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Creative and Healthy Lunch Ideas

Your little one might not be ready to grab their backpack and jump on the big yellow school bus, but many parents of toddlers wonder what foods are good for packing for daycare, preschool, and even family day trips. Here are a few tips on creating healthy lunches for on-the-go kiddos.

Build a Healthy Lunch

  • Start by building a healthy lunch with the following valuable nutrients:
    • Protein: Protein is essential in a growing child’s diet. Some kid-friendly sources of protein that are great for lunch boxes include turkey slices, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, grilled chicken slices, and milk. Nuts and seeds are also a source of protein and travel easily.
    • Calcium: Calcium is important for strong, healthy bones. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are loaded with calcium and all travel pretty well. Dried figs, nuts, and seeds are also a good source of calcium. If your little one is not fond of dairy products try creating a yummy trail mix instead!
    • Complex carbohydrates: Many adults cringe when they hear the word carbohydrates, but they are actually an important source of energy. Complex carbohydrates are great because they release energy over time rather than in a short burst. Try to choose whole grain products such as whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, pasta, and legumes.
    • Fruits and veggies Try to add both a fruit and veggie to every lunch you pack. Some easy ideas include fresh cut fruit, dried fruits, 100% fruit juice, and cut veggies with dip. I like to use hummus, avocado dip, or yogurt dip.

Try Something Different From Your Run-of-the-Mill Sandwich

For a simple change, try using cookie cutters to create fun shapes. Another easy change includes putting the sandwich fillings into a wrap or pita half. For some ideas on sandwich fillings, try these delicious combinations or create some of your own!

  • Cream cheese and cucumber
  • Sliced turkey with lettuce and cranberry sauce
  • Peanut butter and banana
  • Hummus with turkey and lettuce
  • Hummus with sliced cucumbers and grated carrots
  • Turkey slices rolled around a string cheese

Include a Variety of Different Foods in Your Child’s Lunch Box

Packing a variety of foods will add interest and an element of surprise. Go for colorful foods that are more interesting to a child with healthy recipes like English Pea Salad or Chilled Cantaloupe Soup. Save on space and store an array of your little one’s favorite treats in a stackable snack and dipping cup.

Don’t forget to let your child help prepare their meals when possible. Let them spread the hummus on the sandwich bread, put the mini carrots into a small container and practice counting, or add ingredients when preparing salads. Kids are great helpers, plus you are teaching them how to prepare healthy meals so they can make good choices in the future. Good luck in creating fun new lunch ideas for your little one!

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