Five Days of Kid-Friendly Lunches

I’m a mom who definitely does NOT have it all figured out. I am learning as I go and once I think I’ve got a handle on something, the game changes. What’s up with that?!? That’s why I love tip swapping. I’ll take all the ideas I can get and I’ll happily share what’s worked (sometimes) for me. I hope I’m not jinxing myself, but the lunch routine I established to feed my picky’ish preschooler is still running pretty smoothly after a year. Pre-routine, I would stand bleary-eyed and uninspired, cup of coffee in hand as I peered into the fridge trying to figure out a lunch that wasn’t peanut butter and jelly. Oh, I give up. PB& J it is. That was then, this is now:

Monday: Almond butter and jelly sandwich + veggies + fruit + cheese and crackers

Tuesday: Hummus sandwich + veggies + fruit + cheese and crackers

Wednesday: Cheese quesadilla + veggies + fruit + peanut butter and crackers

Thursday: repeat Tuesday

Friday: repeat Monday using peanut butter instead

I always keep this stuff on hand:

  • veggies = baby carrots, grape tomatoes and/or cucumber slices
  • fruit = apple slices + any seasonal or on-sale fruit (whatever is in the fridge at the time) usually, grapes, kiwi, oranges, melon
  • nut butters = my family loves the grind-your-own nut butter station in our Whole Foods Market bulk department. The honey-roasted grind-your-own peanut butter is probably my very favorite product we carry.
  • bread = Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted 100% Whole Grain Bread. I think this bread is really delicious and flavorful and my son eats it up. If you’re used to the soft white stuff, the denser texture might take some getting used to, but it’s so worth it.
  • crackers = I’ve tried fancy crackers with lots of nuts and seeds, I’ve tried animal-shaped crackers covered in cheese dust, but the simple ak-mak sesame crackers are what gets eaten up by kiddo and mom and dad.

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

  • Have designated containers so you don’t have to dig around the Tupperware drawer at 6 AM trying to find a matching lid. I use a little bento-box style set that fits perfectly in my son’s Spiderman lunchbox. Many Whole Foods Market stores carry these fun and handy lunch organizers, so check with yours if you need boxed solutions.
  • My secret to getting him to eat his crust? Don’t cut the sandwich. If I cut it in triangles or rectangles my son would eat the middle and leave the crust. I leave it whole, he eats the whole thing. This might not work for everyone. Fancy sandwich shapes made with cookie cutters are a good trick to keep in your back pocket for the reluctant luncher.

This simple routine is just the thing for me and my three-year old, but here’s another weekday lunch planner that provides a little more variety for the older set. It’s in PDF format so you can download and print it. One trick to get older kids to eat their lunch is to involve them in the planning and prep work. Here are a few very simple guidelines to make sure they pack in the nutrition they need (whether it’s you or them doing the packing):

  • include a protein
  • choose whole grain breads, crackers and pasta
  • pack one fruit and at least one veggie

Hannah, the fourteen-year old daughter of a co-worker, sent me a snapshot of her typical lunch and why she chooses what she does:

“This nutritious meal is easy to make, delicious to eat, and quick to devour which is definitely needed seeing how they never give us enough time to eat at school. I love to eat this and it gives me all the energy I need to laugh with my friends for some of the time and keep my nose stuck in a book the rest. (By the way for those who need to know, this lunch consists of grapes, pickled okra, whole wheat crackers, seaside cheddar, and smoked salmon.) Absolutely a meal to have, in my opinion at least.”

Sounds delicious to me too! I’m taking note for my own lunchbox. What midday-meal tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve? Do you bento? Pack bite-sized energy boosters? Share your ideas with us on Facebook and let us know what makes your kid love their lunch so much they keep it all to themselves. The top ten fan favorite ideas will win $50 Whole Foods Market gift cards. And get this: we’ll pick one bright idea and the winner will receive a grand prize of $1000 in Whole Foods Market® gift cards!

You'll only be entered to win if you share your idea on Facebook, but I since I can use all the help I can get, I would love to hear your lunch learnings too. Share them in the comments below.