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Preschool/Daycare Lunch Planning

Best Practices

1/24/2022 | Mikhal Weiner

When it comes to feeding our little ones, we all want the same—healthy, nutritious food that’s easy to make (and that they’ll actually eat). The problem is that this is easier said than done. The healthy stuff doesn’t seem to keep for long enough, and it certainly doesn’t appeal to most little ones. It sure takes a lot of outside-the-box thinking in order to tick all of these boxes. 

But what if you don’t have the creative energy to come up with a million meal ideas—and make them? What if, like so many parents, you’re juggling work and life and just trying to keep it together? If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Many American parents report a general feeling of burnout, and getting creative about a PB&J doesn’t tend to rank super high on the list of priorities. 

The good news is that there are simple solutions to these conundrums. It’s totally possible for your toddler to be eating yummy, nutritious meals that don’t add too much hassle to your daily life. Intrigued? Read on for more details. 

Use what you already have. 

If you need to go and buy all kinds of exotic ingredients (what is spirulina, anyway?), you’re probably only going to dread getting into the kitchen. If, on the other hand, you can use pantry staples in order to make delicious eats for your little ones, it makes everything a lot more appealing. Simply swapping out plain bread for whole-grain bread will add more fiber to your toddler’s diet. If you see the sandwich coming home uneaten, it may be as simple as transforming them into sandwich roll-ups or cutting out sandwich shapes with a cookie cutter. 

Pro tip: Remember to check the dietary restrictions at your child’s school. An easy replacement for peanut butter is sunflower-seed butter!

Batch cooking and baking will save your life. 

Who has time to be baking and cooking every single day? No one, that’s who. Certainly not working parents with breakfast and lunch to put together. It’s much more economical (and sane) to make a bunch of quick and easy items at once and freeze them. You may be wondering about which items actually keep well in the freezer, and that’s a valid concern. Not everything tastes great once it’s been frozen. Things like mac and cheese or various proteins are probably not a great bet, but muffins, pancakes, and other snacks maintain their yum-factor when reheated. 

Pro tip: Freeze leftover yogurt or fruit shakes to make fun ice-pops that are healthy as well! While you can’t send an ice-pop to school, you can use these in place of a veggie or fruit at dinnertime!

Be sneaky about vitamins. 

Whoever said that your child has to eat broccoli or spinach in floret or leaf form? The vitamins work whether your kiddo knows they’re eating them or not. While it’s equally important to teach tolerance and love of vegetables in their purest form, that hill might be one that you choose to climb on the weekend—not when you’re trying to get out of the house in the morning. One great way to make sure your kiddo is getting vegetables and fruit is by being a little bit sneaky. Add a handful of spinach or some cauliflower to a fruit shake, or mix some chia seeds and puréed broccoli into a muffin. Your child will get plenty of omega-3s and iron, without the fight. Those same muffins can easily go into a lunch box and be eaten at daycare! Plus, they’ll freeze well. 

Pro tip: Play with your food! Sometimes veggies can be more palatable for toddlers if they’re served in a unique way. Even something as easy as putting peas in a muffin tin instead of on a plate can spice things up a little!

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

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