest to use a “structure”.

For me, it helps to have a reference point. So, I start with the building blocks for each meal and go from there.

Toddler Lunch Building Blocks

  1. Vegetable
  2. Protein
  3. Fruit
  4. Dairy
  5. Carb

Your building blocks may be different depending on how your family eats. That’s fine. Make your own building blocks list and then list what foods fall into each box.

Get Out of the Lunch Rut

1 – Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Don’t do what I did. Don’t feel like you need to come up with something new and creative each day each week. It’s just not necessary.

Maybe your kids would get bored eating the same thing every Monday. That’s understandable. Then make the same 5 lunches each week and switch up the days. Or come up with 7 lunches and pick 5 each week.

Simple doesn’t have to equal boring.

2 – Make a List

Write down a list of lunches so you don’t have to “come up with something” each day. Get your kids involved and have them pick which meal from the list gets eaten on which day.

3 – Prep Your Produce

Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables ahead of time. This turns ‘making lunch’ into ‘putting food on plates’, which is much easier and faster.

I’m lazy. I’m a lot less likely to give my kids peppers if the pepper is whole and in a crisper drawer than I am if it’s chopped and ready to be eaten.

4 – Don’t Overcomplicate

This sounds the same as ‘Don’t Reinvent the Wheel’, and it kind of is. But it’s good to make the point again.

Sandwiches are fine. String cheese and crackers never killed anyone (okay, so that might not be true, but you get my point).

Do not fall into the trap of thinking you have to make the most creative, delicious, nutritious lunch every day. Give your kid food that nourishes them. That’s it. Don’t let it become more than that.

Our Weekly Menu

Monday – Muffin Tin Monday

Muffin Tin Mondays :: maximizingdaysblog.com - Fill a muffin tins with Veggies, Fruits, Meat, Cheese, Crackers & Condiments. No plates or silverware needed. Easy lunch that your kids will love.

We started this last summer when I saw it on Instagram (social media is good for something!). My kids just think it’s the bees knees. I don’t even know what the appeal is, but they love it.

2 Proteins, 2 Veggies, 2 Fruits & 3 C’s (Crackers, Cheese & Condiments). And DONE.

Tuesday – Chicken Nuggets, String Cheese, Peppers & Strawberries

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I have a thing about chicken nuggets in the microwave. And my thing is that I just can’t do it. Soggy when they should be crunchy? No, thank you.

We don’t go anywhere Tuesday mornings, which allows the 45 minutes that it takes for the oven to preheat and then to cook the nuggets, so that’s our rocket science reason we eat chicken nuggets on Tuesday.

Dino Chicken nuggets because why even bother with any other kind.

Wednesday – Meat & Cheese Roll-Ups, Crackers, Cucumbers & Oranges

This meal comes together in less than 90 seconds. Which is what I need on Wednesdays.

The kids get to choose their meat (I offer whatever sandwich meat we have in the fridge) & cheese (we usually have 4-5 kinds of sliced cheese in the fridge because I’m weird like that). Grab some cut up fruits & veggies and throw in some crackers for good measure.

Thursday – Mac & Cheese, Meat Sticks, Frozen Peas & Grapes

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Yep. I’ve become a Minnesotan. In these parts, I consider processed meat wrapped in casing protein.

And I don’t know what it is about frozen peas, but my kids love it. I can’t take them out of the freezer too soon before putting them on their plate otherwise they won’t be cold enough. You can’t make this stuff up.

Friday – Rice Cakes, Peppers, Go-Gurt & Kiwi

Toddler Lunches :: maximizingdaysblog.com

This is the meal where the condiments – peanut butter & hummus – count as protein. And what they don’t have, the go-gurt makes up for. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Toddler Lunches  :: maximizingdaysblog.com

P.S. Read more about my meal simplification journey here or my favorite lunch recipe here.

What do you find to be the hardest part about making your kids’ lunches?

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