To make matters more complicated, my son was more of a "grazer" which meant he'd eat two bites here and two bites there and then was done...for 15 minutes and then he was ready for another two bites of something else. He rarely wanted to return to the same thing, he wanted variety.
So I started offering him what we started calling "combo plates" each day for lunch. A plate that consisted of small bites of different, healthy things. The sheer variety these entailed created a very balanced meal. And the best part? It was easy and he loved it!
So the deal is that you serve a little bit of different stuff all at the same time. Everything should be pre-cut and ready to eat. Fingerfood style mainly and dips are great too! This especially great for toddlers who are just trying out (and getting picky!) about new foods. Put some standard favorites and then mix it up a little bit too. But no pressure. The point is NOT that they will eat everything on the plate, just that they can eat what they want on the plate. It is their own personal buffet.
I'm a huge fan of divided dishes & trays for serving these combo plates but muffin tins work perfectly too! Especially if you already have one. Having little sections for each food item really does make it more appealing. Presentation is powerful.
Lunch on the go? - I love our Planetbox lunch box for our lunches outside of the home. Obviously, you can't carry a large tray to the park with you! These are stainless steel, divided and my four year old can handle opening and closing it himself. Read my full Planetbox lunch box review for more on why I like it so much.
A good tip for keeping your kids lunch ideas balanced is to look at how colorful it is. A tray full of tan or white items only is never going to be as healthy as a tray with red and green and yellow. Or you can think of it as providing at least one veggie, fruit, something carby (whole wheat crackers, pretzels, etc) and a protein.
Kids Lunch Ideas: What to Put on Your Combo Plates(This list is by no means all-inclusive, this is just what I put on mine, meant to get you started!)
- Homemade kale chips
- Cut carrots, celery, jicama, radishes with salt
- Snap peas, edamame, peas
- Cut broccoli, califlower, bell peppers with creamy dip
- Apple slices, orange wedges, cut banana chunks
- Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc
- Grapes, cut peaches, plums and pears
- Kiwi fruit slices, pineapple chunks, starfruit slices
Grains (& other "carby" stuff)
- Homemade pumpkin & zucchini bread slices
- Pretzels, whole wheat crackers
- Granola chunks or a cut up granola bar
- Whole grain bread, cut with a cookie cutter, sometimes toasted
- Assorted "kids" snacking crackers (Annie's Bunnies in our house)
- Cereal (Joe's Os, Gorilla Munch, whatever you buy)
- Nuts like almonds, cashews, pistacio, pecans
- Cooked beans like garbanzos tossed in lemon juice, kidney, lima
- Turkey or ham slices rolled up
- Pepperoni and salami slices
- Slices or cubes of cheese like cheddar, swiss, colby, etorki
- Sushi rolls, imitation crab legs sliced
- Ranch, spinach, artichoke dips
- Yogurt, applesauce
- Nut butters (almond, sunbutter, peanut)
- Soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, barbeque sauce
We try to stick with things that can just be picked up or dipped for the younger ones, but older ones have fun with using tiny appetizer forks, skewers or toothpicks.
I sometimes cut and prep veggies and fruit right after I get home with them from the grocery store and store them in a larger container in the fridge to use over the next couple days. Most of the time I just cut up things that day. It doesn't take much time to slice a few things up! I hope you enjoy doing combo plates for your easy kids lunch ideas.
***Please note that MakeBabyStuff.com will not offer an appropriate age recommendation for these foods as every child is different. You know your child best, but when in doubt, please ask your pediatrician.
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