Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Heavenly Help, Please?!

My friends, I'm coming to you in my hour of need. Your help is my only hope -- I know I can count on you, right? (This is starting to sound frighteningly familiar to a Nigerian fraud letter...)

Please give me some feedback here, because I don't know how much longer I can go on without assistance.

My question is this:

What do you feed your children for lunch?!

I know. It's going to take some consideration and thought for you to answer such a deep question, but trusting your thoughtfulness and honesty as I do, I KNOW you'll be able to help.

We usually just have some version of leftover dinner for lunch around here, but lately that's been getting harder and harder to do. I must be eating too much for dinner, because our leftovers are dwindling. But the real problem is that the girls usually don't eat a very good dinner. Picky palates or stubborn wills or whatever...dinner is usually frowned upon by my darling sweethearts. It makes for evening meals that are anything but enjoyable, and I don't want to carry that mood over into lunch, too!

So I've been slowly trying different lunch options, but they seem so limited. Sandwiches or wraps are good for Mia, but Lauren just peels them apart and makes food art with the mess. Crunchy, fresh veggies are good for Mia, but Lauren just bites down and spits it back out again. Some days, all Lauren ends up with is cheese and fruit for lunch.

As I write this, I'm seeing a pattern: Lauren doesn't do well with what I consider to be lunch type foods.

So maybe I should amend my question to be What do you feed your TODDLER for lunch?

If you tell me it's often fast food, I won't judge -- promise. Though it's not really an option for us financially right now, we still get fast food far more often than we should. What I'm really hoping for are some awesome grocery ideas from you all -- my knowledgeable and loyal peeps -- to keep us healthily fed while not breaking the budget.

Help! I need lunch ideas, pronto!


  1. I know soup is messy at that age, but Millie my 2-year old LOVES it! Her fave is chicken noodle. To make it less messy, I add a lot of crackers or rice (less sodium), to soak up the soupiness.

    We also do a lot of fresh turkey meat (no preservatives) and roll it up and call it a "turkey roll-up" and serve it with grapes and green beans and cheese. She loves that as well.

    On rushed days, we do boxed mac and cheese or spaghetti-o's or ravioli. Easy, but I'm not sure how healthy...

    I'm anxious to see what your other readers say as we often get stuck in a rut too!

  2. I've entirely given up on what would look like a proper meal for my picky eater (in my case, the older one). I set out stripes of reliable finger foods: a red stripe of cherry tomatoes, orange cubes of cheddar cheese, then corn kernels, edamame or peas, blueberries and strawberries, purple grapes, black olives. Maybe chicken breast cut in finger strips. Crackers on the side. No stripes touching, of course. She needs to eat at least some protein and some fruit or veggie, and I rotate out the options. Maybe this is gross but each food lives in its own tupperware in the fridge and whatever doesn't get eaten at one meal comes back out at the next meal (all for her plate, only!!). She doesn't like anything constructed right now - no sandwiches, no soup or stew or chili or multiple-ingredient-touching yuckiness, so this is how we do it. Finger food crudites, day after day. But it works...

  3. We doe sandwiches, cottage cheese and fruit or carrots most days. I like buying the larger bags of carrots because they're so cheap! And my son used to do the whole chew it up and spit it out thing, and then I added a little ranch...yeah, liquid fat, I know :( But now he devours carrots!
    I fed Hayden the sandwiches myself until he was ready to eat them without making a holy mess. He still makes a mess, just not QUITE as big :)

  4. I am so glad someone else faces this issue!! Lunch can be such a bore to make!! I use tortillas and make cheese quesadillas with chicken (if I have some I didn't use all of) or sometimes egg burritos. I make spaghetti, grilled cheese, or sometimes PB & J. I put a fruit with it or a vegetable. I don't know how healthy my lunches are, but they are eaten so one out two isn't bad, right? The items needed for lunch are usually ones I use in other meals during the week, or they are inexpensive enough to buy. We are not original. And sometimes I make pictures out of their food to get them pumped. Isaac likes to eat away his face or whatever I make and Nick is still in the mimicking stage, so it works. Oh, and my kiddos love carrots and ranch.

    PS Just noticed you had a button- I love it!!

  5. My kiddos love sandwiches, pasta, and quesadillas! I like making quesadillas because they're easy and I can throw just about anything in there and they'll still gobble them up. As for fruits and veggies, I do the carrots-and-ranch thing like Katie, and apple slices, mandarin oranges, and bananas are our reliable offerings as well. What about yogurt? I know it's kind of messy, but both of my boys love it.

  6. We do a lot of "roll ups" with just meat and no bread, pretzels dipped in yogurt (my favorite!!), fruit, scrambled eggs, and egg salad. He eats a big breakfast so it's usually just finger foods for lunch. Kind of boring, but he doesn't seem to mind!

  7. Both my girls like having soup for lunch...and sandwiches, of course. Katherine loves peanut butter and honey on toast and I've found that Penelope will eat that too as long as I cut it into bite-sized pieces and just give her a few pieces at a time. If I give her a whole half-sandwich, food art it is!

    Penelope loves pasta, too. She also likes cottage cheese mixed up with fruits and veggies (maybe a chopped apple with some bell pepper and carrots, along with diced walnuts, etc.). Honestly, that's one of my favorite lunches too...sadly, Katherine won't touch it.

    Sometimes, I make Katherine more complicated things, like black bean burritos, and just give Penelope a bowl of seasoned beans.

    I'm not sure if you want to take food advice from me though. Penelope routinely makes an enormous mess when she eats. This morning, I had to give her a bath after breakfast because she "washed her hair" with the table!

    Oh, one more thing! At this age, I really don't think it's about making every meal balanced. I just try to make sure she has balance throughout the day, which puts less pressure on individual meals and snacks. So, if she has scrambled eggs with yogurt and fruit for breakfast and then black beans for lunch, I don't worry about her vegetable intake until dinner.

  8. There is nothing wrong with cheese and fruit for lunch. My toddler doesn't eat anything two days in a row, it seems. I just give her what I'm giving her siblings and she eats or she doesn't. So I guess I'm no help at all.

  9. Okay, I don't have many brilliant suggestions to add to the ones above, but I had to comment.

    "Some days, all Lauren ends up with is cheese and fruit for lunch."

    Sounds like lunch to me!! Her stomach is not all that big, so if all she eats is cheese and fruit, I say buy that girl a beret and say, "Bon Apetite!"

  10. Wow, you're getting so many ideas! My kids will eat anything with dip, so if can give them yogurt with fruit, ranch with veggies, and ketchup for everything else, they will eat anything.

  11. SO glad you asked this question. I struggle with lunch too -- we do leftovers a lot ut I feel like we get stuck in a rut and I'm not great about getting a lot of variety in there. So I'm afraid not many suggestions from me but I'm certainly going to go back and read all your comments and maybe even bookmark this page for when I need some "lunch-spiration" :)

    Oh, I guess I just thought of something -- awhile back I checked out the cookbook Deceptively Delicious from the library. It had a lot of recipes for kid friendly foods made healthy that I thought would be good lunch options (like whole wheat pita pizzas, healthy mac n cheese, etc) Haven't tried any of them yet but maybe you could see if your library has it and if there's anything you'd like?

    Ok that's all :)

  12. This is a great post, not because of your woes but because mine are the same and now I can get great ideas from other commenters....thanks! Exact same situation at our house except the dinner leftovers have gone by the wayside because I don't cook that often anymore....
    Our eating habits are not that healthy but here are the few options that work for Savannah...(I'm going to try some other suggestions though)
    chicken nuggets...although she'll only eat the storebought frozen kind-or McDonalds (I tried making my own and they were a no go)
    meatballs-frozen or homemade
    grapes-we LOVE grapes!
    peanutbutter sandwich-she usually tears it apart and demolishes it but it mostly gets eaten
    carrot sticks with peanut butter
    bagels with cream cheese
    crackers with or without peanut butter
    yogurt-with or without apple slices
    and just recently she has tried and liked grilled cheese
    oh and the ever popular grilled peanut butter
    as you can see peanut butter is a staple at our house, if nothing else she will just eat peanutbutter ha ha

  13. My easy, kind of healthy lunch, is pancakes. My kids don't eat them with syrup though, just with their hands :)

    To make them healthier I always substitute half of the white flour for whole wheat, usually add an extra egg for protein, reduce the milk and oil and add applesauce (my kids drink tons of milk already) and add lots of cinnamon. My three kids sometimes eat the whole double batch.

    These are also great when you need to eat breakfast or lunch on the run. My kids will even eat them cold!

    Hope this helps a little!

  14. I'm no help. We have sandwiches everyday. PB&J. I'm with Nicole, though. Fruit and cheese is good. They eat or they don't.

    The advice I'd LOVE to give you though, and would LOVE even more if we could follow it as a family (special diet household here) can be found at this site:

    Ellyn Satter: Division of Responsibility in Feeding

    Good luck!

  15. I use the Deceptively Delicious cookbook a lot for lunches.
    My boys love veggie packed quesadillas, scrambled eggs with cheese, whole wheat pancakes...cottage cheese and yogurt are my quick fixes.
    *Today I tried a new "treat" for the boys. I put an egg and some milk in a coffee mug for each boy. They scrambled their own egg and added food coloring just for fun. I microwaved them both at once for one minute and added a handful of cheese. The eggs finished cooking another minute. The boys loved eating their lunch out of a mug.
    Good luck!

  16. Chili, soup, rice, oatmeal, chips, crackers, cheese and fruit are pretty much all my little guy will eat. For lunch I feed him one or more of the above. At supper, I make sure he has access to food I know he will eat, but I also put new foods on his plate as well...just hoping he'll eat them. For lunch, though, I just feed him whatever he'll eat. My mom swears they won't starve and they won't be malnourished even if their food habits are highly questionable and aggravating. I remind myself of this a lot.

  17. I don't feed my children lunch - their daycare does. Of course, that solution is more costly than fast food! Seriously though, when I do, I tend to do things pretty simply. I'm with those who said cheese and fruit is just fine. If there's something Lauren will eat everyday, I'd say give it to her. And I'm all for fresh fruit, veggies, cheese slices/chunks, yogurt, cottage cheese. It can be a combination of these kind of items - doesn't have to be a meal where things are assembled or cooked together to make you a good mom. And remember, your girls are healthy and growing. You are doing just fine!

  18. Totally lazy, so if this has been mentioned in your other comments, sluff it off.
    I don't do these every day, sometimes it is just PB and J, but my kids like the following for lunches
    1. Scrambled eggs and veggies
    2. Crackers, cheese and deli meat
    3. I make Kabobs of fruit and then cheese and meat ones
    4. COld macaroni (it's really sad)
    5. Mini pizzas (made with buns, ketchup and whatever pizza type stuff I have on hand
    6. Open face peanut butter sandwiches with mini marshmallows that I broil
    7. yogurt parfaits (layer granola, fruit and yogurt)
    8. Canned beans (the beans and weiners type)
    9. Cottage cheese and cut up veggies
    10. Soup
    11. Banana dogs (use a hot dog bun and spread it with PB and then stick a banana in there.
    12. Have you seen this? Lots of neat ideas there.

  19. I feel like I am totally good at feeding my kids healthy breakfasts and dinners and then fail at lunches. Here is what I feed my kids for lunches:

    1. mac n cheese from a box (the cheap generic brand)
    2. PBJ
    3. Ham n cheese
    4. microwaved chicken nuggets
    5. Frozen beef ravioli, cooked in the microwave
    6. Occasionally, if it's a special day, hot dogs.

    I know. pathetic.

  20. I am so sick of making lunches. I feed them leftovers, when we have them, but increasingly no matter how much I make for dinner, we never have leftovers. We have cheese ravioli with pesto (and fruit) almost once a week. Also, about once a week I give them crackers, slices of cheese, fruit and carrot sticks. Other regular lunches include, quesadillas, grilled cheese and tuna rolls-ups (tuna salad with shredded cheese, rolled in a tortilla and microwaved for 30 seconds). Sometimes I make a pizza or egg sandwiches. They loved it on Fat Tuesday when I made pancakes.

    Only a few of my kids like pb&j or macaroni and cheese from a box, so they rarely ever show up on the menu. My oldest wishes I made him turkey sandwiches every day, but I don;t buy sandwich meat very often.

  21. Well, I'm probably not much help as I struggle with lunches also. Although I see that a lot of people do, so it makes me feel a little better! We have turkey and cream cheese rolled up with veggies or fruit on the side; fruit, cheese, and pretzels with PB for dipping (a little extra protein and good for my little guy with low blood sugar); the kids like assembling their own pizzas on mini bagels. I usually puree some tofu and mix it into the sauce (the kids think it's cheese and you really can't taste it anyway); sometimes just mac and cheese with turkey hot dogs; and if all else fails, they will dip anything in ranch dressing. I mix plain yogurt with it to cut back on the fat and the kids can't tell the difference, as long as you start small and gradually increase the amount of yogurt. Hope this helps!

  22. I like to take extra chicken, turkey, or pork from my when I roast them and put them in baggies in the freezer. They you can pull them out and make quick lunches! I like to take a cresent roll and lay it out, fill it with cheese, onions, and meat and roll it up, then bake! Or you can use good old faithful tortillas!
    I also add garlic powder or taco season to the chicken or turkey!

  23. My kids (five and three) love soup - creamy soup especially. I'll add leftover grilled chicken to it or rice and/or veggies - then serve it with crackers (a must) and they gobble it up.

    Also, on the much less healthy end of the spectrum, they also love generic brand ravioli in a can - whatever store brand is on sale - top it with some parm and they think they're eating fancy.

  24. I know I'll sound like a bad mother for telling you this. I'm going to do it anyway, and hope you don't notify the authorities...
    Cereal. The pediatrician (THE pediatrician, mind you) says that picky eaters will grow up fine on cereal, especially if you can get them to eat cereals like cheerios. It's boring, I know, but if Lauren likes cereal, let her have it! And by the bye, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her eating fruit and cheese- sounds like the French diet, actually... She might be on to something.


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?