Lunch for the Pre-School Crowd

by Maria on January 14, 2013

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Sure, you may not have to assemble lunches the night before or in the early morning as you do for kids who bring a lunch to school, but you still need to feed them lunch at lunch time. And, if you are like me, lunch can be the trickiest meal to get creative with. Often this is because while we plan dinners, we don’t always plan lunches. Fortunately, with a little extra planning you can keep your toddler or preschooler’s lunch from becoming the same day after day.

Here are some of our favorite lunches:

1 – Grilled Cheese Panini – This is always a pleaser. We make it in our Panini press, by far one of my favorite, most used kitchen gadgets. It’s also nice because it cuts down on the amount of butter or margarine spread needed compared with a traditional grilled cheese. Oh, and it makes those nice stripes. We usually use Gouda or Cheddar cheese. (And I often add in sliced tomatoes for myself).

2 – Chicken Noodle Soup – To save time I often buy Mom’s Chicken Soup from Whole Foods. I cook alphabet (their favorite) or other shaped pasta separately and add them to the bowl before ladling over the soup.  My kids seem to prefer this soup to my own, homemade version, which is actually ok, since it’s nice to get a break from cooking every now and then. (But I still would like to learn how to make my own version of this soup!)

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3 – Macaroni and Cheese – Another cheesy favorite. I used to stir in some pureed squash to make it a little healthier, but my kids are generally good about eating their vegetables, so I usually skip this step and serve cut veggies on the side. Again, to save time, I usually make Annie’s macaroni and cheese.

4 – Swedish Pancakes – Called "plättar" in Swedish, these take a little time to make (because each one is so little, you make a lot of them), but they are really fun to eat. Give your kids a variety of fruity toppings and let them get creative. Now and then I will have some light whipped cream available, but that definitely makes it more of a lunch and dessert in one!  This is a great recipe for those rainy days when you need some pizzaz in your day and have lots of eggs in your fridge!

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5 – Peanut Butter Crackers – Many kids love peanut butter crackers. Unfortunately most of the store-bought versions don’t have much to offer nutritionally speaking. Taking matters into your own hands by making your own. Spread some all-natural peanut butter between whole grain crackers, such as A Hint of Salt Wheat Thins or 365 Organic Wheat Square crackers. Delicious!

I generally serve at least one fruit and one vegetable on the side, depending on what I have on hand. To drink I usually serve water or milk, but mix it up with the occasional lemonade or apple cider, especially if a friend is over. If I’m low on fresh fruit, a smoothie made from frozen berries is always another fun addition to the meal.

I usually eat some of what I make for my son at lunch time, but I often supplement with a salad or some leftovers. It’s amazing how good fresh baby spinach or arugula salad drizzled with homemade balsamic vinaigrette tastes with macaroni and cheese. Add some leftover grilled chicken or chick peas from the pantry and you have an easy, healthful, and satisfying meal. (Read more about mom’s lunches here).

Do you plan lunches? What are your favorites? 


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